There is already a question in this forum about the interpreter's voice, so I thought I'd ask a companion question about the interpreter's hearing. What do we do to make sure our hearing doesn't suffer as a result of our time spent in the booth? Should we visit a doctor regularly to have our hearing checked?
asked 25 Oct '11, 16:31
Headsets should ALWAYS be worn OUTSIDE your ear. Never ever put anything inside.
If you put your headset in your ear, surplus sound waves cannot escape - and most of the remaining frequencies are low frequencies. High frequencies are short and quick - they fade rapidly. However the low frequencies (long and slow) bounce back and forth - and due to the ability of our brains to extrapolate from the information available, they are perceived as even lower ones!! (An effect used when constructing organs!) So, with in-ear headsets you give your brain more of the low frequencies, which might drown out the vital high frequencies....
You can also help your ears by training them properly - listen to classical music for instance! (It trains the muscles in your middle ear because classical music often has frequent volume level variations whilst modern music typically keeps the same level of volume. Also, classical music has many more of the useful high frequencies - BUT: not in mp3, they are more or less cut off in mp3...
You can also do a listening training course based on the Tomatis Method®... If you want to know more about it - please, don´t hesitate to write to me (c.krueger(at)aiic.net) or call!
Hello, just a short comment to my own words after having read especially Fionas words. Thank you very much for reminding me to be very careful with words... - even more, when not using one's mother tongue...
I am looking forward to the discussion in Berlin (13 July). Contact @Almute Löber, if you are interested!
In an ideal world amongst other things you would do the following:
But unfortunately we live in a less than perfect world and most of us never visit a specialist, unless we have a problem, use in-ear headphones and use mp3 etc...
answered 25 Oct '11, 21:12
Marta Piera ... ♦
I actually have my hearing checked fairly regularly, if not once a year then maybe once every eighteen or so months. My ear specialist confirmed that headset quality is very important, and the more days per year you work, the more important it becomes. Quality headphones allow you to keep the volume down. I like the Bang & Olufsen ones and contrary to what some colleagues say, they are not in-ear because you can adjust the distance of the tiny loudspeaker from your ear. Moreover, since they are over-the-ear as opposed to over-the-head, they do not squeeze your head. I sometimes get a headache from too tight over-the-head earphones. There is also a notable difference in the volume I need when I work with my own headphones. The B&O's come in a variety of colours these days and they also allow you to wear any kind of earrings because they do not compress your earlobes against your head.
answered 26 Oct '11, 15:38
One good piece of advice an ENT physician once gave a group of interpreters he happened to examine during a 2-week assignment was to make sure to slowly but surely adjust the volume of your headset/earphones from low to higher and NOT to start at a high volume and turn the volume down. You will find that this will help you to work with less volume.
answered 17 Apr '12, 16:58
Whenever possible, I use my earphones only on one ear, leaving the other one uncovered. This will protect at least one ear from potential sound screeches or unexpected feedback. Of course, it won't work when you have a noisy booth partner, but in cases when it does work, it has the added advantage of being more ready when you seek your partner's help with a word or figure.
I also turn the volume down to zero while the sound operators are setting up the whole array of projectors, mics, laptops, etc. and, in general, before each session begins, since with many people busy getting ready (sound technicians, room assistants with roaming mics, the MC, speaker/s), the chances of (Oops! Wrong button pressed, and OUCH!) are significantly higher.
It also helps to be seated and ready to go a few minutes before the scheduled start. That way you will be more relaxed when the conference begins and your ears will find it easier to tune in at a lower volume setting, since your mind will be more present in the conference than if you've rushed into the booth just in time to begin. It is a more professional attitude, too, I think.
I have my hearing checked every twelve months and all the more now since I suffer from tinnitus.
Contrary to what is widely believed, it seems it is not a good idea to put the trebles on max. Yes, we need the higher frequencies to understand better. If you pump up the trebles, the sound you get is a lot more distinct and clear.
However when you hear a sound, it's a wave that comes and "knocks" against the eardrum, which sets all three tiny bones in our inner ear (hammer, anvil and stirrup) in motion and these then come and "knock" on the cochlea. It is the cochlea that analyses the sounds received. It is an organ that looks very much like a snail, so your specialist may have showed you a picture of it. Well the part of the cochlea that is in direct contact with the stirrup is the part that analyses high frequencies. Which is why tinnitus is always a very high pitch sort of a noise: it's caused by damage to the outer part of the cochlea.
So if you pump up the trebles, you're actually tiring your ear a lot quicker, you're putting extra pressure on it. Have a look: http://library.thinkquest.org/22484/noframes/ears_.html
I followed my specialist's advice and now have both bass and treble to the minimum when I start working. I have a very good Sennheiser that provides me with a good enough sound that I can work well, especially now that I have gotten used to it.
