Friday, December 27, 2013

Scientific Myth-Busting and The Hearing Curve

It is a little known otologic fact that hearing improves with age. 

You don't believe me. 

You've heard and read and perhaps even experienced the opposite. Well, I'm sorry to tell you this, but hearing loss in adulthood is an urban myth desperately in need of busting and we're going to do that, right here and now.

The truth is, hearing develops, declines, and recovers in a manner comparable to an inverse bell curve, a phenomenon known as The Hearing Curve. We start out hearing rather well in our elementary years as evidenced by the fact that our parents can't open a can of pop on the other side of the house, quietly as a mouse, with the barest hisssss of carbon dioxide escaping, without us hearing them and calling out, "I want some!"

With the onset of puberty, hormonal changes occur, resulting in observable physical changes such as increased vertical growth, the appearance of secondary sex characteristics, and gradual hearing loss that peaks at about age 16, usually coincident with the passing of one's driving test. We know this to be true because teenagers listen to LOUD music, particularly in the car. They talk LOUDLY and make LOTS of noise doing absolutely nothing.

Adulthood is marked by the gradual recovery of hearing acuity, accelerated in some cases by childbearing and child-rearing, and becoming most noticeable in the mid-40s to 60s. Adult hearing can actually become highly sensitive to the most subtle of sounds. For instance, the creek of the front door when teenaged son creeps in past curfew can awaken the soundest of sleeping fathers more readily than a gun fired off beside the bed. The best medical evidence for hearing improvement in adulthood, however, derives from the observation that parents the world over shout at their teenaged children who, naturally, are listening to LOUD rock and roll, "Turn that crap down!" It's obviously painful, otherwise why say anything at all?

So much misunderstanding and familial conflict could be avoided if parents only knew the truth. When asking, for instance, if their teenaged daughter or son was "deaf" when told to take out the trash, help with dinner, or clean their room, what a great thing to know that, yes, their teenagers were in fact, quite deaf or so close to it as to make no difference. Furthermore, that it's only temporary, literally "a stage" they're going through. On the other side, just as it takes becoming an adult to realize one's parents aren't stupid, it takes becoming one to be able to hear what they're saying without misinterpreting their shouting as expressions of anger or frustration. Everyone benefits.

It's really quite amazing what the teensiest bit of scientific myth-busting can do to improve our lives and relationships. And we did it all without mentioning "evolution." Isn't that amazing?

(Text copyright 2013 by the author -- written with tongue firmly planted in cheek)

(Creative Commons image by Rob Gallop via Flickr)
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