"Precious, please speak a little louder."
"Son, stop your mumbling. Open your mouth and speak clearly."
"I wish the teacher would use a microphone. She's only four rows away, but I'm having a difficult time understanding her."
"Please turn the volume up, Precious. I can't hear it very well."
What's the common denominator in those statements? You are correct: My ability to hear has degraded. When I was in high school, I could hear a stage whisper across the room. Something happened.
Hearing -- one of our five senses -- degrades with age. But there are complicating factors. It's called noise! Loud noise damages our ears.
In the early 1900s, some of our missionaries reported that the indigenous people in their area could hear soft conversational speech very clearly from several hundred feet away. Why? There was very little background noise to negatively affect the ear structure that translates noise to electrical signals, which are then passed on to the brain that produces an understandable language.
But modern society thrives on noise. Here are portions of two reports.
A 2019 National Institute on Deafness report says, "Exposure to harmful noise can happen at any age. People of all ages, including children, teens, young adults and older people, can develop hearing loss. Based on a 2011-2012 CDC study involving hearing tests and interviews, at least 10 million adults in the U.S. under age 70 -- and perhaps as many as 40 million adults -- have features of their hearing test that suggest hearing loss in one or both ears from exposure to loud noise. Researchers have also estimated that as many as 17 percent of teens have features of hearing loss in one or both ears, based on data from 2005-2006."
A 2018 report explains it this way. "Tiny hair cells inside your inner ear help you hear. They pick up sound waves and change them into the nerve signals that the brain interprets as sound. Hearing loss occurs when the tiny hair cells are damaged or die. The hair cells DO NOT regrow, so most hearing loss caused by hair cell damage is permanent." It goes on to say that most hearing damage in today's society is caused by excessive noise.
Here are some well-documented data. Hearing damage begins when noise levels are sustained for 30 minutes at 80 decibels (db). Permanent ear damage can develop within 15 minutes at 100db. Noise at 110db can cause permanent damage in one minute.
Normal conversation today is around 55-70db. Movie theaters average 75-104db. Motorcycles and dirt bikes are 80-110db. Sporting events, concerts, and music through headphones can be 95-110db. Most modern churches keep their sound systems 85-90db, while many churches turn theirs up to 90-110db.
My own hearing loss was caused by working within a hundred feet of the rivet workers at Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle (110db). After two days, I obtained ear protection, but it was too late. Although it took 20 years to show up, the damage was permanent.
To state it simply: excessive noise damages our ability to hear properly, and we miss a lot of the beauty of nature. Without electronic assistance, I miss the beauty of birds singing, the happy chatter of little children, the meow of kittens, the words and music of beautiful songs, my wife's gentle voice, the message the pastor is giving, and a lot more.
But as bad as that is, humanity suffers even a deeper hearing loss.
Our Father in heaven is attempting to communicate with us every day, but most people can't hear Him. Why? Too much noise!
This noise comes in two forms: External and internal.
Six examples of external noise: Drugs and alcohol, sexual immorality, pornography, movies and concerts that dishonor Jesus Christ. There's much more.
Three examples of internal noise: Pride, anger, addictions. There's much more. (Did you know that many people are addicted to excessive noise? It's true.)
As we immerse ourselves in spiritual noise, we miss God's leadership. We miss the guidance He attempts to give us. God tries to protect us from bad situations, but we get in trouble because we don't hear Him. We let temporary excitement, which is bad for us, prevent us from hearing our loving heavenly Father.
The good news: this hearing impediment is not permanent.
If we want to increase our spiritual hearing, we must put away the noisemakers. Our two spiritual hearing aids are the Bible and the Holy Spirit.
So read, and listen.
-- S. Eugene Linzey is the author of 'Charter of the Christian Faith.' Send comments and questions to [email protected] Visit his website at www.genelinzey.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.