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Free Hearing Aid Guide

The inability to distinguish sounds is a form of hearing loss


The National Safety Council’s Safety + Health magazine recently published an article about ototoxicants, chemicals that can cause hearing loss and balance issues.

In the article, warnings were shared from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) about which industries have higher exposure risks to these chemicals — and how the adverse effects of ototoxicants increases when “workers are exposed to elevated noise levels.”

One type of hearing loss OSHA notes as “especially hazardous” is speech discrimination dysfunction. What’s that?

Speech discrimination dysfunction is when a person cannot distinguish a voice or warning signal from ambient noise. In other words, they can hear, but everything sounds the same to them. This can put the worker at an elevated risk for accidents or mistakes if, for instance, an alarm or alert goes off and they don’t register it for what it is.

It’s not dissimilar to a complaint that many people who have hearing loss — but don’t initially recognize it — say, that “I can hear, but I can’t understand.

If this describes you, a consultation with a hearing healthcare professional is advised.