Posts Tagged 'Hearing aids'

Action Stations

hearing loop heist

Before posting off my comprehensive list of suggestions on how to improve the experience of hearing impaired jurors at Glasgow Sheriff Court, I thought I’d better establish that the Oticons were actually working properly. There’s nothing worse than accidentally perjuring yourself in a complaint letter to the Justiciary.

A loop testing opportunity presented itself that very evening, as the 17:02 train drew out of Exhibition Centre station without me on board, despite a heroic, if slightly reckless, sprint down the wet stairs. Huffing and puffing, I noticed the ticket office was less busy than usual, so I pretended to take great interest in the unattended luggage notice on a nearby monitor, whilst I hatched a plan. I kept glancing furtively at the diminishing ticket queue, until the final condition of my hastily devised Loop Testing Protocol was met.

1. Friendly looking ticket man, check.

2. Blue ‘loop system active’ light illuminated, check.

3. Microphone visible somewhere on counter, check.

4. No other passengers in immediate vicinity, check.

The time was right, I had to move fast. The ticket man was moving towards his kettle and reaching for the notice which says ‘TICKET OFFICE CLOSED WHILE ESSENTIAL STATION MAINTENANCE IS BEING CARRIED OUT‘.

I switched immediately to T-mode and lunged at his window.

“Scuse me”, I said, leaning sideways on one elbow and smiling seductively, “is your hearing loop switched on? I just want to test that my hearing aids are working properly…”

The ticket man put down his tea mug in surprise.

“Er…aye, ah think so…they’ve just refurbished this place…”

I could hear a suitcase on wheels bumping down the stairs. Damn. I didn’t want any interruptions right now.

Without warning, I suddenly found myself acting as if I was in the hearing aid equivalent of a bank heist movie. I wished I’d worn a beige balaclava for full effect.

“OKAY”, I said assertively, “SPEAK TO ME!”

The ticket man was struck dumb by the unusual request, but soon rallied.

“Testing, testing…can you hear me? How’s that?”

I shook my head…nothing through the aids. Not even a set of printheads. My heart sank.


The ticket man bent forward and tried again. Still nothing. A rhythmic clunking on the ceramic floor tiles signalled the approach of the suitcase on wheels, and I was beginning to get desperate.

“GET CLOSER!” I said.

I heard a rustle.


The ticket man crouched over the mic. His voice was faint, but it was the first voice to come through on the loop. Eat your heart out Marconi! I reached frantically for my volume settings, but I could feel the rumble of a train approaching. I couldn’t hang about.

“THANKS!” I shouted to my partner in crime, as I ran for the platform to jump aboard my getaway vehicle.


* * * * *

If you’d like to vote for a real movie in the Scottish BAFTAs starring our very own Soozie cyborginafield talking about her cochlear implant experience, vote for We Are Northern Lights here  (voting closes Mon 28th Oct 2013) 



It has been a bad week. For anyone, including the alarmed passer-by, who witnessed the swearing woman rooted to the spot at a street corner after touching one ear on Friday morning, I would like to announce that there is an explanation.

Since it is not the first time the scenario has happened, I feel it is now worthy of some definitions:

1. Lugstruck temporary state of paralysis induced by the realisation that your hearing aids are on the bedside table and not on your ears, as you’re running to catch a train or bus. The distance you are likely to cover before this realisation occurs is annoyingly governed by the equation: amount of pressure you are under to get to where you need to go, divided by degree of hearing loss. I seem to be able to get furthest on days where I cannot afford to be late.

2. Pessoptimism loop temporary fluctuating state of belief that you don’t need to hear anything today anyway, and that the 08:32 train will be leaving the station with you on board. Then reality dawns.

3. Hearing aid hotfoot ungainly sprint back to base to connect hearing aids to ears.

4. Delaid hearing aid related lateness, resulting from all of the above.


Anatomy Of A Hearing Aid

All of this talk about hearing aid hacking has got me wondering about what’s actually inside a hearing aid. Quality images are hard to come by on the interweb, so I have produced one specially for you, the dedicated readers of the Cookie Bite Chronicles.

It is based on an exploded view of the Siemens Chroma S, which was skilfully deconstructed and drawn in great detail before being returned to Clinic O. Fear not, no hearing aids were harmed in the production of this painstakingly accurate drawing, the deconstruction was done using the power of my mind alone.

As you can see from the diagram, there’s a lot packed into a small space, so a few components had to be left out for the sake of clarity, including the Bagpipe Detectors, and the Random Transposition Module which capriciously lowers certain musical notes by a semitone, making everything sound out of tune. The Entrainment Spring, which generates strange reverberations in response to any beeps, squeaks and alarms, has been shown slightly larger than it actually is, again for the sake of clarity. In reality, it is actually the same diameter as a human hair.

All the other components need no explanation, since most hearing aid users will already be very familiar with them.

Kookybite Innovation #10

If you’ve ever begun a fire evacuation for 50 students in response to a car alarm going off in the street outside, or wondered why your alarm clock is still beeping after you’ve hit the OFF switch, this digital version of the traditional servants bell board could be for you.

The spouse can’t wait for someone to invent it for me.


Update 17th May 2014: it’s finally been invented, according to this article although, if I may say, the interface is not a patch on the stately home elegance of Bleepfinder…

Kookybite Innovation #9

When questioned about how my voice sounded within the carefully controlled conversational precincts of a soundproofed room three weeks ago, I managed to overlook a slight elephant man ‘schhhhhhh’ quality to my pre-palatal fricatives (any sound made with your teeth touching, to you and me). It was quite amusing the first few times I said ‘educational changes‘ at work, but it soon wears off…

911 on the M8

Curtains twitched yesterday evening as the residents of Queen’s Park strained to see what type of emergency vehicle with flashing lights had arrived outside Cookie Bite HQ this time. Unfortunately, our neighbours’ hopes that it would be The Glasgow City Council Piano Confiscation Unit were about to be dashed.

Out in the street, a man was holding the handbag of a dishevelled woman as she emerged, backside first, from her unorthodox mode of transport.

“It’s nice to be back home, isn’t it Hun”, I said to the spouse, as I tried and failed to find a dignified way of climbing down the ladder from the cab of the 911 Emergency Recovery Vehicle which was now blocking the street. It had picked us up, frozen and bickering, from a thorn covered verge at the side of the M8 motorway, after the car had ground to a halt unexpectedly in an inconveniently unidentifiable location somewhere on the way back from Bute.

The AA mechanic called to the scene may have wondered why the driver of the car he was recovering kept saying irately “I TOLD you it was making a funny noise” to the the woman with the hearing aids, but he said nothing and quietly went about his business, no doubt having seen it all many times before.

Too Close For Comfort

I stepped on to the packed 18:50 train with 5 minutes to spare, and flattened myself against the glass divider screen just inside the door in a vain attempt to avoid being pushed to the back of the carriage against my will. Five minutes later, I had been pushed to the back of the carriage against my will and was wedged uncomfortably against a pole amidst a sea of people, including The World’s Tallest Man and The World’s Most Assertive Man. As the train moved off, The World’s Tallest Man stretched his arm behind my head from about six feet away to hold on to the pole, while The World’s Most Assertive Man reached across my face to do the same thing, effectively trapping me in a headlock. Had the situations been reversed, I would have felt that pushing my arm against a stranger’s face was a bit rude, but The World’s Most assertive Man was clearly used to having his own way. I prayed for one of my mind-blowing sneezing fits to come on and sort him out, but it never came.

As the train wobbled shakily over the points on the track, The World’s Tallest Man decided to establish an even tighter grip on the pole, and consequently, my head. Worse still, the armpit of his GoreTex jacket was now rubbing noisily on the microphone hole of the hearing aid with every tiny movement, and I felt an overwhelming urge to throttle him. Not even the spouse gets that close to the microphone hole and, frankly, no one other than an audiologist ever should. I vowed to prevent this unwelcome intrusion on public transport in future, by developing a new improved version of the EarShot speaker. It would work by hijacking the speakers of the train PA system, and using wireless technology to broadcast the sound output of my hearing aid to all and sundry. If that idea became a reality, no stranger would ever get away with rubbing the microphone hole of my hearing aid with the armpit of their GoreTex jacket again. My fellow passengers would be forced to step in and wrench the man’s arm from my ear without me having to do a thing.

“Hey, you, stop rubbin yer jacket on that wumman’s hearin aid, that noise is pure doing ma nut in”, they’d say. “And you, Mr Assertive, take yer elbow oottae her mouth, as well, that’s really rude”, they’d continue, once the hearing aid scenario had been brought to their attention.  But all of that was in the future. I needed help now.

“Hearing Aid Avenger!” I cried, “Save me!”

I waited, but nothing happened.

