Now Hear This

 

acoustic horn1

When this mobile acoustic horn appeared mysteriously outside the office the other day, I wondered if the students had finally found an effective way to ask me questions in the corridor without getting a completely inappropriate response. After all, no one likes to be restrained by a tutorly hand on the shoulder, to prevent escape after three or more failed repetitions of a question.

Sadly for me, the horn is not a giant mobile ear trumpet designed to keep me at arm’s length in background noise, but an intriguing piece of work destined for the forthcoming final year Work in Progress Show. Nevertheless, I have had great fun having unusually audible conversations through it in the meantime. Eat your heart out Digital Signal Processing, ear trumpets are the way to go in state of the art concrete buildings.

Next on my amplification wish list is a modified version of the soundbox table and seat below, designed by Korean designer Jina U. I plan to use it for the cookiebiter’s Room 101: doing heavily accented overseas phone interviews, in a noisy office, on a non-hearing aid compatible Cisco phone. Can’t wait.

 

soundbox table and seat

It’s a turkey!

The Cookiebite Christmas cracker

 

What do you call a Christmas candle in a dimly lit room full of cookiebiters?

A microphone.

* * * * *

What do you call an obstruction in a hearing aid tube?

A blockade.

* * * * *

How does the cookiebiter like their Yuletide pizza done?

Deep pan crisp and even.

* * * * * 

How did the stolen NHS hearing aid die?

It was flogged to deaf on eBay.

* * * * *

Knock, knock

I said, KNOCK, KNOCK

Oh, forget it.

* * * * *

What do Twitter trolls and a badly fitting earmould have in common?

They both give terrible feedback.

* * * * *

A cookiebite woman with hearing aids walks into a bar…

…and straight back out again.

* * * * *

What do Rudolph, Bambi and private hearing aids for cookiebiters have in common?

They’re two deer.

* * * * * 

What’s the difference between children and invisible hearing aids?

The latter should be heard and not seen.

* * * * * 

Why did the dropped hearing aids get ignored?

They fell on deaf ears.

* * * * * 

What do you call a faulty hearing aid battery charger connected to a trip wire?

A deaf trap.

* * * * *

 

Okay, so that’s 11 of the best, but I got a bit carried away. Merry Christmas!

Things You’re Unlikely To See #6

spectacle wearer of the year 2015

 

Q. What’s the difference between hearing aids and glasses?

A. Aside from approx £3,500 per pair, nobody ever says “I like your new hearing aids” when you walk into a room.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Specsavers recently announced the winner of their Spectacle Wearer of the Year competition, but potential Hearing Aid Wearers of the Year are still waiting for their invitation to step forward. Go on, Specsavers, I’d love a holiday in the Bahamas and £10,000 to buy a pair of hearing aids that work…

 

Expletive deleted

subtitle swear word

Walking through the crowded shopping precinct on the way to work, I knew I was in trouble when I spotted a slightly deranged looking old man rushing towards me, waving his finger as if scolding an unknown entity.

“Excuse me! Excuse me!” he shouted.

I tried to pretend I hadn’t seen him, but as soon as he was close enough to start waving his finger in my face, I was forced to stop. My latest trial pair of multifocal lenses immediately zoomed in on a couple of large NHS hearing aids precariously attached to his head, and I was temporarily distracted by wondering what model he had.

“Excuse me,” he shouted, “where’s the fuckin’ television?”

That’s a bit strong for nine in the morning, even in Glasgow, I thought.

“Sorry, where’s the what? ” I enquired, hoping I had misheard, and wondering just how deranged he actually was.

“The fuckin’ television”, he repeated, “The fuckin’ television”. I tried to look blank as I worked out an escape plan, but the television man was persistent. He continued to repeat his question whilst I continued to look blank, but at least the accusatory finger waving had ceased.

All of a sudden, I picked up on an amplified slushy ‘SH’ sound at the end of fuckin’ television and the penny finally dropped in the cookiebite cortex.

“Ah…the television shop”, I said, relieved that he didn’t have an imaginary television which went everywhere with him. “Which one?”

“Which what?” said the man.

