Archive for the 'Hearing loss' Category

Kookybite Innovation #12

Subtitle remote control

 

SeizeControl ® Covert Subtitle Activator & Volume Control

Are you fed up asking your remote-hogging partner for the subtitles to be turned on when watching tv, only to be told subtitles ruin everything? At the touch of a button, this nifty gadget transmits a signal to your tv remote and secretly turns the subtitles on without your viewing partner suspecting a thing. SeizeControl® is cunningly disguised as a half-used packet of hearing aid batteries, and since those things are all over the damn house, it blends in perfectly.

Sit back and enjoy the film, while your partner fiddles with the zapper in vain. Just as they’re about to ring Sky, you can turn the subtitles off just long enough to fool them into thinking it’s sorted, or if you’re feeling really aggrieved at their stubbornness, you can let them go right ahead and pay a £65 callout charge straight out of their own pocket.

Can also be used to control tv volume, to make it too loud or too quiet for your partner, depending on the situation.

Mwahahahaha!

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!

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.

When Santa could do with hearing aids…

creda cavalier cooker

 

Over Christmas, I was wondering when I first became aware of my propensity for mis-hearing things, when I suddenly remembered an early childhood incident. On that occasion, it was not my own hearing which was at fault, but that of the elderly Santa, upon whose knee I was excitedly perched, in a grotto in the middle of a Glasgow department store.

“So, little girl, what’s your name?” said Santa, before being seized by a sudden phlegmatic bout of coughing.

“Moira!” I replied with great enthusiasm. With three days to go until Christmas, I needed him to remember me.

“Eh?” said Santa, leaning a bit closer. His beard smelt of nylon and cigarettes.

After several repeats of my name, I was getting impatient, but eventually Santa seemed to have got the message.

“So, Moya, what would you like me to bring you for Christmas?”

I decided it was best not to antagonise Santa by correcting him on the name front.

“I’d like a scooter please Santa!”

“A cooker?” said Santa, a little incredulously. “That’s a very unusua…”

“No, not a cooker, a scooter! A red one!” I interrupted loudly.

I was getting slightly anxious now. I had to make Santa understand what I was asking for, since the last thing I wanted to wake up to on Christmas morning was a cooker. That special treat is reserved for when little girls are much older.

“A what?” said Santa, looking round to my mother for help. Unfortunately she had secretly vanished to the nearby shoe department and was busy eyeing up a purchase with four inch purple platform soles. Poor old Santa was on his own with my high pitched voice and confusing consonants. After several unsuccessful repeats, I was still in danger of getting a cooker, but this time a red one with wheels and a bell.

Finally, Santa looked at his watch, changed the subject and reached into his sack. I thought I was going to absolutely die with the suspense and did my best to suppress a little shiver of excitement. What was going to emerge from that sack? After another short bout of coughing brought on by the exertion, Santa handed me a very small parcel.

My heart sank. I was devastated. There was no way there was a scooter inside THAT.

“Thank you Santa”, I said politely, hoping that Santa’s elves might have overheard the earlier part of our discussion, and safely deliver me a red scooter with a bell on Christmas morning.

Save

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Secret Agent or deafie

Illustration with apologies to Dick Bruna

 

It occurred to me last week, after a series of frustrating occurrences at work, that my rapidly evolving HOH behaviour patterns have the capacity to be misunderstood. Just in case anyone else out there is wondering whether their deaf colleague might be a secret agent, I have prepared a handy checklist of similarities in order to clear up any potential misunderstandings. If the person sitting next to you does any of these, there may be a simple explanation…

Always first in and last to leave

They might be on an intelligence gathering mission for MI5, or just catching up with all their extra prep and trying to get some head space because their brain is fried after a long day of listening.

Their eyes always seem to be following you

They might be waiting to inject you with a poison dart hidden in their umbrella, or just trying to read your lips.

They keep fiddling with their ear

They’re either wired for surveillance, or it could just be that their hearing aids are making their ears itchy.

Jumps whenever someone sneaks up behind them

They might be up to no good with the Freedom of Information filing cabinet, or just not heard you coming.

Waits till there is no-one about before making phone calls

They might be reporting back to the Kremlin, or just unable to hear on the phone in background noise.

Hastily abandons dialling the phone whenever someone enters the room

They might be making a clandestine call to Julian Assange, or just abandoning all hope of getting some peace to hear on the phone.

Takes an unnatural interest in room layouts and furniture arrangements

They might be planting surveillance devices, or just trying to make sure that they can locate themselves in a position where they can hear during a meeting.

Ignores you when you call their name in the street

They may be operating under a false identity, or just not have heard you speaking from behind.

Sneaks off on their own during lunch breaks at conferences

They might be uploading some files to the Pentagon from a blacked-out vehicle in the car park, or just hoping not to have to nod and smile embarrassingly over a plate of cold chicken drumsticks for an hour.

Pretends they haven’t seen you at the train station

They might not want their cover to be blown in an area that’s crawling with police, or they might be trying to avoid the embarrassment of having a one-sided conversation on the hoof, in mind blowing amounts of background noise.

