Hearing loss and mumblers

Struggling to hear mumblers can be a sign of hearing loss which can lead to isolation.

Hearing loss and mumblers

Mumblers are annoying at the best of times. There’s nothing worse than when you can’t hear what someone is saying, yet feel too embarrassed to ask them to speak up. Even worse, when you’ve got them to repeat something and still haven’t heard, so inevitably end up nodding along in agreement to spare further humiliation.

We’ve all been there at some point. Whether you’ve had a blocked ear, had water in your ear or are gradually losing your hearing – regardless of the reason - it’s not a nice situation to find yourself in.

Understandably the prevalence of hearing loss increases with age. As people grow older they increasingly misunderstand what is being said. Sometimes it can sound as though everyone is mumbling and not speaking clearly.

What is actually happening is we are losing our ability to hear high frequencies. Unfortunately sounds such as s, l, p, t and k all fall into this high frequency category, which accounts for 90 per cent of the intelligibility of speech.

This understanding helps to explain while you may still be able to hear, you are having trouble understanding what people are saying. This misunderstanding is only heightened when you cannot see the speaker’s face or don’t know what the topic is about.

Another side effect of hearing loss is the inability to filter speech from background noise. Nowadays loud environments are almost impossible to avoid, whether it’s crowds at sporting events and concerts, or music everywhere from bars and restaurants to shops and gyms.

It would be impossible to avoid loud environments altogether, however, here are some suggestions to improve the situation:

  • Ensure you are as close to the source as possible. Sit in the front row where you can.
  • Request that people slow down their speech. This will automatically mean they are speaking more clearly.
  • When conversing with someone try not to be more than a metre away, to give you the best chance of hearing what they have to say. If they won’t come closer to you, be pro-active and move closer to them.
  • Reduce the background noise as much as possible. Turn down the volume on radios and television or step outside a crowded room.
  • When conversing in a crowded room, avoid standing in the middle of the room and opt for a spot on the outskirts or near a wall to eliminate as much noise from other conversations as possible.

Trying to understand people in a noisy world, and struggling to hear mumblers and whisperers, can lead to isolation. While many people choose to ignore their hearing loss, this is a dangerous move as it can also affect your job performance, social life and physical wellbeing.

If you are having difficulty understanding others in conversation, communicating on the telephone, experiencing pain, ring or buzzing in your ears or having to increase the volume of the radio or television in order to hear it, you may have hearing loss.

If you think you may be affected by hearing loss, visiting a clinic is the first step to accurately diagnosis hearing difficulty.

If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss, then perhaps it’s time to make an appointment.





    To make a comment, please register or login
    15th May 2014
    Sadly Australians are chronic mumblers! Add to that the fact that many people place their hand over their mouth (thus preventing lip-reading) - same goes for men with a bushy beard - and the youngsters of today who speak at such a high pitched and fast pace - makes life very difficult for people with a hearing impairment! Education is the key - encouraging family and friends and members of the public to slow down, speak clearly (but not shout) and face you when they speak.... thank you.
    15th May 2014
    I had noticed this problem, so I had my ears tested at an Audiology Clinic.

    The result - my hearing is excellent. One thing they pointed out was that at times (in noisy situations), my brain or ears were detecting sounds, but I was ignoring them.

    They suggested that I should make a point of going into noisier environments and listen to the radio at the same time as I listen to the TV to train my brain to respond to both. I'm not sure if I want my brain to look for extra noise...
    A. N. Onymous
    15th May 2014
    “I'm not sure if I want my brain to look for extra noise...”

    Amen to that. I’ll join you in ignoring many of the sounds in our noisy world.

    Although I was sure I wasn’t having any hearing problems, on the theory that, at age 72, perhaps I was but didn’t realise I was, I had a hearing test last year. No problems.

    I plug my ears with tissues when I shop at Woolies or Coles because the scanners at the checkout hurt them.

    My file at the dentist has a large notation about not using the laser cleaner they have had for many years. They have to scrape the plaque off my teeth the way it was done in pre-laser days, because the laser hurts my ears. (The note went on my record the first time they used the laser on my teeth many hygienists ago when they first acquired it.)

    I guess I’m lucky that I don’t hear the really high frequencies that younger people do (e.g. with tests like the ones at the sites below). If I did, would my ears be hurt even more often by even more sounds?

    Do You Know How Old Are Your EARS?!! (Hearing Test)

    Take the High-Frequency Hearing Test

    My sensitivity to things like the checkout scanners and the dentists’ laser cleaners might well have more to do with my sensitivity than with my hearing. I am 72 now, but I can remember feeling earthquakes before others did over forty years ago in New Guinea.

    I can also remember (twenty or thirty years ago) listening to a subliminal weight-loss cassette tape which had surf/waterfall/rain etc. sounds. After listening to it a few times I stopped because I started hearing the voices of the two speakers (a man and a woman, alternating with sentences about what to eat and what not to eat). I figured the subliminal effect was not valid if the message was not subliminal. (I had a friend listen to it more times than I did, but she heard only the water sounds.)
    16th May 2014
    I can hear bats homing in on insects on summer nights when there are many insects around. I can also often hear high pitched whines or screams from electronic equipment or vehicles where no-one else seems to hear it.

    Some years ago, I remember reading that women around menopause age often become super sensitive to everyday sounds, but I have always been this way.

    On one occasion, I overheard two nurses talking softly to each other about another patient (it was not something good as it possibly threatened other patients). They were outside the entry to the ward and I was at the far end away from the door.
    16th May 2014
    You can do an on-line hearing test to get an idea of the extent of your hearing loss at http://www.blameysaunders.com.au/. They can also provide state of the art hearing aids at reasonable prices.

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