“Which television shop” I replied, “…you said you were looking for the television shop?” I left out the fuckin’ for the sake of propriety.

His response was indignant. Perhaps he thought there was something wrong with my ears.

“Ah tellt ye, Hen…Virgin…Ah’m lookin’ fur the Virgin television shop!”

In my defence, the lip shapes of a guttural Glaswegian pronunciation of Virgin (Vuurgin) and the expletive are rather similar…

Do these go to 11?

the mighty chipolata2

The mighty chipolatas are turning out to be something of a sheep in wolf’s clothing, and it seems that I have nothing to fear on the hissing front from the new, improved Danalogic i-FIT. In addition, it has been an unexpected delight to discover that they pick up virtually no nerve shredding background noise at work, unlike the Oticons. Unfortunately, over time, this appears to be down to the fact that the Danalogics are transmitting hardly any sound to my cookiebite ears at all, except for a slight Sean Connery slushiness on ‘SH’ fricatives that I can happily live without. My subjective observation that there is a distinct lack of difference between aided and unaided ears is backed up by a massive increase in the number of times during the day when the spouse sighs deeply, rolls his eyes and says “Have you got your bloody hearing aids in” and those are just the times I know about because I’m actually looking at him.

On the upside, my worries about navigating a volume wheel with no default stop have been allayed by simply turning the wheel as far up as it will go at all times; I have been assured that it can’t snap off and there is virtually no audible difference between the minimum 1 and maximum 4 setting anyway. If I’d ever tried that with the surround sound Oticons, my employers would have been scraping bits of my head off the architecturally acclaimed double height concrete ceiling the first time a metal chair leg was scraped across the studio floor.

Disappointingly, on the leisure side, TV is once more inaudible at, or below, spouse discomfort threshold levels, and on the music programme the piano is distressingly distorted. I’ll report on the telecoil setting if I ever find a working loop anywhere.

I have a follow-up at the beginning of October but, for once, I’m not too eager to discover the outcome…

The Upgrade part 3: Will hissssssstory repeat itself?


the mighty chipolata

“Good news, no great change since your last hearing test”, announced the charming audiologist as I handed the sweaty button-push back. “There’s a mild loss in the low frequencies, but nothing significant”.

I peered at the screen while she did a bit of wire untangling for the next bit, and beamed with pride as I spotted a perfect 0dB threshold in both ears at 4KHz. I always like to do well in a test, but zero dB, wow. This was actually 10dB better than it was back in 2010, so I surmised that I should be able to enjoy the hissing of leaves on the trees, the hissing of the sea, and the hissing of hearing aid circuitry for many more years to come. In fact, if things kept up at this rate of improvement, I might even be able to hear the hissing of other people’s hearing aid circuitry in five years’ time.

“Okay, you know the drill”, said the charming audiologist, as sound probes were wiggled into my ears and the chipolatas were wired up ready for programming. The Oticons, now prostrate and deaf on the table, looked tiny and vulnerable in comparison; I remembered my tragic abandonment of the Siemens Chroma S back in 2012 and vowed that this time, the Oticons were coming home with me until I knew that things were going to be alright. If the performance of the mighty chipolatas matched up to their size, I would be happy to let the Oticons go to NHS hearing aid heaven. If it didn’t…well, it didn’t bear thinking about, so I decided not to, just yet.

After the initial programming, the charming audiologist set about a bit of on-screen fiddling with settings, and I started to become anxious every time a hiss or distortion entered the setup. I wished, not for the first time, that I could do the fiddling bit myself, but after a short while, her work was done and the moment of truth arrived.

“Right, I’m just going to talk for a bit so that you can tell me how it sounds”, she said. I listened carefully, relieved that although I could hear some hiss thanks to my freak bat ear peak at 4KHz, it was nowhere near as loud as the last time with the original Danalogics. I’d rather have no hiss at all, but I could live with it. To my cookiebite ears, the 2012 originals had sounded like a basket of chips being lowered into a deep fat fryer at the initial fitting. This time, other than a mild hiss  and air-con sound, there was nothing distinctive to comment on, but there never is in a soundproof room with air-con. Result.

“Sounds okay –  ” I stopped in my tracks.

“Oh… my voice sounds different…not dramatically so, but…different…” I struggled in vain for a description to the sound, but nothing came apart from ‘boingyness’ and I thought I’d better just keep that one to myself since I was supposed to be articulate. I certainly couldn’t hear anything intrusively bad, so after a run-through of the controls and a small tantrum of disbelief upon discovering the fact that there was a volume wheel instead of a push button, no default beep indicator on the volume, and no mute setting, I decided I was ready to return to the outside world.

I thanked the charming audiologist for her genuinely charming and painstaking attentions, slid the sleeping Oticons off the edge of the table into my handbag, and set off with the chipolatas on my ears to experience a whole new world of Danalogic sound.

The Upgrade part 2: Maybe they might be taking them after all…

hearing aids with wings

The very nice new audiologist must have noted my intensely misplaced interest in the Deafblind poster in the waiting room, because she warned me to watch my step on the raised threshold of the audiometry room as I entered. I was very impressed by her charming and attentive manner which made me feel slightly less apprehensive about potentially having to wave goodbye to the Oticon Spirit Zests. I had become rather attached to them, and it occurred to me that they had been listening in on every conversation I’ve had for the last 3 years. Ah, if hearing aids could talk, what tales they could tell, I mused poetically, wondering if if I could patent the idea for espionage purposes. Fortunately the Oticons had their battery drawers open during my previous visit to clinic O last month, and couldn’t hear their digital death sentence being issued by the hearing aid re-tubing lady. I cast my mind back to that fateful morning:

“We’re discontinuing services and spares on these Oticons”, she had announced gravely, as she rummaged through the tubes box, ” I’ll change them for you just now while we’ve still got some left in stock, but this will be the last time…you’re actually due for an upgrade anyway…you’ll get something nice and new instead, isn’t that good!”

“But…but…” I spluttered, “I got these ones ordered specially because of my type of loss, the standard issue ones didn’t work for me, I could hear the circuit noise…what will I get instead?”

Please don’t say Danalogic i-FIT 71, pleeeease’,  I beseeched my inner deity, despite it having let me down on quite a few beseechings lately.

“It’ll be one of these”, she said, reaching for the silicone ear model and plucking a brown chipolata-sized hearing aid from its rubber earhole. I should have been distressed at its size and general appearance, which was that of a partially inflated water balloon, but I’ve come a long way since nearly fainting at my first sight of a tiny NHS beige prawn back in 2010. Besides, the chipolata didn’t look like the previous i-fit I’d had, so there was still hope. Hey, maybe it was actually a top-notch Phonak or something…tssk, typical of me to have assumed the worst, I sighed. I tried desperately to align the elusive close vision sweet spot of my bifocals with the name on the casing to see if it started with ‘P’, but the re-tubing lady got in there first.

“It’s the new, improved Danalogic i-FIT es 71″ she announced cheerily, before turning her attention back to the disembowelled Oticons and doing a bit more noisy rummaging in drawers.

“But…but…” I spluttered, before the rummaging suddenly stopped and I was hit by the next devastating blow. Having to get my ears syringed again in preparation for the new fitting was bad enough, but there was worse to come; it seemed there was only one longer No. 2 tube left, so I’d have to have a shorter No. 1 on the right aid. I had a flashback to my last experience with a No.1 tube and panicked.

“That won’t work” I blurted unintentionally forcefully, giving the re-tubing lady a bit of a fright. She hadn’t realised what kind of peculiar exterior and interior head anatomy she was dealing with when innocently making her suggestion. I felt bad for being so ungracious, but it was just that the thought of having to gurn my way through the day to keep a too-short tube in place was very unappealing, especially in conjunction with the bizarre cranial contortions necessary to see anything through my new bifocal contact lenses. If all this kept up, I’d have to start wearing a clown suit to work in order to lend some gravitas to my academic image. No, this wouldn’t do at all.

“Just fish the old tube out the bin, and stick a new dome on it” I said, very pragmatically.


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