Distorted speech perception - is this untreatable?

Hello everyone nice to be here.

For 16 years I’ve had tinnitus. Never a problem except for mild uncomfort in sleep and continued enjoying sound spending entire salaries on listening equipment throughout the years.

10 months ago i moved apartments and settled for TV internal speakers and truly they were fine. Then i got a sound bar and was really enjoying that. One day, i noticed the sound bar sounded different. Eventually i realized it was the sibilance consonants, worse is “S”, but also “TZ” and “SH” and so on. Worse with woman vocals due to high frequency but also men. Other high frequency sounds don’t seem too harsh like the sibilance. I can hear the “S” louder and more distorted. Lowering volume helps but not much.

Till now it has been driving me insane, very distracting especially when following dialogue on a movie or show. I tried different speakers, cheap or hi-fi, car speakers, nothing eliminates the loud distortion.

I am having a hearing test in the near future but i fear it might find nothing and my ENT wasnt keen on discussing different theories of why this is happening. Has anyone encountered this issue before or knows what it is? Usually people dont understand speech. I am the opposite, understanding all too well with the harsh sibilant treble. Am i doomed to suffer vocals for ever?

Hi yuvalfrr,
Welcome to the forum! :smiley:
With a steep skislope type of loss, I seem to have a very different problem than you have. However, perceiving distortions is a common phenomenon for me too. When not wearing HA’s I perceive load speech distorted, even more so when the original spectrum is not very good (like talk on the radio, rather than direct speech). When using my HA’s, the distortion disappears (or gets at least much better), even though the HA’s are not cancelling anything, but just adding stuff in the higher frequency range. I cannot properly explain this (but maybe someone else in the forum can?), but my interpretation is that without HA’s, the signal that actually makes it to my brain is dominated very much by components in the 500Hz region. Possibly, I am not able anymore to properly identify anything useful from the low volume high frequency information (which may also contain some distorted information coming from the inner ear). On the other hand, when using HA’s, the high frequencies contain much more useful information (having a better signal do noise ratio in that region) and then, there is much less perception of distortion. Again, this is my perception, please correct me if this shouldn’t make any sense…
As for the reverse kind of hearing loss, I could imagine similar phenomena. So I think there should be hope that HA’s can help. To be tried. Best of course, if you just suffer from a temporary issue and your hearing will recover. Best of luck to you.

Ok what I hear.
Everything I hear in my left ear is distorted. Broken speaker sound.
Doesn’t matter whether I have my hearing aids in are not.
The aid magnifies the distortion, especially my own voice.
My right ear has no distortion.
When I’m watching TV I generally do not perceive the distortion.
If I’m lying on the sofa on my left ear no distortion.
Lay on right nothing but distortion.
ENT says nerve damage, it is what it is.
Oh and yes I have really bad tinnitus in my left ear.
The distortion and tinnitus sucks.
But like I said it is what it is nothing I can do.
You just get on with your life.

Distortion can be from cochlear damage or nerve damage.

Do tonal audiogram.
Ask to do word recognition score, that’ll tell you how well your brain can work with this distortion.

MRI shows if there’s visible damage on the nerve, measuring brain stem reflex can show how nerves work if MRI is ok.

There might lie reason for distortion.
Or in cochlear dead regions. Those can be found with checking otoacoustic emissions for frequencies that have damage above 60db.

From your post my first association isn’t ‘significant loss in some frequencies’.

In short, there’s very little ideas what brings distortions exactly, but if it’s cochlea damage, and nerve is perfect, cochlear implant is the only way to skip it.

Until they made a drug (currently in testing phase) which makes some cochlea cells heal, which are responsible for clarity eg distortion.

Also, there’s trial for anti tinnitus drug.

Future looks bright.

But until they make it, yeah, unfortunately, nothing else to do to really solve it. Train your brain to use it and learn to live with it.

Of course, health check that everything is OK with the nerve.

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In my case ENT really never addressed it.
Just told me to get really good hearing aids.

I found an audiologist’s web page a while back. This guy would play ascending semitones on a piano to his clients and ask them if each tone was higher than the one before or whether they sounded the same. If the client couldn’t discriminate between tones at certain frequencies that was an indication that there was damage at those frequencies. The idea was that you would not amplify those frequencies because you’d be amplifying distortion.