I come from a long line of ancestors who have “moderate to severe” hearing loss. I learned early, that to communicate with one branch of the family I would have to crank up the volume, especially with older aunts and uncles. This occasionally carried over to other family groups, who may have wondered why I was yelling at them. My own auditory perception has been deteriorating for years. I think if I was totally deaf, I would greatly miss familiar voices, music, and the sounds of table tennis; in that order. My playing ability might also be affected. We probably underestimate the significance of sound in table tennis. I’ve always liked table tennis, but I really began to love it when I first heard the sound of really loud speed glued rubber.
Some rackets are still loud. It greatly depends on the type of blade, how soft the rubber is, the thickness of the rubber, and if the rubber has been boosted. The “corking” sound of boosted rubber is sometimes used as a selling point. Rubber that’s advertised to play like it’s speed glued won’t really live up to the hype if it doesn’t sound like it’s speed glued. Obviously, a racket will sound louder if the ball is hit harder, but a racket with nice sound won’t be dependent on the power of the player. Even soft shots will provide some aural feedback. If you really want to hear the ball, hard-bat paddles will create a sound that seems foreign, and somewhat quaint compared to the sounds of the modern game.
Background noise can also affect players ability to pick up on the sounds of the game. Most players learn to block out distracting noises, but really loud venues are often difficult to deal with. If you’ve ever played in an empty gym, with only you and your opponent, you can appreciate the value of great acoustics, and total absence of distractions. The sounds of table tennis are important because they provide information about speed and spin. Some shots should not be very loud. Big strokes with soft sounds usually mean extra spin. Senses of touch and sight coordinate with the sense of hearing, and we play our shots based on that information. Our sport has a special sound. That’s pretty significant.