Pro Hearing Sponsored Content: Why Can I Hear But Can’t Understand?


The brain is an endless machine that receives, processes and sends countless messages every day. Sound is only a fraction of the many stimuli the brain receives daily, but it is one of the most important. Receiving sound at normal thresholds is imperative for healthy hearing and speech processing. However, when the ear is no longer able to pick up sound at normal thresholds (due to loss of hearing sensitivity), the brain misses out on crucial frequency processing. It is the basis of what is called hearing deprivation and is the catalyst for the most common complaint about hearing loss: “I hear, I just can’t understand!” »

While hearing and understanding undoubtedly go hand in hand, their mechanisms in the body are handled slightly differently. This is why it is possible to hear, but not quite to understand. Physiologically speaking, the ability to hear depends on the proper formation and functioning of the anatomy of the ear, while understanding speech is a cognitive process dependent on the stimulation of nerve pathways in the brain. When the structures of the ear deteriorate or are damaged and can no longer function normally, the brain misses the stimuli essential for understanding speech, resulting in atrophy of the nerve pathways.

The effects of hearing deprivation can best be described by an analogy. Imagine someone ties their arm behind their back and receives little stimulation for years. Now imagine what would happen after the arm is untied. What are the chances that it works normally? Thin to none. Why? Because it has weakened and atrophied from lack of stimuli. The arm has been deprived for so long of the fundamental elements that make it work properly, such as blood circulation, movement, etc., that the arm has physically and functionally deteriorated. The principle is the same applied to the ear. If the arm were an ear and someone went a significant period of time without necessary auditory stimulation, the nerves connecting the ear to the brain would have the same effect as the bound arm; they would weaken, deteriorate and eventually lose their normal function. This is a great example of how hearing loss directly affects speech recognition and retention function.

The longer a hearing loss is prolonged and untreated, the more likely it is that parts of speech will be lost. For this reason, audiologists frequently stress to patients the importance of early intervention. The best way to combat hearing loss is to use hearing aids. Hearing technology is an incredible tool that can help hearing and brain function in many ways, including improving clarity, speech in noise, and in some cases, speech discrimination! It is important to note, however, that the use of hearing technology alone cannot completely restore what has been lost. Depending on the nature of the hearing deprivation, those with lower speech recognition scores will still need to rely on other visual cues, such as lip reading to understand what is being said. However, that doesn’t mean hearing technology won’t help, indeed it will! Helping hearing means having a better chance of preserving remaining speech discrimination, as well as exercising brain function! With the help of a qualified audiologist, better hearing can be achieved.

In order to protect voice recognition, hearing loss should always be taken seriously and treated as soon as possible. Preserving hearing and speech starts with being very careful, which means early detection and intervention are essential for hearing and brain health. Even if you have a long-standing hearing loss, there is still hope! Pro Hearing providers have over 35 years of experience in the assessment and treatment of hearing loss. If you or a loved one have difficulty hearing or understanding, call us today and let the staff at Pro Hearing take care of your hearing needs!

Dr. Pam Matthews, Audiologist
Hearing Pro, LLC
9409 N May Avenue and 10404 S Pennsylvania Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK

Northwest Oklahoma City: CALL 405-775-9875

Southwest Oklahoma City: CALL 405-378-4165

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