Frequently Asked Questions

How can I improve my hearing when I am out for dinner with friends?
Why is it so difficult to hear in a group?
How can I encourage others to speak more clearly?
How can I hear when people mumble so much?
Why do I find it easier to hear in some settings yet have so much difficulty in other places?
Why do I have so much difficulty understanding someone with an accent?
Why does my partner seem to have 'selective' listening?

The majority of people presenting with a hearing loss have damage to the tiny and very sensitive hair cells in the inner ear. Our inner ear is a delicate structure called the cochlea – a sac of fluid curled around in a snail shape. A membrane, called the basilar membrane, continues from the outer part of the cochlea for the whole length and consists of 30,000 fibres that send messages from the hair cells to the brain. Some of these hair cells, the outer hair cells, can help us listen more effectively in noisy situations by enhancing the sound we want to focus on or helping our brain ignore unnecessary sounds. Unfortunately these hair cells are vulnerable to wear and tear, noise and other factors. As a result the person with a hearing loss may find it easier to hear in some situations, such as a quiet lounge room compared to a noisy restaurant. To you, this may appear as though your partner ‘listens when he wants to’!

There are other little hair cells called inner hair cells. These hair cells send information to the brain where it is interpreted and we ‘understand’ what we hear. When a person has a hearing loss, not all these hair cells are working and as a result not all the sounds you say reach the brain of the person with the hearing loss. When your partner is speechreading he can only see a selection of the speech sounds that are produced towards the front of the mouth. He will rely on nonverbal messages (facial expression, tone of voice, posture, distance from the other speaker and gestures). The limited sounds heard, the speechreading cues that are available and the nonverbal information are combined and interpreted by the brain which then works hard to fill in the gaps using cues from the conversational environment and memory. You can imagine the amount of effort and energy required to do all of this at the fast pace of many conversations.

As you can see , there are many reasons to do with the complexity of hearing loss that result in your partner hearing easily at some times but apparently having difficulty or struggling at others. Why don’t you and your partner consider attending our Managing Your Hearing Loss Course. We also have individual Hearing Loss Management Sessions, information sessions and groups where you both can learn to increase the range and effectiveness of your communication strategies.

To make a Hearing Loss Rehabilitation appointment, or register your interest in a Managing Your Hearing Loss Course, please email: