Why Do I Hear But Not Understand?

Lots of patients ask questions:  Why do I hear but not understand?  Why do I have troubles understanding voices?  Part of the answer has to do with one’s actually hearing and part has to do with one’s meaning of the word.  Firstly, I will deal with hearing.  One’s hearing loss can affect an ability to understand the voices.  People tell me that they can hear but do not understand.  It is similar to my abilities with Swedish.  My wife is fluent in Swedish and I am mostly fluent in Sign Language.  If she were to speak Swedish to me, I could hear all of the words, with my hearing aids on, but not understand one of the words.  With hearing loss, it isn’t about not hearing sounds at all.  It is about hearing parts of the sounds, or maybe the consonants.  In the following phrase I can illustrate:  I see Dr. Young at Hearing Solution Centers.  For one with a moderate hearing loss in the higher pitches, it might sound like this: I _ee _r. Youn_ a_ _earin_ _olu_ion _en_er_.  Could you really make sense of the second sentence?  Probably not.  You would hear the words but not understand the meaning.  That is why hearing aids were invented to fill in the blanks of that word spoken.

Doctors of Audiology are the only ones trained with enough counseling to help with this critical issue but one other part of this question needs to be answered.  Patients with their family members enter our practice daily with communication difficulties and hearing loss.  For example, the wife with normal hearing might say, “You don’t hear me!” and the husband with the hearing loss would state, “I hear you fine but you mumble so I don’t understand!”  Not only do we have Audiology degrees, we have to spend enough time counseling our patients as to their communication difficulties.  Both comments are valid but two different meanings are inside of their comments.  When the wife says that he doesn’t hear, she is right and wrong.  He can hear, at times, but doesn’t understand.  At other times, when she is far away from him, he really doesn’t hear.  Both indicate a hearing loss.  The husband states that he can hear her but she mumbles and he doesn’t understand.  He is also right and wrong here.  He can hear her at times but they potentially have been married for quite a long time so he might forget that she didn’t mumble before he experienced this hearing loss.  He can hear the words but doesn’t always understand.  Both need to change their wording to hearing= which means hearing a word…Understanding=hearing all of the word but missing a portion of it.  If they will use the correct words, and once they do in our office, with corrective hearing prescription, Hearing Solution Centers fixes this problem.