High Speed Hand Dryers from Hell

high speed hand dryer


The environmental credentials of the new building at the Institute of Artistic Endeavour mean that paper towels are a thing of the past. Hand drying is now done the 21st century way, by noisily blasting water and germs off the hands on to the nearest wall with a high speed dryer. There is a certain morbid fascination to be had from watching the skin and veins on the back of your ageing hands being grotesquely remodelled by the airstream from a modified jet engine, but the novelty soon wears off. Especially if you wear hearing aids. High speed dryers may be quick and efficient, but they’re also very, very noisy.

They have other drawbacks as well. As I stood helplessly with toothpaste dripping from my chin, I yet again lamented the passing of the paper towel. I realised that even if it was physically possible to get my face under a dryer mounted at wheelchair height, it might not be such a good idea to get the ailing cookiebite ears that close, since the noise even at arms length feels deafening.

Irritated by this 21st century technological oversight, I surveyed the toilet cubicle for my remaining face drying options. I didn’t fancy dabbing my lips on the toilet roll balanced unhygienically on the waste pipe behind the toilet, and chose instead to have a furtive wipe on a carefully selected area of my cardigan. Far more energy efficient than a hand dryer any day, and a darn sight quieter. It even gave me an idea.

I briefly contemplated designing the world’s first towelling clothing range for hearing aid users, so that we can reserve the right to silently dry our hands by wiping them on highly absorbent trousers, but decided I look strange enough these days as it is. Trouser idea abandoned, I decided to find out if I was alone in my enforced hand drying noise misery.

A casual search on the interweb turned up a paper on this very interesting research study by Dr John Drever of Goldsmiths College London. Concerned, amongst other things, at reports of hearing aid users and children being scared witless by the noise of dryers in public toilets, Dr Drever decided to compare sound measurements of dryers made in situ, with manufacturers’ measurements made in a sound absorbing anechoic chamber. Apparently the readings taken in the hard surfaced surroundings of public toilets revealed sound levels of up to 11 times those advertised by the manufacturers. Intrigued, I decided to recreate his experiment in the fully tiled ceramic splendour of the disabled toilet at work.

Last week, I emailed the institutional Health and Safety officer to invite him to an intimate hand drying tryst in the toilet near my office. I cited Dr Drever’s study and mentioned my fears for my delicate hearing-aided ears. I was delighted to receive an almost instant offer of assistance, and the experiment was successfully conducted the same afternoon.

My experimental protocol was almost as rigorous as that for my Hearing Aids and Dental X-rays experiment, and the results just as surprising. More next week…

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