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

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

Brain function, age, general health, and the physical makeup of your ear all play a role in your ability to process sound. If you have the frustrating experience being able to hear a person’s voice but not being able to process or understand what that person is saying you may be experiencing one or more of the following kinds of hearing loss.

Conductive Hearing Loss

When we yank on our ears, repeatedly swallow, and say again and again to ourselves with growing annoyance, “There’s something in my ear,” we may be experiencing conductive hearing loss. The ear’s ability to conduct sound to the brain is decreased by issues to the middle and outer ear including wax buildup, ear infections, eardrum damage, and buildup of fluid. Depending on the severity of problems going on in your ear, you could be able to make out some individuals, with louder voices, versus hearing partial words from others talking in normal or lower tones.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Unlike conductive hearing loss, which impacts the middle and outer ear, Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear. Sounds to the brain can be stopped if the auditory nerve or the hair like nerves are injured. Sounds can seem too soft or loud and voices can sound too muddy. You’re experiencing high frequency hearing loss, if you have difficulty hearing women and children’s voices or can’t distinguish voices from the background noise.