My Concern

It's not well known but I have a speech processing issue. I have a really hard time decyphering audio for voice communication. It's so bad I rely on sub titles to watch video content with speech as well as read lips in meat space when with others.

My problem works like this: my hearing is good (I hear noises just fine) but I cannot hear people speak in terms of words. That seems odd, correct. I know a human is talking at me but all I hear is the sound of their voice, not words. It's like hearing a guitar in a song, it's noise but not words (speech).

This problem is exacerbated by background noise of any form. A video game, voices, the sound of the ocean, anything will cause this issue of mine to worsen.

I also have had tinnitus since I was a small child. So long I cannot rememer a time before it existed for me. Tinnitus is a kind of background noise and exacerbates my speech issue as well.

Historic Coping Skills

If you've met me before, you know I'm not all that young, this hasn't been a 'thing' (as far as you knew ;) ) and you're probably surprised right now.

In meat space I make sure the people I talk to are facing me and I'm facing them and I read their lips. If the other person or people have their back to me, I cannot hear anything except on the rare occassion I can focus hard enough to process the speech. I'm deaf to speech in this situation by default now.

The separation of background and voice has been critial for me with phones, particularly cell phones. It's also why I cannot handle audio books.

The fix for me for cell phones was ear pieces/buds to isolate the voice from the background for my brain. I also discovered my right ear is the one that can process voices, not the left for whatever reason. If I use an ear piece for voice audio on my phone I can [generally] hear the other person or people.

New Coping Skills

Over the years I've clearly developed and honed a number of coping skills. Unfortunately, I need a bit more help day to day at this point. I need to develop new methods that help me with speech, especially for my growing number of conference calls using full video and voice. I also play a game with others regularly which requires game audio and voice communications to be isolated for my speech processing needs.

Thankfully Windows 10 has a way to address this need built into the operating system.

Windows 10 Fixed

I recently discoverd Windows 10 has a way to split the audio path into "standard audio" and "communication audio". This is buried in the advanced sound settings. It lets you setup any "headset" (as far as Windows is concerned) as a "default communication device". As long as an application supports this feature, it will output non-voice audio via the standard audio device (headphones/speakers/TV) and voice via the communication device (heatsets).

This allowed me to setup a headset on my computer that does just voice audio so I can better isolate the voice I need to understand from any background noise in my environment or generated by the computer (game audio).

Problem Solved

This solved my problem entirely. ♥

The following procedure will let you re-create the setup.

  1. Open main settings application
  2. Go to system settings
  3. Select Sound tab
  4. Click "Sound Control Panel" link on the right
  5. Right click the audio output device you want as the main audio and select "Set as default device". If the option is not present and the device has a green cicle checkbox, it's already the default device.
  6. Right click the headset output device you want as the communication audio and select 'Set as default communication device". If the option is not present and the device has a green circle checkbox, it's already the default device.
  7. Click on the microphone tab
  8. Right click your microphone and set it as the default if it doesn't have a green circle checkmark.