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Woman can't hear the television while watching with friends.

If you can hear voices and understand some words but not others, or you can’t differentiate between someone’s voice and nearby noise, your hearing issue might be in your ear’s ability to conduct sound or in your brain’s ability to process signals, or both.

Age, general wellness, brain function, and the genetic makeup of your ear all play a role in your ability to process sound. If you have the annoying experience of hearing a person’s voice but not processing or understanding what that person is saying you could be dealing with one or more of the following types of hearing loss.

Conductive Hearing Loss

When we yank on our ears, repeatedly swallow, and say again and again to ourselves with increasing annoyance, “something’s in my ear,” we may be experiencing conductive hearing loss. Problems with the middle and outer ear such as fluid in the ear, earwax buildup, ear infections, or damage to your eardrum all decrease the ear’s ability to conduct sound to the brain. Depending on the seriousness of issues going on in your ear, you may be able to make out some individuals, with louder voices, versus catching partial words from others talking in normal or lower tones.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

In contrast to conductive hearing loss, which impacts the middle and outer ear, Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear. Sounds to the brain can be blocked if the auditory nerve or the hair like nerves are injured. Voices may sound slurred or muddy to you, and sounds can sound as either too low or too high. You’re suffering with high frequency hearing loss, if you have a hard time hearing women and children’s voices or can’t separate voices from the background noise.