Still cranking your earbuds to maximum? Won’t wear ear protection to concerts? Tired of people warning you that you’re going to go deaf? Then have a look at this article at NPR which demonstrates what it’s like to lose the ability to hear.
Part of the problem is that this kind of sensorineural hearing loss — the result of permanent damage to the sensory cells of the inner ear — does more than just make sounds quieter. It can jumble the sounds, too, in ways that garble speech.
To give people with normal hearing an inkling of how wild these distortions can be, hearing and speech researcher Arthur Boothroyd created several audio clips for Shots. Each demo uses the same spoken sentence, but is distorted in a different way. (You can hear the original, undistorted sentence further down in this post. But before you do, take a listen to the demos and try to figure out what’s being said.)
First up: Many people, especially those with age-related hearing loss, lose the ability to detect high-frequency sounds. Because consonants are typically higher-pitched than vowels, the loss of high frequencies can make it difficult to tell consonant sounds apart. As a result, speech sounds muddy — in some cases, almost beyond comprehension.
There are more examples of what happens to your ears here. Read, listen, heed.