Finding Quiet by Turning Up the Volume: People are Retreating into a World of Increasing Volume… Losing Their Hearing and More

Our world is filed with noises, some invited, others not. Voices of conversation, babies crying, music and the warning sounds of car horns and alarms are invited. Externally, the sounds of buses, trucks, motorcycles and the broad low frequency hum of ever present office electronics are not. Multi-speaker televisions, stereos and conveniences devices have overtaken our homes. Our entertainment has become louder without our awareness but with our permission. Digital sound has allowed movie theaters to dramatically boost sound levels without distortion. Needless to say our beloved rock concerts use extreme volume to pump up the crowd and “drive the sound into our inner being” but in doing that they have become painfully loud. Even our “quiet-little-booth-in-the-corner” restaurant is no longer quiet. It seems that we can’t escape from excessive noise, which can be problematic and distracting for anyone seeking a little quiet and solitude for concentration, creativity or rest. Where can we go to find a little quiet? Home? Library? How about the neighborhood park? Many people, it seems, have given up even looking. Instead of seeking quiet time, people are gravitating towards self-directed distraction. To block out the noise around us we plug-up our ears and turn up the volume. MP3 players, cell phones, personal video game players…. people of all ages use them, not only to keep themselves entertained, but to block out the surrounding noise. Fighting noise with our own self-chosen noise requires us to crank up the volume even louder than the noise we’re trying to avoid. In general, it takes about 13 dB of additional volume to begin to block out the outside...

Listening to Learn in a Sea of Noise: The Insidious Effects of Classroom Acoustics on Student Performance

There is no question that if a school had poorly lit classrooms that there would be an outcry and a demand to improve lighting so that children could clearly see to learn. Substandard classroom acoustics are not as obvious as the lighting analogy above although the effects of poor classroom listening may be even more significant than those caused by poor lighting. It is an assumption in education that children who are paying attention in the classroom will be able to easily hear what the teacher says, and thereby learn. For too many children, this assumption is untrue. Realities of Classroom Acoustics Appropriate acoustic treatment in classrooms costs 1%-5% of the typical construction budget of a new school – less than the landscaping. In general, providing appropriate classroom acoustics is not a considered a priority. National standards for classroom acoustics were established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 2002. Research indicates that only 10%-30% of classrooms meet these standards In a national survey of schools almost 30% of classrooms were judged to be too noisy by educators. The students who are most challenged by excessive noise and reverberation are under the age of 13, especially those in kindergarten and first grade. The auditory physiology that allows humans to effectively listen in relatively noisy conditions does not mature until secondary school, with some aspects not maturing until the end of high school. Our youngest students are also those with immature language learning and lack the words needed to expertly fill in the blanks when a new word or word ending is missed. Because adults are so much better...

One In Five Children Have A Hearing Loss – So What?

There has been a lot of press recently about the study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Collected data was studied on 2,929 adolescents who took part in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Study which ran from 1988 to 1994 and compared the results to the 1,771 teens who took part in the same survey from 2005 to 2006. Among the children (aged 12-19) in the first study, 14.9% showed demonstrable signs of a hearing loss, while in the latter group the percentage jumped to 19.5% – a 31% increase between the groups. Imagine, one out of every five of our children already has some level of hearing deficiency! This dramatic increase in hearing loss amongst our youngsters needs to be viewed as a real and growing threat to the educational vitality of our nation and considered as, and treated like a true public health epidemic. We take our hearing for granted. Hearing loss is, in most cases, a very slow, transitional process, slow enough for us to develop compensating behaviors which allows us to deny the problem: we move closer to the speaker; we increase the volume of the TV, radio, or our personal music player. We do these things to persuade ourselves that we can control the problem and that the ‘loss’ is not real. It’s just that the volume needs adjusting. If we can just get the volume up to acceptable levels everything will be alright. We believe that we can live with hearing loss because everything we own, and all the people around us, have a volume control… huh?… what?… please...

Hearing and Listening Health Affect All of Our Children

Adopted or Not, Hearing Health and Listening Comprehension Affect Our Children There was a very interesting article posted on the ASHA Sphere Blog today. Written by Deborah Hwa-Froelich, PhD, CCC-SLP, the article titled Hearing Health and Development Following Adoption brings up a number of very important – and tightly linked – issues. How a small amount of fluid buildup in the middle ear can affect balance and hearing acuity. How, after seeking medical advice and completing impedance testing, she says that her results were in the low-normal range and that “most medical professionals would not treat a patient who exhibited these symptoms preferring to wait until the patient demonstrated consistent flat tympanograms or infection.” But, without exhibiting either of these conditions, she had significantly reduced hearing acuity, especially in noisy environments like the classroom. She wonders how children can focus and learn when they have fluid in the middle ear. How children who have resided in orphanages around the world – who receive less than adequate medical care – may have untreated otitis media and become accustomed to the symptoms of ear pain, imbalance, and poor hearing acuity. And when parents who adopt these children they expect the child to exhibit and demonstrate certain behaviors of discomfort when the child is ill. However, because of the lack of attention to hearing health, the children do not show the typical symptoms of pain or lack of balance and thus the parents may not recognize – and then not seek – medical care. Many orphanages do not provide the social interaction that children need to learn which sounds are meaningful to...