Understanding Your Hearing Loss

(musicians)

Aug 14, 2019

Musicians! You may know your enneagram, but do you know your Audiogram?


I’m willing to bet not.  According to the enneagram institute there are nine enneagram types.  You probably know them well by now. 

They are:

  • the reformer
  • the helper
  • the achiever
  • the individualist
  • the investigator
  • the loyalist
  • the enthusiast
  • the challenger
  • the peacemaker

This may come as a shock, but I HAVEN’T ACTUALLY TAKEN THE ENNEAGRAM TEST YET!!!!! Yikes!  The world is about to come to an end.  However, hold your judgments, there is hope for me still, having just read the descriptions I can already tell you I’m some combination of the achiever, the individualist, the reformer, the peacemaker, and the loyalist.  Those are in order from strongest to weakest.

When it comes to personality tests, such as the enneagram, one of the first things many of us do is separate the positive qualities and the negative qualities of each personality type.  Those of us who are more competitive and desire perfection will ignore every positive quality and jump right to the negative column so that we can begin our work of crossing them off and eliminating them as quickly as possible.  “Nope, not us.” If perfection is our goal, then there is no room for bad habits. To some extent, this is fine because the reason for taking a personality test in the first place is to get to know yourself better so that we can change and become better.  That’s the goal of this article.  If musicians walk away from this article with a better understanding of the Hearing Loss that’s most common to them and a renewed desire to become the best version of themselves (not just on the stage, but off the stage as well), desiring to prevent all the negatives of hearing loss, then my work is done.

In general, musicians have the same Audiogram type.*  Like the enneagram, the Audiogram also has different types, we call them ‘configurations’ or ‘shapes.’  Simply speaking, these describe what the shape of your hearing loss looks like when plotted on a graph.  When looking at the image below, you can clearly see that the curve makes a notch.  In Audiology lingo, when we see this we say, “This Musician has a high-frequency noise notch.”  Notches typically happen at 3000 Hz, 4000 Hz, and 6000 Hz.

Other types do exist, such as cookie-bite, flat, precipitously sloping, sloping, and rising.  For an explanation of these other types please view one of our more in-depth articles located in our Resource Center.

Our discussion so far should leave you with one or two questions.

  1. How does this affect me? and
  2. Why are high-frequencies affected the most?

Above is a photo of actual test results  and depicts a high-frequency hearing loss

Answer 1:

Most high-frequency hearing losses are what I call incognito hearing losses.  They’re hearing losses that you may not even know you have.  For many this is perplexing because you would think that you can tell if you have hearing loss.  It’s one of those things where we go, “if there was something wrong with me I would know about it.” However, speech is a very complex signal full of many different pitches (frequencies) and intensities of each sound.  Each pitch/frequency region provides something different.  Generally speaking, low-frequencies provide the volume of speech.  Whereas high-frequencies provide clarity.  With this type of hearing loss, most people feel like they can hear everything fine, but they don’t always understand it.  Female and children’s voices are usually the hardest to understand with this type of hearing loss because they’re more high-frequency in nature.  If you suspect this kind of hearing loss might be a cause of marital miscommunication and frustration you’re correct, it is a big contributor to marital miscommunication.

At first the barriers to communication are very subtle and then gradually grow more and more pronounced as your hearing loss continues to grow worse with time and continued exposure to unsafe noise levels.  You may find this surprising, but incognito hearing loss can be very isolating.  I’m a firm believer that God made us with a need to connect with others and that if you take away this need, the quality of our life quickly declines.  The isolation caused by high-frequency hearing loss quickly leads to things such as depression, social anxiety, anxiety about life in general, loss of self-value, and a loss of understanding your life purpose.

Most people with Hearing Loss knew about hearing loss but thought that it would never happen to them.  Today there are so many ex-musicians, older musicians, and even young musicians at the forefront of their career who are suffering from hearing loss today because they didn’t take it seriously.  I encourage you to seek out and identify respectable individuals who have hearing loss and listen to their stories. (Here is Adam Savage’s story on how hearing loss affected his life). 

You may be wondering why I am telling you all of this and it’s really just that I want people to have the best quality of life possible.  I care about people.

 

Answer 2:

This one can be difficult to explain, but I’m going to make it simple & easy.  The hearing organ is what we call tonotopically organized. This means that there is a specific spot in the hearing organ that is responsible for a specific frequency.  The high-frequencies are near the entrance of the hearing organ and the low-frequencies are deeper towards the center of the hearing organ.  Therefore, the high-frequencies see more foot traffic than the low-frequencies and are exposed to some of the loudest and most destructive sounds that enter the hearing organ.

So, what can be done to prevent Hearing Loss?

That’s a great question.  Click here and scroll down to the section on ‘Hearing Protection’

 

 

And that’s a wrap! 

 

 

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Congratulations Musicians, your Audiogram is a “High-Frequency Noise Notch!”

 

Thank you for taking time to read our blog post.  Please stay tuned for our next post!

Yours Truly,

Dr. Michael P. Cleary, Au.D., CCC-A