Trouble Understanding Words, Especially in a Crowd?
Here’s What It Could Mean For Your Hearing

Written by the Nano Hearing Aids Team
Reviewed for Accuracy by Lindsay Roberts, AuD.

Lindsay Roberts
Trouble Understanding Words, Especially in a Crowd?</br>Here’s What It Could Mean For Your Hearing

Do you ever find it difficult to understand what people are saying, especially in crowded, loud places? You might notice you’re straining to listen, or that you need people to repeat themselves.

While everyone might have a hard time once in a while hearing in a very loud place, such as in a busy restaurant or concert with loud music, some people experience this almost every time they are in a noisy environment. Or they notice it happening more often than what used to be considered normal hearing for them.

Trouble understanding words in crowds could actually be a sign of hearing loss, even if you can still hear. Find out more about the symptoms of hearing loss, causes, and what to do if you think you might have hearing loss.

Do I Have Hearing Loss Even If I Can Hear?

Yes, it’s very possible to experience hearing loss and still be able to hear sounds, since hearing loss can vary in severity. This means you could have trouble understanding all the words being said, but you might still be able to hear the person speaking. Specifically, hearing loss can range from mild/moderate hearing loss to severe.

If you have perceived mild to moderate hearing loss, you could experience the below:

  • Trouble hearing conversations in noisy places and with a lot of background noise or loud sounds
  • Feeling tired from listening
  • Finding it difficult to follow conversations and hear people in group settings
  • Difficulty hearing someone on the phone
  • Needing to turn up the volume on the TV or radio, even if others say that it’s loud

You might have severe hearing loss if you have the below symptoms:

  • Difficulty hearing conversations (including in quiet places)
  • Unable to hear sounds or finding it very difficult to hear sounds, including loud noises (even in quiet environments)
  • You might find yourself reading lips as a result of your hearing loss

For example, someone with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss might have trouble hearing words at a concert, at a busy bus stop, announcements being made over a PA system, or in a crowded restaurant.

Someone with severe hearing loss might have trouble hearing words from a co-worker even if the office is very quiet, or at a park talking with a friend, or in the car listening to the radio.

Hearing vs. Understanding

It’s important to note that in someone who has hearing loss, both the ability to hear and the ability to understand can be compromised. Hearing is the physical ability to perceive sounds and understanding is the cognitive process of interpreting those sounds as meaningful communication. For someone with hearing loss, it could be difficult to not only hear the sounds but also to decipher the words being said, especially in noisy places (this can also occur in quiet settings if the hearing loss is more severe).

If you or a loved one have trouble understanding words in a crowd or other loud places, you could have perceived mild to moderate hearing loss and benefit from OTC hearing aids. But if you find it difficult to understand words in quiet environments, such as a library or museum, you should consider meeting with a hearing healthcare professional/hearing specialist. They can conduct a hearing test to determine the cause of your hearing loss, its severity, and the best approach to treatment, which could include a prescription hearing aid.

Hearing vs. Understanding
What Causes Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss can occur for many reasons, including the below.

  • Age related hearing loss (presbycusis)
  • Noise-induced hearing loss (from headphones or working at loud jobs, such as construction)
  • Earwax blockage
  • Ear infections
  • Genetics
  • Head injury or trauma
  • Ototoxic medications (drugs that damage hearing)
  • Chronic diseases (such as diabetes or hypertension)
  • Meniere's disease
  • tumors (acoustic neuroma)
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Malformation of the inner ear
  • Viral or bacterial infections (such as meningitis)
  • Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Ear injuries or perforated eardrum
  • Ear canal obstructions (such as foreign objects)
  • Radiation therapy to the head or neck
  • Neurological conditions (such as multiple sclerosis)

It’s also important to note there are three main categories of hearing loss - sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type and occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve. This can be due to aging, noise exposure, genetics, and other reasons.

Conductive hearing loss occurs when the outer or middle ear has an issue that prevents sound waves from traveling to the inner ear. This can be due to ear infections, earwax buildup, a perforated eardrum (hole in the eardrum), growth in the ear canal, or structural abnormalities.

Mixed hearing loss occurs when there are issues in both the inner ear or auditory nerve, as well as in the outer or middle ear.

Can I Prevent Hearing Loss?

In some cases, it’s possible to prevent hearing loss or to keep hearing loss from getting worse. Here are a few things you can do:

Protect Your Ears


If you work in an environment with loud noises, make sure to protect your ears by wearing hearing protection such as plastic earplugs or glycerin-filled earmuffs. This could potentially help to protect your hearing.

Get Your Hearing Tested


If you are exposed to loud noises on a regular basis (such as with work), consider getting your hearing periodically tested by a hearing healthcare professional. This could help to detect hearing loss in the early stages and make it easier to take steps to prevent further damage.

If you notice symptoms of mild to moderate hearing loss and you are 18 years old or older, consider purchasing OTC hearing aids.

OTC Hearing Aids For Perceived Mild To Moderate Hearing Loss

Many people with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss have found it beneficial to wear hearing aids that are OTC, as they can be a great solution for improving hearing. These FDA-regulated devices don't need a prescription, hearing exam, or doctor's appointment. You can try them in the comfort of your home, and you can adjust the volume to suit your specific needs. With Nano OTC hearing aids, you simply pick the best dome size for your ears, turn them on, and put them in. Keep in mind it might take several days or weeks for your ears and brain to get used to them, which is why Nano OTC Hearing Aids come with a 45-day money-back guarantee and free 24/7 lifetime support.

Shop Nano OTC Hearing Aids

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