A Testing Time

After a horribly busy morning at work, my exciting afternoon out to the Institute of Hearing Research began with the customary visit to the soundproof booth. I don’t know how long I was in there but it certainly seemed much longer than the usual 3 mins and, lulled by my tinnitus, I found myself drifting off into a nice relaxing trance during the quiet bits. When I was finally released from the booth, I was congratulated on the consistency of my responses. This made me feel very superior indeed, and I wondered if I might be in line for a Bourbon biscuit and a cuppa if I kept up the good work.

Next, I was shipped off for an encounter with a questionnaire. It looked rather like a version of the SSQ one from the MRC Institute of Hearing Research. It’s designed to help establish how well you hear in certain listening situations with and without hearing aids. Each question posits a listening scenario where you are invited to rate your response on a 0-10 point numerical scale. Blimey, I have enough difficulty with a binary YES or NO scale. Before we started, I warned the nice young man who had the misfortune to be entering my responses into the computer, that I was rubbish at questionnaires because I’m so indecisive. This turned out to be the least of my problems and it seems that I am also rubbish at taking in questions, remembering whether 0 is not at all or perfectly, concentrating for longer than 5 mins, and refraining from adding in numerous unasked for caveats such as “well, maybe…but only if it was someone with a really high pitched voice and the room was carpeted”.

After about three quarters of an hour, both my brain and the researcher’s brain had melted. It seemed that my imagination for expanding on the official hearing related scenarios in the questionnaire, coupled with my numerical illiteracy, knew no bounds. Worse still, my answers were starting to confirm that the only identifiable benefit the hearing aid was providing from the selection offered, was when watching my extensive diet of trash TV. I was unusually decisive about the great benefits bestowed to the lugs in that particular situation, although I did have to add the unasked for caveat of “but only when there are no cars passing outside”.

I realised that after my exemplary performance in the booth, my hopeless failure with the questionnaire had probably cost me the chance of a biscuit and scarred the poor researcher for life. I reflected that it could all have been so different if I’d been presented with a series of scenarios which were more specific to my day to day experience…like these:


20 Responses to “A Testing Time”

  1. 1 maureen October 29, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Hi Moira,

    This is both a very interesting and amusing post, but, in my humble opinion, the fault lies with the reductionist nature of the questions, not with the understandable desire to add in some caveats to clarify the answers you provided. I think this asking of half the story can happen in some examples of quantitative research, and, no doubt, the answers can then be subject to neat data analysis, but give me the lived experience of being in the world any day of the week – even if getting to what might be termed the ‘whole truth’ is still essentially problematic, what with the arcane influences of subjectivity and the powerful forces from the unconscious etc.

    Still, we need research, in all of its guises and glory.

    I am sorry to hear that you experience tinnitus – this is a dreadful affliction, and one that really should be made the subject of intensive research, in my view. Let us hope that this is definitely the case.

    I also hope that you are having a nice weekend!



    • 2 moiradancer October 30, 2011 at 10:23 am

      Hi Maureen,

      totally agree, and I think that some of the other self-reporting versions of the questionnaire invite you to identify the areas which are problematic in your own particular situation, and answer to those, which makes a lot more sense. Think the one I had was just part of a broad sweep to select people with suitable hearing profiles for particular studies which are planned. Despite my questionnaire frailties, I was falling over myself to take part because I’m pathologically nosey and love getting to see how people work in other disciplines!

      I’m lucky that my tinnitus is very mild, and apart from occasional spikes I only really notice it in quiet. I’ve had it ever since I can remember and thought everyone had noises in their heads until fairly recently! I can totally see how in its severe form it can ruin people’s lives, and it would be an amazing breakthrough to find a way of eliminating it.

      Hope you’re still feeling ok, will be thinking of you tomorrow…

  2. 3 babs scott October 30, 2011 at 11:34 am

    A woman I used to teach with had hearing aids for tinnitus, they worked on the principal of anti noise, using an opposite frequency (I believe) to cancel out the ringing in her ears. I’m not sure how well they worked as she never seemed to wear them but I believe her tinnitus was pretty dreadful when it got going. They use similar technology for sound baffling when building busy roads etc near housing estates, erecting large walls and bankings to cut the effects of road noise. Ringing in the ears makes taking the test in the soundproof booth interesting though, as you are never quite sure whether you actually heard that low squealing noise or not.

  3. 4 maureen November 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Hi Moira and Babs,

    I am glad to hear that your tinnitus is very mild, Moira, and I am also very interested in the use of technology, such as hearing aids, to help this condition (at the more severe end of the spectrum), Babs. The people I have met have tended to develop it later in life, perhaps as a side effect of medication, or of withdrawing from a prescribed course of certain drugs, and they themselves seem overwhelmingly to rank this as one of the worse things of all. I feel really sorry for them.

    Thanks for the well wishes about the clinic, (it did sound a bit like B-Hyndland at the station!), where the pressure was found to be reduced, albeit still too high. My consultant adjusted the medication, and I’ve to return in a couple of weeks, when the glaucoma consultant and my consultant will review matters.

    So, it’s just a matter of remaining cheerful and positive, and complying with the extra drugs and drops, and also with whatever the excellent ophthalmologists decide would be for the best.

    Thanks again,


    • 5 moiradancer November 1, 2011 at 3:19 pm

      Hi Maureen,

      phew, I’m with Liselotte. Relieved to hear the pressure’s going in the right direction, I shall be willing it to keep going until your next visit to the docs. What a rollercoaster for you, but I’m sure your positive attitude can influence matters to get you the best possible outcome. Mind you, it’ ll have to, you’ve got a Bute murder mystery to write 🙂

      I hope that your unruly ceiling is inching closer to completion and that Mr C is able to weave his decorative magic so that you’ve got one less thing to worry about.

      Take care,

  4. 6 Liselotte November 1, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Hi Maureen,

    Happy news, even slow progress is better than none.



  5. 7 maureen November 2, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Hi Moira and Liselotte,

    Thank you both for your caring and supportive comments. I do believe that it is possible to ‘will’ things to be better, and that a positive outlook can make all of the difference within a situation. So, your positive thoughts are really helpful.

    I do hope that all is well with both of you.

    I am getting the radiator fixed in the front room first, as I do not want any more water leaks, once the place has been redecorated. The brackets are hanging off the wall, ever since some of my daughter’s friends sat on it during a party! It’s hidden behind the couch, but it needs either re-screwing to the wall, or perhaps replacing altogether.

    They also obviously slid down the bannisters, as, while still firm, they are not quite as firm as once they were. Teenagers!

    Not to worry, I was once young and daft myself.

    I am giving the Bute murder mystery a lot of thought – writing various possible scenarios in my head!

    Many children called round tricking or treating the other night – it was great to see them and their artful get ups. They actually called it this, which I think is the American term, the older Scottish one being guising. Does your country celebrate Hallowe’en, Liselotte?



    • 8 moiradancer November 3, 2011 at 5:06 pm

      Hi Maureen,

      your radiator brackets remind me of the time my (then) toddler nephew was swinging from my mum’s radiator and the whole thing just came away from the wall and folded gently over on top of him, supported by the pipes which were now bent at a 90 degree angle and spouting black water. He didn’t do it again 🙂

      My sister and I were very trusting of the integrity of domestic fixtures and fittings and used to jump up and see who could hang from the picture rails for the longest. Fortunately for the picture rails, it was exquisitely painful on the childish fingertips. The front gate was a lovely squeaky swing until it came away under our weight, and I don’t know how there was anything left of the stairs after we’d slid down them a thousand times on the cushions from the settee! Ah, them were the days!

  6. 9 Liselotte November 2, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    Hi Maureen,

    Thank you, I am fine and I hope your progress continues.

    Hallowe’en seems to invade this country more and more each year. The shops make a lot of fuss and it is a very popular event for children. But with a academic background as a protestant theologian it isn’t really something I take part in, as it isn’t part of the tradition I was brought up in as a child or educated in later. It is a new tradition, and it certainly could be a lasting one, it is just not in my tradition, so I tend to overlook it until being faced by a big, lit up pumpkin at the supermarket.



  7. 11 maureen November 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Hi Moira and Liselotte,

    Both of you have given me a lot of interesting things to think about.

    The next thing all the children (and teenagers, even some adults) will be celebrating will be Guy Fawkes, or Bonfire Night, on 5th November. I wonder if this British custom has wound its way also to Denmark, Liselotte?

    Some people are a bit reluctant nowadays to burn the effigy of the guy, largely because his admission of guilt was obtained by torture, and he may in fact have been innocent. Others are totally unaware of the history, and see it all as harmless fun, (although there are many serious burns and other injuries caused by the careless use of powerful fireworks in domestic gardens).

    There is a large contingent of lovely Jewish people where I live, some of whom are in the medical profession. Apparently, many of the rare autoimmune vasculitides are named after nazi German doctors, who allowed their brilliance to become warped as they descended into experimentation torture and even cold blooded murder. Wegener is only one of these, and the actual stories are deeply disturbing. The community of international Jewish physicians wants the diseases concerned renamed, something which has been tacitly agreed to, but the old names persist. This really matters to the Jewish medical community. I suppose, if my grandmother had given birth prematurely to my mom, at a hospital at the foot of the mountain where Hitler’s eagle nested, and was then subsequently arrested for being a member of the SS, it would matter also to me. The family wonder what that doctor’s intent towards mother and child was.

    I hope that you both have a lovely weekend,

  8. 12 Liselotte November 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Hi Maureen,

    Guy Fawkes is only a tradition, I have met in British TV series like Lewis or Barnaby (I remember one episode with a bonfire and someone inside it…) – was it Barnaby? It isn’t a Danish tradition.
    We have the bonfire burning of witches in June at Sct. Hans as it is called. The witch on each bonfire is supposed to leave the bonfire and take off to Bloksbjerg in Germany. Sounds as politically uncorrect as yours..

    And it is another tradition, that I tend to forget all about until the smoke from the bonfire i Frederiksberg Have (the gardens surrounding Frederiksberg Castle) gets to our place, and we will have to shut the windows.

    I have included the wikipedia link to Frederiksberg Castle.

    I hope your weekend will be lovely as well,




    • 13 moiradancer November 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm

      Hi Maureen and Liselotte,

      fascinating Danish folklore Liselotte, and Frederiksberg Castle is a beautiful neighbour to have even if they do smoke you out once a year! Likewise, Maureen, the origins of the names of the autoimmune vasculitides is a fascinating and chilling piece of history, no wonder the names are now controversial.

      On a lighter Guy Fawkes note, here is what happens when someone lets all the fireworks in a fireworks display off at once by accident


  9. 14 maureen November 9, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Hi Moira and Liselotte,

    I hope that you are both well. The news story about all of the fireworks being set off within one minute, instead of the planned twenty, is very funny, but at least the Oban audience is to be treated to a free repeat later in the month.

    Do you get, or will you perhaps have this transmitted in the future, Downton Abbey on Danish television, Liselotte? It is very good, and the second series ended on Sunday.

    It is getting progressively colder, and darker earlier, here in Glasgow. Christmas is in the air!



  10. 15 Liselotte November 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Hi Maureen and Moria,

    I have seen the first series of Downton Abbey, and the second is on Norwegian television. I have the two first episodes of series two on the computer, which I haven’t watched yet:-)
    In Denmark we can watch Swedish and Norwegian television and most understand it without subtitles. We also have some inferior BBC channels, BBC LIfestyle and BBC Entertainment. But to wait for Downton to be on one of those would take years. They have just shown the third last series of Spooks!
    Do you either of you watch “The Killing”? I know who did it in series 2;-)

    • 16 moiradancer November 9, 2011 at 8:31 pm

      Hi Liselotte,

      haven’t seen The Killing because the spouse and I only seem to watch really, really terrible tv, because that’s what we can agree on. With the exception of the fabulous Downton Abbey, which has had us both glued to the tv every Sunday night, I don’t know how I’m going to survive without it. Glad you’re managing to catch it on Norwegian tv, I’m so envious of you Scandinavians and your ability to speak English wonderfully as a second language!

      On the crime thriller theme, Maureen is going to have to get started on her novel, now that I’ve spotted a poster for this recently published Bute murder mystery in the Kilchattan Bay post office window at the weekend…I shall try to get my hands on a copy!

  11. 17 maureen November 14, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Hi Moira and Liselotte,

    I am to have the eye operation this week! So, although this will ultimately be the best thing, it means that I am back to square one with respect to how much I shall be able to use the eye etc.

    Time will tell, and I have learned to be very patient with the vagaries of this type of disease, and the unpredictable way it responds to treatment.

    It is going to be a very long and extremely slow process, and I shall just have to accept this, because there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    I hope that you are both well, and I like the sound of the new novel set in Bute.

    With very best wishes,


    • 18 moiradancer November 15, 2011 at 6:45 am

      Hi Maureen,

      oh gosh, I’m sure you could quite do without the thought of all that, but I’m sure that your surgeon will weave his magic, I’m glad you’re in such good hands. I guess this is like starting all over again, but you’re so right to prepare to just let things take their time, hopefully the healing process will go at a nice slow but steady pace. That eye is clearly not to be rushed, everything can wait until it’s good and ready, even a Bute Murder Mystery!

      I do hope the op goes nice and uneventfully and that you’re back home before you know it, I shall be thinking of you lots…


    • 19 Liselotte November 15, 2011 at 5:41 pm

      Hi Maureen,

      As Moira said, I am too very glad you’re in such good and professional hands. I am not sure, that you would be able to get a new operation booked so fast in Denmark, here you would be placed on a waiting list no matter your condition. I am aware, that your NHS hasn’t the best reputation, but it certainly better than here.

      And as Moira I will too be thinking of you and hope for the best.



  12. 20 maureen November 26, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Hi Moira and Liselotte,

    I had the surgery on 16th November, and have to return to the clinic on 28th, (Monday), when my consultant will ascertain the pressure.

    The surgeon only intervened so quickly because the pressure had shot to 40 again, despite the medication etc., so as to prevent ultimate compromise of the optic nerve. That would be a disaster, so it would come under the umbrella term of an ophthalmological emergency.

    It’s strange not knowing if the pressure has come down significantly or not, but I am on medication and drops to assist with all of the problems, so that is good.

    I’ve been taking things easy, just managing one e-mail or so a day, (meanwhile).

    Guess what the wonderful surgeon said he would do if the intervention has not worked? Do it again!

    I’ll keep you posted, and many thanks for all of your positive comments. I hope that you are both well!



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