Everybody Mumbles These Days…… Or is it Your Hearing?

Have you ever had a friend or relative complain that “everybody mumbles these days”. Maybe you’ve even said (or thought) it yourself!

But is it true? Do people mumble more these days or could it actually be that your hearing is somewhat to blame?

As we get older it is very common for our hearing to slowly and gradual deteriorate. This deterioration tends to affect the high pitched areas of our hearing first, meaning that our ability to hear high pitched consonants like “s”, “t”, “f” and “th” becomes less distinct.  Being a slow, gradual deterioration, we often don’t notice that our hearing is getting worse.  The volume of sound still seems reasonable, but often speech seems less distinct or clear. It is often at this time that people will complain that others are “mumbling” because speech loses it’s clarity and crispness. This can be especially obvious when in a noisy environment or where the persons face isn’t visible.

Often people won’t realise that this deterioration in hearing, because the low pitch sounds in speech are still loud and clear.  It just seems that people are speaking less clearly than they used to. The effect of this subtle change in hearing is particularly significant because these important high pitched consonant sounds such as “s”, “t”, “f” and “th” form the beginnings and ends of a lot of words in English. When the beginnings and ends of words start to drop off, the whole sentence becomes a bit of a mumble!

While it is true that not everyone articulates their speech as well as they probably could, especially in Australia, it’s also likely that if you are finding people “mumble” more and more, you may in fact have some level of hearing loss.  Other signs of a hearing loss are:

  • Turning up the volume on the TV
  • Preferring to use a mobile phone on speaker phone or having the volume turned up
  • Difficulty hearing in restaurants or large gatherings

How To Quickly Check Your Hearing

There are a couple of ways of doing a quick check of your hearing before you decide if you need to see an Audiologist for a full hearing test:

  1.  You can do a hearing screening check online, or using an app on your phone.  Two that we recommend are the  the Signia Hearing Screening or Unitron Hearing Screening
  2. You can aks a friend or family member do a quick listening check with you. You can use a listening check called the LING sounds check to see whether you are able to detect and discriminate speech sounds across the full range of pitches.

To do this, stand approximately 3 meters from a friend who will administer the test. Close your eyes and have your friend say the following speech sounds (in a random order) in a quiet voice (not a whisper). Repeat back the sounds as you hear them. If you mishear some or don’t hear them at all get your friend to note down which sounds you missed.

/m/ (as in mum)
/ah/ (as in car)
/ee/ (as in key)
/oo/ (as in boot)
/or/(as in door)
/sh/ (as in shoe)
/s/ (as in seven)

If you find that you’re missing some sounds or miss-hearing others then booking in for a full hearing assessment may be worthwhile. You can contact us to discuss your needs or arrange an appointment with one of our Audiologists.