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 distinguish between a person’s voice and nearby noise, your hearing problem could be in your ear’s ability to conduct sound or in your brain’s ability to process signals, or both.

Your ability to process sound is determined by several factors like overall health, age, brain function, and genetics. You may be dealing with one of the following kinds of hearing loss if you have the frustrating experience of hearing people speak but not being able to understand what they are saying.

Conductive Hearing Loss

When we yank on our ears, repeatedly swallow, and say over and over to ourselves with growing annoyance, “There’s something in my ear,” we could be suffering from conductive hearing loss. Problems with the outer and middle ear such as fluid in the ear, earwax buildup, ear infections, or eardrum damage all diminish the ear’s ability to conduct sound to the brain. 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

Where conductive hearing loss can be triggered by outer- and middle-ear problems, 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. Sounds can seem too soft or loud and voices can sound too muddy. You’re experiencing 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.