Posts Tagged 'Feedback'

Let it snow

2 hours before high tide, BBC weather forecast: light snow

For once, the BBC weather forecast is right and, if anything, it has actually underestimated the terrifying forces of nature currently being unleashed in the Firth of Clyde as we enter British Summertime. The MV Argyle hasn’t left Rothesay harbour all day, there is a dusting of snow on the Ayrshire hills and the electricity keeps cutting off. We are marooned on this island and there’s only one Extremely Chocolatey Mini Roll left.

Yesterday, the spouse and I spent his birthday night out in the Victoria Hotel restaurant, watching what looked like really bad special effects outside, of the kind where they throw buckets of water at the window and cars blow off the pier into the sea against a backdrop of straining palm trees. Later, the post-prandial run to the bus shelter to catch the last bus home led to both an apocalyptic drenching and severe regret at polishing off the cheeseboard despite already being full. On the deserted streets, several Rothesay residents blew past us like crash landed parachutists, dragged along by their inside out umbrellas.

The bus home was completely empty apart from us, and for some unknown reason as we set off into the rural darkness and driving sleet, I decided to start an argument about which seats to sit in. For the record, I wanted to naughtily sit in the seats reserved for the elderly and disabled just for the hell of it, whilst the spouse favoured the draughty seat by the emergency exit, for the legroom.

In order to shorten the journey time and take his mind off the woman with the loud voice up the back of his bus, the driver put his foot down and broke into a prolonged full vibrato whistling version of ‘Bye Bye, Blackbird’. At the very first ear-piercing note, a Pavlovian response stopped me dead in my argumentative tracks. I froze like someone in a B-movie who’s been hypnotised to kill at the sound of some subconscious prompt. Realising what whistling can do to his beloved lately, the spouse revelled in his draughty legroom and willed my head to explode, as I glanced to see if it was actually Robin Williams driving the bus. In a split second both of us remembered that the hearing aid was history, thus whistling was now harmless.

The nice driver dropped us off right outside our sea-battered front door, oblivious to his narrow escape and the fact that he owes his life to an unknown audiologist.

Parliamo Italiano

Went to buy a scone in the canteen and ‘Friday I’m in love’ by The Cure was coming through loud and clear, rendering the student on the till somewhat inaudible. The lack of discernible mouth movements indicated a Type 5 Inaudible speaker anyway, and I reflected that perhaps my audibility taxonomy wasn’t so useless after all. As I made my way to the door, one of my own students tapped me on the arm with a cheery “Hi”. The rest was a mystery, although I caught something about a stomach from a hand gesture. Damn, he’s a Type 2 Belter I thought, ought to be able to hear him despite The Cure’s best efforts. Once outside, I ran the gauntlet of a spectacularly lurid student fundraising cake stall in the street, guiltily hiding my ref-bought scone under my cardigan.

I swiped myself in the front door and spotted a distant Type 1 Foghorn colleague talking to a tanned student in the hallway. He was talking to the student in Italian, and I was shocked that I had underestimated his international superstar credentials. So he was bilingual…impressive, I pondered. As I drew closer, however, my illusions were shattered as I realised he was actually speaking in English.

Looks like that recently banished peak in the 1KHz area was doing something important besides generating whistling noises after all.


Was getting ready to do interviews for the new intake of students in the luxurious surroundings of the photography seminar room. It’s about 10 feet by 6 feet, but they’ve got an Ikea sofa and a coffee maker in there to make up for it. The temperature was about 500ºC with the morning sun shining in, so my colleague switched on the extraction fan. The effect was instant. My interview partner now sounded like a dalek talking down a cardboard tube and the familiar whistling in the lughole was back. Hmmm…could this be related to the whistling problems in the studio?

I now had a dilemma on my hands: boil alive or ditch the hearing aid. But first, I needed to conduct another experiment to check that the fan was indeed the culprit. It was. Unfortunately the switch to turn it off turns off the ventilation for the entire photography department. Another dilemma. An image flashed through my mind of the scene in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film ‘Total Recall’, where the air supply for the occupants of the Mars space station is deliberately turned off by the evil Cohaagen. I pictured the poor photography students writhing on the floor clutching at their throats with their eyes popping out of their heads. Me hearing or them suffocating? I weighed it up. The interview room is smaller than a postage stamp, so I reckoned if I reverted to my pre-hearing aid listening pose of bending double in my seat, arms folded into the stomach, neck craned out at right angles to the spine, hearing would be fine. I could even throw in some sagely nodding if the going got tough. Downside was I’d look like I had appendicitis, but nothing new there. Just as I was about to consign the Siemens to the handbag, my much less indecisive colleague enthusiastically flicked the OFF switch to the ventilation.

Everyone survived.

What’s that noise?

The hearing aid has continued with its erratic behaviour this week. My new best friend has turned against me. I have tried to identify some environmental constant in what sometimes sends it haywire at work, but to no avail. My newly hatched paranoia over whether anyone else can hear it is now causing me to exhibit a variety of bizarre behavioural tics. In a sensitive staff workshop the other day, a steadily increasing whining noise in the 1 KHz range caused everyone round the table to shoot puzzled glances at each other. My face steadily increased in hotness and redness along with the noise and I prayed for it to stop, but it just kept going. My secret was out, I had to come clean:

“It’s me, okay, IT’S ME. It’s my bloody hearing aid. Yes, HEARING AID. I’m leaving now, I feel a little unwell.”

Just as I was about to make my dramatic confession, my colleague got up and fiddled with the true source of the noise, a video camera which was recording the proceedings, forgotten, from the corner of the room. Boy, was I glad I’d kept my trap shut, it’s rare for there to be a camera running when you’re about to make a complete arse of yourself in public.

I do hope I get a follow-up audiology appointment soon…

Stop your whistling, Jock

Dunno what’s going on with the Siemens, but it behaves wonderfully well everywhere apart from at work, which is the one place where I really need it to behave. In the studio, it whistles incessantly in my ear and in lecture theatres selected individuals sound like they’re talking through a flute. At 3 in the morning, after finishing worrying about all my teeth falling out, dying alone, my thinning retinas detaching, etc, the awful thought crossed my mind that perhaps I was not the only person who could hear the noises in my lugs. By 10am I was already conducting an experiment with the assistance of my bat-eared colleague. The students were milling about en masse in the studio for a presentation of their work, so the minute I stepped out of the office we were in business.

“Psst, Susan, can you hear this?” I bent towards her finely tuned concha.

“Jesus, Moira what’s that?”

Oh God. Weeks of whistling one-to-one tutorials sitting 12 inches away from students with mosquito hearing flashed before me. The intimate Zimbabwean mbira recital in the lecture theatre where the Siemens was rattling away merrily in time to the music. The even more intimate mindfulness demonstration in the computer room with the visiting psychiatrist, where he started us all off on 5 mins of silence with a strike on his buddhist bell and I was still hearing it on a loop at the end of the 5 mins.

Horrified, I composed myself for the slide talk I was about to do, but within minutes of starting I was firmly entangled in a horribly unfolding Freudian gaffe sparked by an image of a pencil. A sane person would have redirected their commentary to avoid reaching the embarrassing looming double-entendre, but I decided to opt for a head-on collision. At least the ensuing hilarity at my expense temporarily masked the flute band whistling away under my hairdo.


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