One in 10 Americans has a loss of hearing. 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. Continued exposure to noises 85 db and above can lead to hearing loss. 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 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.

Copyright Diane DiResta 2011. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Diane DiResta is president of DiResta Communications, Inc., a New York City consultancy serving business leaders who want to communicate with greater impact - whether face-to-face, in front of a crowd or from an electronic platform. DiResta is the author of Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz, an category best-seller and widely-used text in college business communication courses. Blog:
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