Goes to the toilet on staff night outs and doesn’t come back

They’re either on the next flight to Acapulco with a suitcase full of gold bars, or they can’t face another three hours of fake nodding and smiling.

Always makes an excuse not to go to the pub

Could be that they don’t want to risk the potential of a Rohypnol tablet being dropped in their dry Martini, or perhaps they can’t face three hours of fake nodding and smiling.

Looks blank when you ask them, over a cup of tea in the canteen, what they’re doing at the weekend.

Either they don’t want you to know that they’ll be hacking Google’s servers from the basement of their rented accommodation, or they just didn’t hear what you said for all the bloody racket in the canteen.

Looks blank when you ask them if they’ve seen that confidential file you accidentally mislaid.

Either they’ve already flogged it to the FBI and have six million dollars winging their way into their Swiss bank account, or they just didn’t hear you asking.

 

The Cookie Bite Chronicles is unable to take responsibility for any confusion caused by the complex activities of secret agents who also happen to wear hearing aids.

Crossed wires

Isle of Arran seen from St Blane's

Isle of Arran seen from St Blane’s

The Cookiebite Cortex, the part of the HOH brain responsible for piecing together fragments of speech and making up fanciful interpretations of what is being said at any given time, has two error modes of output: 1. Utter Gibberish and 2. Strangely Poetic. In my experience, Utter Gibberish tends to be the default mode, and the cookiebiter owes a great debt of gratitude to the invention of written language, without which we would be condemned to an entire lifetime of people laughing at our strange turn of phrase whenever saying anything out loud.

Just occasionally, however, the Cookiebite Cortex swings into Strangely Poetic mode, in response to a series of contextual cues from its internal and external environment. I was reminded of this yesterday, as I heaved myself wearily over a stile whilst enjoying a nice country walk in the autumn sunshine. I managed to narrowly avoid ripping my trousers on the neighbouring barbed wire fence, and the brief touch of the vicious metal thorns strung from post to post stirred a long-buried memory; as a child, when I first saw a written reference to ‘barbed wire’, it took me a while to connect the concept to ‘bad wire’, my own misheard version of the name for the shin-ripping wire which lurked unseen in suburban undergrowth, waiting for its chance to painfully ensnare children who were running about after dark in places they shouldn’t…

Like mother, like daughter…

The other day, while I was listening to Mama’s light hearted chat about various aspects of her ongoing corporeal decay, she suddenly broke off and assumed an alarming air of gravity.

“Now tell me,” she said, fixing me with a steely gaze and causing me to brace myself for something potentially worrying. Fortunately, her question was quite harmless and I was able to unbrace myself and finish swallowing my mouthful of tea immediately. “How did you get your, your…er, your hearing aids?” she said. “Are they from the NHS?”

I thought she was taking an interest in my hearing, but it turned out that she thought she might need hearing aids herself and wanted to know how to go about getting them. I was delighted to have an opportunity to share my comprehensive knowledge of NHS audiology referral procedures, but wasn’t sure whether it would be needed. Knowing Mama’s lifelong propensity for poking cotton buds into her ear canals, the description of her current hearing loss sounded rather more like a bad case of earwax, so I advised her to get her ears checked by her GP. While I was talking, I noticed her leaning worryingly from side to side in her notoriously unstable motorised armchair, and I wondered what she was doing.

“Have you got two? Have you got them in just now?” she said, squinting unsuccessfully at each side of my distant head, before correcting herself. “Oh, silly me!” she tutted,  “Of course you’ve got them on, you’d need to be wearing them to get the cheap train ticket.”

I marvelled at the pensioner logic that stated I had hearing aids for the purpose of getting a discount on the train, rather than to hear things, and noted that here was yet another great thing about hearing loss I’d overlooked. I could even extend Mama’s logic to reassert my superiority when licking my wounds in bad hearing situations. The next time someone annoyed me by saying, “It’s really noisy in here, you’re lucky you can take your hearing aids out!”, I could say “Lucky I can take them out? Lucky? Pah! That’s absolutely nothing compared to the 1/3 off discount on the train for hearing aid users! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, if you think hearing loss is some kind of disadvantage!”

Mama was already in possession of a pensioner railcard, therefore didn’t need a visible pair of hearing aids to get a discount on the train.

“If it was me, I’d want the tiny wee ones that go right inside your ears”, she announced, doing an unconscious mime of how she imagined putting them in would go. She missed out the bit where you drop them on the floor several times, before treading on them by accident. Having witnessed her arthritic dexterity when narrowly avoiding slicing through the power supply cable of the electric carving knife she was using to attack a tomato at lunchtime, I decided I had to convince her that microscopic hearing aids might not be the best idea.

“You know,” I said, assuming an air of great authority, “behind the ear ones are much easier to handle if you’re ol…” I noticed a white eyebrow raise, and changed tack by adding, “personally, I don’t give a stuff about what they look like any more.”

“I can see that”, said Mama, making sure I wasn’t getting too big for my daughterly boots. She had another quick glance at my head before adding for good measure, “it’s probably a good thing you’re only able to see them from the front.”

