While some say seeing is believing, in the world of hearing health, hearing is not always understanding. It is easy to think of hearing loss as just that a complete loss of hearing and sound, but with many types of hearing loss the change is gradual and subtle at first. This gradual decline starts to affect not just the sounds we hear but the sounds we understand.

A recognition of sound but loss of understanding commonly happens with high frequency hearing loss. High frequency hearing loss generally means that you are unable to hear well without amplification when sounds are between 1,000 and 8,000 hertz. When it comes to conversations with another person, vowel sounds, such as a, e, i, o and u, are lower pitched sounds. On the other hand, many common consonant sounds, such as s, th and f, are high pitched sounds. When you are only hearing part of the sound it is difficult for your brain to interpret the full word and ultimately the whole conversation at hand. A reduction in your ability to understand full sounds, also plays a role in reducing your ability to watch television and speak to others on the telephone. It may feel strange to admit to yourself that you can hear but not understand, but you are definitely not alone.

If understanding in-person conversations, a telephone call or a favorite television program are becoming more common, it is time to call an audiologist. An audiologist will test your hearing and an audiogram will give your hearing care professional a first glimpse into the sounds that you can hear well. Based on these results, your audiologist will propose next steps for testing and possible treatments.

Think of all the conversations you are missing that could connect you deeper with family and friends. Don’t wait any longer, instead take that first step and contact an audiologist to schedule a hearing test.