Not being able to hear what people are saying is frustrating, embarrassing and can even be harmful to your career.
If this sounds like you, or someone you know, listen up. Experts say a new study may actually explain why so many are forced to fake their way through functions where loud makes for lousy conversation.
Jeff Larcomb can pass a standard hearing test just fine, but when Jeff is in noisy rooms, like a crowded restaurant or packed bar, he can't figure out what people are saying.
"It's impossible, I cannot, as soon as there's competing sound, it's all mushed together," he said.
Larcomb says he comes off as "Mr. Awkward."
"I'm staring really intently at people and trying to follow their mouth and stuff like that, and it's just not normal behavior, right, and people are kind of like, 'What's this guy's deal?'" he said.
Audiologists say why patients can't decipher speech in noisy situations has been unexplained, but a new breakthrough is changing that.
Audiologist Dr. James Hall explains. "Hidden hearing loss, this new problem that we're talking about, may very well explain a substantial number of these people who have trouble hearing in background noise," audiologist Dr. James Hall said.
Researchers studied young adults who may have regularly overexposed their ears to loud sounds. They found hidden hearing loss is associated with a deep disorder in the auditory system. It could also play a role in Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Gail Whitelaw, an audiologist says while it's not an official diagnosis, it's a promising start.
"The term hidden hearing loss is a great place for us to start, and I'm really excited about that because what I think it does is it gives credence of the fact that this patient population exists," she said.
Larcomb says he's hoping for anything to help him hear better when out with friends.