One in 10 Americans has a hearing loss. It can begin as early as age 20. Hearing declines significantly after age 40.
The baseline or threshold for normal hearing is 0 decibels. A decibel (dB) is a measure of sound pressure level. The higher the decibel, the louder the noise. The pain threshold is 130 decibels. A subway is recorded at 95-100 dB. If you live in a noisy city or work around loud machinery your hearing may be at risk.
People who use their voices for a living – public speakers, trainers, facilitators, teachers, attorneys, clergy, etc – must realize how hearing impacts their speaking. As you lose hearing acuity, it affects your ability to understand conversation, to modulate your voice, and to articulate clearly.
A mild to moderate hearing loss is called a conductive loss and a severe impairment is known as a sensorineural loss. A conductive loss may be intermittent as in the case of allergies and colds where fluid can collect in the ear. A sensorineural impairment involves the loss of hair cells in the inner ear which cannot be replaced. A mixed loss is a combination of the two.
Signs of Loss
Speakers are often not aware that they have a hearing loss and can experience denial.
Here are some signs that you may have hearing loss:
- People ask you to speak up much of the time.
- People tell you you’re too loud.
- You frequently ask people to repeat themselves.
- You get frequent colds and experience fluid in the ears.
- Difficulty hearing on the phone.
- You don’t hear the alarm clock or phone ring.
- Difficulty hearing over background noise.
- Increase the volume on audio devices.
- Trouble discriminating sounds, especially high frequency sounds such as /s/ and /f/.
- Ringing in the ear.
- Ear pain
- Wax buildup
- Muffled hearing.
What can you do to protect your hearing?
- Get a hearing test.
- See your doctor annually.
- Don’t talk over loud noise.
- Use earplugs in movie theaters and in places where there is loud noise.
- Limit time spent in clubs.
- See a doctor to treat ear infections.
- Set the volume dial to mid-range (5 one a 1-10 volume scale)
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Start to practice good hearing hygiene and protect your hearing for years to come.