I hear him but not her: how pitch affects what we hear

In general most deaf people find male voices easier to understand than female ones, irrespective of how loudly they are speaking. Young children are particularly difficult. This is because male voices tend to be at a lower pitch and women's and children's voices at a higher pitch. (It is a different matter that some people are more difficult to understand because they slur their words, mumble or speak softly.)

What is meant by the pitch of sound

Pitch is a measure of how high or low a sound is and is often referred to as 'frequency'.

How deafness increases with age

Ability to hear higher frequencies commonly gets lost with age, although of course it can be lost for other reasons.

As with so many hearing-related problems, deafness is seldom all or nothing. It is by no means unusual to hear much of the what is going on but to miss keywords because a speaker changes pitch or volume for emphasis or speaks with a lilt. Of course they may also miss words because the speaker runs words together or mumbles.

How hearing aids can help

Digital hearing aids are excellent for tailoring to the pitch-related deafness because they can be adjusted to amplify different pitches by different amounts.

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What to do if a deaf person doesn't understand you

If a deaf person doesn't understand you, there may be any number of reasons, the pitch of your voice being only one. All the advice on this website is summarised on the page about how to help a deaf person.

For those deaf people like me, though, who have trouble with hearing aids, it is particularly significant that the brain is very clever indeed at filling in missing sounds to make some sort of sense.

However the brain does need to be given a fair chance.

There may also be problems with the loudness or volume to a sound. This is discussed more fully on a separate page.



Disclaimer: The information on this site is for a lay audience and I cannot be responsible for errors or omissions. The views, strategies, advice and suggestions etc are based on my personal experience and are not necessarily appropriate for anyone else. They should, hopefully, stimulate individuals to develop their own strategies.