The best way I can explain what it’s like to lose hearing due to noise exposure is to give each of you a noise-induced hearing loss – no worries, we’ll just make it temporary.
The part of the ear most susceptible to damage from loud noise is the high-frequency range – 3000, 4000, 6000 Hz. When you lose hearing in the high frequencies, you no longer hear many of the consonant sounds of speech – S, T, K, CH, F, TH, SH, P …
I’ll slowly take away these sounds from my speech. First, the S, SH and CH.
“At firdt, the hange will be very hard to notide. You may notide dertain word are harder to undertand, but you can fill in what’ mithing from the contekt of the converdation.”
Now, I’ll take away the T and TH.
“Gradually, the word are harder to underdand, epedially if err any background noy. Many worker wid a high-frequenny hearing law dell ud dey can hear fine when dey can heed a peaker’ fay. But if dey can’ hee da peaker’ fay, or if dere’ any background noy, dey’re lod. Dey don’ underdand de joke, dey don’ underdand de indruckin, dey jud don’ underdand.”
Now I’ll take away the K and F.
“Now my pee may be ery dihihul do underdand. You ha a herere high-rehuenny hearing law, buh I gihen ih hoo you in juh do minud, an I warn you wha I wa going do do.”
You have a severe high-frequency hearing loss, but I’ve given it to you in just two minutes, and I warned you what I was going to do. Imagine what it’s like for the noise-exposed worker who slowly experiences this loss of hearing, not over the course of two minutes, but two or ten or twenty years. And nobody warned him it was coming.
The worker can very literally wake up one morning and realize his hearing has slowly deteriorated, and there is nothing … nothing he can do to get it back!