5 things to do at work which will make people suddenly need to speak to you out of the blue.

1. Run a tap.

You could have been sitting in silence all morning, but the minute you go to fill the kettle or do the dishes, people will almost be queuing up to ask you a question they could have asked just two minutes before, when you’d have been able to hear them. Now you won’t see them coming because your back is turned, and your hearing aids have digitally transformed a harmless trickle of tap water into the thunderous roar of Niagara Falls. Those who persist in trying to get your attention under these circumstances will be rewarded by the sight of you jumping out of your skin and breaking the boss’s favourite mug.

2. Look like you’re concentrating really hard during a meeting.

While your colleagues were having a laid-back coffee and dragging their heels to arrive at the meeting venue, you were already there, frantically rearranging the furniture so that you’d be able to see everyone’s face round the table. Now that the proceedings are underway, they’re all happily multi-tasking with their mobile devices, reading and writing emails, doodling, staring into space. You, on the other hand, are locked in a lipreading death stare with the Quiet Speaker, and displaying your strange predilection for writing illegible notes without looking at the page. You’re looking far too serious, what you need is for someone to whisper a series of inaudible witty asides in your ear…

3. Take your aids out to get some peace.

This one never fails, it’s as if people are psychic or have some sort of smartphone hearing aid tracking device that tells them when to pounce. With hearing aids out, you’ve finally managed to concentrate long enough to write that two line email which has eluded you all morning, and your reading glasses are no longer fighting for behind the ear space and hurting your lugs. The unexpected appearance of a question at this juncture means you’ve now got to take your glasses off to hurriedly get the aids back on again. More often than not, carrying out this operation under the quizzical gaze of a superior can result in some yellowing part of the hearing aid being left protruding embarrassingly from your ear until you next look in a mirror.

4. Open a window for some fresh air

It may well have been quiet outside since you first opened that window half an hour ago, but be assured that the moment the dustbin lorry appears at the kerb and starts its deafening crushing operation, someone will need an urgent answer to something. Especially if you’ve just taken your aids out to get some peace.

5. Walk along a corridor

The sight of a HOH person in an echoey corridor would appear irresistible to some. The individual who had no questions when you asked “Has anyone got any questions?” in a quiet room a few minutes ago will suddenly find one, and it’s now urgent. Unfortunately, in the corridor acoustic, you can’t hear it and will have to choose between looking where you are going and lipreading. In my experience, few such questions actually merit the risk of walking into door frames. Just pretend you heard and are ignoring them, it’s easier.

I Have A Dream

Nacht und Traume

One day, in a far-off digital future, all hearing aid users will be able to tune their hearing aids to their own specifications, all by themselves. Instead of just being able to choose between programmes which suit listening to the tv in quiet, conversing in a noisy restaurant, or trying to tune into a non-functioning loop, they will have access to multiple programmes tailored to individual activities in different types of acoustic spaces. They will be able to swap effortlessly between an open or closed fitting, and they will be able to prioritise music over speech if they feel like it.

Cookiebiters and reverse slopers will benefit most from this brave new world. Instead of being forced to endure a badly modified version of an algorithm designed to fit high frequency losses, they will have specially designed algorithms which will allow access to minute adjustments across the entire frequency spectrum, with smooth transitions in amplification which, for me, will mean no more terrifyingly loud keys in the C6 area of the piano keyboard. I will enjoy full harmonic resonance on the mid to lows when playing Schubert, and spend hours playing low notes with the left hand just because it sounds wonderful.

bass bung

Until that historic moment arrives, I am making do with my latest hearing aid hack for digital piano playing. The Kookybite Bass Bung® (pictured) transforms an open dome to sort of semi-closed for home musical purposes. Carved from a 60p eraser from WH Smith, it may be a little eccentric, but it works. By turning down the volume switch on my music programme, and trapping the previously lost low frequencies in my ear with the bung, the troublesome C6 zone is dampened, whilst resonance returns to the previously thin bass notes. My piano no longer sounds like the speakers are stuffed with cotton wool, and I have fallen back in love with it again after a rather prolonged playing hiatus. Naturally, speech is pretty incomprehensible with this arrangement, and your breathing becomes a bit Darth Vader, but this doesn’t matter unless you’re playing your piano in a crowded cocktail bar whilst suffering from a lung infection.

One day, when I find someone who knows anything about fitting cookie bite hearing loss, I shall get them to set up my hearing aids to do this properly, so that I can enjoy playing Schubert without the unfortunate downside of being deafened by passing cars…

 

Update: After finding little bits of coloured rubber everywhere, the spouse recently asked me to consider the possibility that I was going a bit mad. I am vindicated, however, by this article which very clearly and succinctly explains the shortcomings of hearing aids in relation to listening to music, and notes how important those low frequencies are. The bit in the article about the high proportion of keys on the piano sitting below the 1kHz threshold  also illustrates why the reverse sloper/ cookiebiter may be on a hiding to nothing with their piano and a default Autofit NHS hearing aid fitting…

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…


Archives

Blog Stats

  • 183,193 hits