At the next station, the man released his headlock and I staggered off the train into the darkness and driving rain.

“You’re getting sacked, Hearing Aid Avenger”, I muttered.

Hearing Aid Superhero

Meet Hearing Aid Avenger. He’s tiny, he’s beige (of course) and it’s his duty to come to my rescue whenever I’m in audiological trouble. He didn’t quite get there in time when I forgot to remove the hearing aid before pouring oil into my ear the other week, but he’s certainly made up for it in the last few days. On Monday, he solved the mystery of why I had been getting feedback and distortion ever since replacing the tube after my ear-oiling exploits. I thought it was something to do with a visible kink in the tube, or the slightly larger dome I had been given, but Hearing Aid Avenger fixed it instantly with an extra turn of the tube. It seemed that I hadn’t screwed it far enough on, because I was worried that it was already so tight that I might twist the hearing aid innards out of their casing by accident.

On Wednesday, I swiped my security fob on the door to our new office space and grimaced, yet again, as the over-loud ‘enter’ beep, followed by the grating squeal of the door hinge sent the hearing aid into its usual two minute round of entrainment meltdown. As I had a nice cup of tea at my desk to get over it, I pondered whether I could fashion a two foot extension wand for my security fob to get my ears further away from the beep. It was certainly possible, I decided, but I would still need to get some WD-40 to silence the squeaky hinge. Just as I was wondering where the nearest hardware store was, there was a protracted bout of hinge squeaking and a colleague’s voice rang out in response to an unheard enquiry from the head of department.

“JUST OILING THIS HINGE FOR MOIRA”, he shouted discreetly down the corridor, “SHE SAYS IT MAKES HER HEARING AID GO FUNNY…”

“Thanks, Hearing Aid Avenger”, I said, “any chance you can do something about that security beep?”


It was good news and bad news as the nurse peered into my ears in preparation for my appointment with the dreaded ear irrigation apparatus.

“The good news is you’ve done a great job with the oil,” she said, “that right ear has cleared itself almost completely. We never irrigate if the eardrum can be seen, and I can see yours quite clearly.”

“Phew, thank goodness for that!” I said, glad that the thin film of almond oil coating everything within a 2m radius of the bedside table was going to be a thing of the past. Although I was relieved that the irrigation was off, I was slightly disappointed that the wax plug had simply melted away into my pillow instead of blowing dramatically out of my ear like a champagne cork. Moreover, I had been excited by the prospect of a miraculous increase in hearing ability after reading this paper which examines the gory correlation between the size of wax plug and increase in hearing ability after removal. Now I’d never know how big my plug had been unless I could subject the pillow to a detailed forensic analysis. Hmmm. Maybe I…

The nurse cut in before I could devise a suitable pillow vaporisation protocol.

“The bad news is that the left ear is now completely blocked.”

It struck me for a second that perhaps the original plug had not dissolved after all and had just migrated across the vacant space between my ears. Either way, I was going to have to make sure I could maintain a couple of clean canals to co-incide with my appointment at the hearing aid clinic in two weeks’ time. Given the capricious cerumenous activity of the previous week, this might prove more tricky than I had previously thought.

“We’ll just turn you round the other way and get that left ear cleared”, said the nurse enthusiastically, as I was ceremonially draped in paper towels and given a metal receptacle to hold under my ear. “Ready? Okay, here we go…”

The ear irrigation machine sprang into life and the patients in the GPs waiting room on the other side of the door were treated to a series of disgracefully loud shrieks interspersed with hysterical nervous laughter, as the pulsed water jet pummelled the offending wax plug into submission. When it was all over, I eagerly awaited some speech to test out my new hearing.

“All done. You’ll be relieved to get that out of your ear!” said the nurse, putting something in the bin. Strangely, nothing sounded any different, apart from a disturbing sloshing noise in the left ear when I bent forward to pick up my handbag. I thanked the nurse, who had been genuinely lovely, and made my way home through the park, sans hearing aid and with a slightly wet t shirt. I noted that my footsteps were still well and truly absent and, for a moment, felt slightly disappointed.

But only for a moment. I just stamped my feet a bit more heavily as I walked, and enjoyed the sound of the birds tweeting loudly in the sunshine instead.

My unofficial hearing thresholds captured on the very handy Equal Loudness Contours site one week before, and immediately after wax removal. Left ear was irrigated. Right ear was confited in almond oil. 

Things You’re Unlikely To See #1


Blog Stats

  • 184,643 hits