I use more treble only when:
Neither of these three cases present themselves as often as you'd think, once your ear is trained differently.
The result after 6 months and then another 6 months showed spectacular recovery of my hearing in high frequencies.
...this issue is of such obvious relevance that I never tire of repeating the advice we were given by a distinguished ENT guest when I was Secretary to the CdP (aiic staff interpreters comittee) and we organised a conference on voice & hearing in Brussels: make sure you have your hearing tested objectively as opposed to subjectively, as in pure tone audiometry, where the subject responds to a tone by pressing a button... because the latter is of no use for insurance and/or legal purposes, following a trauma and when attempting to establish liability.
One must have baseline evidence to be able to quantify loss.
As to what one can do to avoid (natural) hearing loss... for conference interpreters who do simultaneous, remember to use the treble/bass controls, if any, and adjust them for each speaker before you turn up the volume :-).
A lot has been said about headsets, so I will belabor the point.
What I think is most necessary is that we undergo hearing tests: audiometry (to test hearing acuity); impedance testing and tympanometry ("Tympanometry allows the audiologist to measure how well the eardrum is vibrating when sound strikes and how well the tiny bones of the ear are functioning to transmit those vibrations to the organ of hearing. It also measures the pressure in the space behind the eardrum that contains those bones" cf. Impedance Testing audioconsult.com/services/.../impedance-testing/ ).
As we grow older we should increase the frequency of the testing because there is a phenomenon that occurs with age, presbycusys (Presbycusis From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (also spelled presbyacusis, from Greek presbys “elder” + akousis “hearing”), or age-related hearing loss, is the cumulative effect of aging on hearing. It is a progressive bilateral symmetrical age-related sensorineural hearing loss. The hearing loss is most marked at higher frequencies (eg, high-pitched voice). Hearing loss that accumulates with age but is caused by factors other than normal aging is not presbycusis, although differentiating the individual effects of multiple causes of hearing loss can be difficult.
Deterioration in hearing has been found to start very early, from about the age of 18 years. The ISO standard 7029 shows expected threshold changes due purely to age for carefully screened populations (i.e. excluding those with ear disease, noise exposure etc.), based on a meta-analysis of published data. Age affects high frequencies more than low, and men more frequently than women. One early consequence is that even young adults may lose the ability to hear very high frequency tones above 15 or 16 kHz. Despite this, age-related hearing loss may only become noticeable later in life. The effects of age can be exacerbated by exposure to environmental noise, whether at work or in leisure time (shooting, music, etc.). This is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and is distinct from presbycusis.
Over time, the detection of high-pitched sounds becomes more difficult, and speech perception is affected, particularly of sibilants and fricatives. Both ears tend to be affected
So, let's all include a visit to our ENT specialist in our busy schedules!
[I've been meaning to answer this question for a little while, but I wanted to wait before I confirmed my initial impressions with my audiologist. Which I did today.]
For your hearing to incur permanent damage, you'd have to be exposed to sounds above 85 dB for over 8 hours. But at 85 dB, you'd take your headphones off right away because that level would be unbearable -- it would be like someone yelling at you from up close. In other words, listening to speech through headphones in the booth does not cause hearing damage.
The idea that removing the headphones off of one ear at a time, and switching throughout the day, would reduce the risk of damage is, consequently, ill-founded.
However, there is the question of fatigue, which is highly variable at an individual level. This would be similar to eye fatigue after reading for a long time. I'm told this type of fatigue does not cause long-term damage.
Tinnitus is a bit of a mystery, still. It isn't always caused by a trauma (although a sudden hearing loss can trigger it), and the causes are generally unknown. There appears to be nothing one can do to avoid or minimize tinnitus. However, health, stress, or other variable factors can affect tinnitus temporarily.
I suffer from some hearing loss (likely from birth), I wear hearing aids and I have tinnitus -- the whole shebang. I can still work in the booth just fine by turning the volume to a comfortable level.
This is a very interesting issue and I think we should be more aware about our hearing safety and health. I am not very happy with the equipment that is widly use in Germany with integrated microphone in your headset. It is good for your back but bad for your ear since you tend to increase the volume. at least I feel it that way. That's why I have grown so fond of the Philipps and Bosch consoles: I can use my Bang & Olufsen. I love them becasue of the sound quality and I notice that I work at a lower volume. However i am starting to wonder if in-ear earphones are really OK: I still want to work some years! I recently worked with an on-ear Sennheiser headset with integrated microphone and I must say that I was really happy as the sound quality was very much like the one with my Bang & Olufsen and I was working at low volume input. I use my trebbles and bass always midway and the volume rather low but of course I start to increase the volume as I get tired or when it is getting fast or complicated.
answered 18 May '12, 13:09