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by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The “speech in noise” or “hearing in noise” problem is one that has long bedeviled both middle-aged people and their audiologists and physicians. Many people in mid-to-late life complain that they can’t follow one conversation among many in a noisy environment, such as a restaurant. But when their hearing is tested, the audiogram is normal. What’s the problem?

This paper in The Hearing Journal reports on a recent research study in the scientific journal Hearing Research. That research found that hearing in noise difficulty was caused by three different ear pathologies: outer hair cell damage in the cochlea, damage to the nerve synapses in the cochlea, and auditory nerve dysfunction.

I don’t understand the details of audiology testing, but one thing I have learned since I became a noise activist is how delicate our ears are, and how bad noise is for them. You don’t need to know or understand the details of the research. All you need to know is that noise damages your hearing, just like sun damages your skin.

If something sounds loud, it’s too loud, and your hearing is at risk.

Turn down the volume, leave the noisy environment, or insert your earplugs.

Your hearing is at risk if you don’t.