Posts Tagged 'myopia'

Excuse Me

“Mind if I do a bit of work on this air conditioning unit?” said a man in overalls, as I waited in a hastily acquired empty room for a student to arrive for a tutorial. I did mind, but the man had a job to do.

“Will it be noisy?” I asked.

“No, only if I start singing”, came the reply. “I’ll be quiet as a mouse.”

I turned back to the computer and continued sifting through emails to the accompaniment of some loud metallic clanking and bashing. After a few minutes I was beginning to feel somewhat irritated, but then suddenly the noise stopped. I looked up hoping it was all over, but a question was on its way.

“Excuse me, do you wear *CLANK* by any chance?” said the man, giving something one last bash with his hammer and drowning out the object of his enquiry.

“Do I wear what?” I said, dreading what the missing noun was going to be. Chanel No.5? A bra? A built-up shoe? It couldn’t be a hearing aid, because people generally only mention those in jest, assuming you couldn’t possibly be wearing one.

“Glasses…do you wear glasses”, repeated the man.

“…Er, contact lenses”, I replied hesitantly, wondering whether the man had been watching Twelve Angry Men and spotted the lop-sided imprint of my glasses on the bridge of my nose, or the groove dug by their left leg in my overcrowded behind the ear space.

“Why do you ask?” I asked.

“It’s just that you’re hunched over that computer with your face right next to the screen. Makes you look blind. Thought you might have forgotten your glasses.”

I thanked the man for his observation, and although I was slightly disappointed that he wasn’t as observant as Juror No. 9 in Twelve Angry men after all, he had inadvertently uncovered the reason for my recently cricked neck.

A Marriage Made in Heaven

It would seem that, between the ears and the eyes, the spouse and I are turning into the sensory equivalent of yin and yang. My short sightedness and his rapidly advancing long sightedness are the perfect combination. He does the long distance vision tasks such as reading the train departure board, spotting signs for motorway turnoffs before we drive past them, and monitoring junkies prowling about in back gardens half a mile away.

I do the close vision stuff like reading restaurant menus by candlelight, differentiating mouse droppings from charred toast crumbs at the Buteshack, and spotting foreign objects in restaurant food. Like the piece of deep-fried cellophane poking out of the spouse’s spring roll at the Chinese restaurant last night.

As for the ears, between the two of us, we can cover the full range of an audiogram and beyond, with me excelling in the dog whistle outer limits of the high frequencies. To make up for my declining mid-frequencies, the spouse is responsible for dealing with human speech quieter than 50dB, identifying strange noises in the middle of the night and pulling me back from stepping out in front of cars approaching from the right.

In return, I locate hissing punctures in bicycle inner tubes and…and…and…well, the spouse says it’s very handy to be able to identify a puncture at the roadside without a bowl of water.

Sound Thought 2011 Part 3

The audience hushed as the presenter appeared in the beam of a spotlight with a ream of A4 sheets of white paper held to his chest. At well-timed intervals, successive sheets dropped from his hands and fluttered poetically into the darkness. “Hear the sounds all around you” read the text*on one. “Hear the sound of your heart beating” said another.

The audience was experiencing Benn Dunn’s ‘Signed Sound’ presentation, which began with a soundless performance piece, referencing, amongst other things, the composer John Cage’s experience in an anechoic chamber. Despite the hearing aid’s enthusiasm for sampling all the least poetic aspects of the unique acoustic ambience of Arch 6, I was enraptured. Even when one of the captions said “hear the gentle sound of this sheet of paper hitting the floor”. Well, that’s what imagination is for, I said to myself, but I started to get a bit worried when the size of the lettering suddenly started to become smaller a few sheets further on. “Raise your hand if you are having difficulty reading this” said a well-timed sheet. Keen to preserve my silent listening experience, I immediately stuck my hand up. I was the only one.

“Oh…” said Ben, introducing the first unplanned utterance to the silence. “Is it the lighting? How about if I stand here?”

Thanks to me, John Cage had just left the room.

Chairs creaked as nineteen silhouetted heads turned to see who the perceptually challenged person at the back was. Eager to ensure my soundless listening comfort, Ben followed the trajectory of his previous piece of paper and leapt athletically from the stage into the darkness.

“Better?” he said hopefully.

“No, it’s not the lights”, I replied, in the second unplanned utterance, “I’m just really short-sighted.” There was a burst of laughter from the audience, and I suddenly felt very glad of the darkness.

Half an hour later things were back on track and, to the delight of the woman at the back with the dodgy eyesight and the hearing aid, Robert Fulford’s ‘Hearing-Impaired Musicians’ Use and Experience of Hearing Aid Technology’ presentation appeared on the screen. Thankfully there were no sheets of A4 paper in sight.

A very poised presenter, Robert explained that he was in the first year of his PhD at the Royal Northern College of Music and went on to describe his research to date. He is interested in what motivates hearing impaired musicians, what challenges they face and how they are overcome. He has been interviewing a selection of musicians (ranging from amateur to professional) who use hearing aids, and recording their views on how useful, or otherwise, aids are to their performance and enjoyment of music. Some of his sample musicians were born deaf or hearing impaired, and some lost their hearing later in life to different degrees. Some used hearing aids when playing, and some did not. It was interesting to hear about those musicians, some of them profoundly deaf, who preferred to play unaided, and really sad to hear about those who needed to play aided, but lived in fear of their old analogue aids dying, because they found digital aids unusable for music. The personal accounts which Robert featured were very vivid and I look forward to hearing about how his research progresses.

We had a nice chat afterwards, and then I disappeared out on to the gale lashed streets. The musical mushrooms were still tinkling away merrily in their bell jar as I passed.


*my paraphrasing of Ben’s text from memory…apologies!

Plus ça change

When I did a search to find the lyrics to the cod reggae song ‘If I Had Words’ to accompany the Babe-Saint-Saens musings, I was rather surprised to discover that it’s not ‘If I had words to make your dream come true’ as I have always thought,  but ‘If I had words to make a day for you’. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because the faulty eyes and ears have been carving out their own unique version of reality for 44 years now. The only songs I know the correct words to are hymns, and the Singing Together international folk songs I learnt in Primary Four, both of which came with a handy accompanying book.

In my later school years, during my myopic final days of spectacle evasion, I was forced to mouth my way silently through singing classes, because the words were written on the blackboard and I couldn’t see it. During a tuneless and limp group rendition of Burt Bacharach’s Close To You one day, my dying salmon mouth movements proved to be the last straw for the long-suffering Mrs Vickers, who unlike me had very acute vision. Just before I could finally join in properly at the wordless “wooh-oo-oo-oo-ooh…” bit, the piano lid was slammed down with a thud. There was a loud scrape of piano stool on the floor and the words “YOU! You at the back, out here AT ONCE!” shot from Mrs Vickers’ highly trained operatic lips. A ripple of excitement spread through the group at the prospect of an imminent public thrashing, and I screwed up my eyes to see who the unfortunate victim was. There followed an ominous silence.

“Did you hear me!” roared Mrs Vickers, “Get out here NOW and take that stupid look off your face!”

Crikey, someone’s really in for it now, I thought, before Mrs Vickers swooped from the mist like an eagle, and plucked me from the room by the shoulder of my already pubertally overstretched pullover. I was absolutely mortified. My classmates, on the other hand, thought I had done it on purpose and were impressed by the uncharacteristic display of bravado from the quiet girl known as ‘The Haystack’ on account of her hairdo. I basked in the glow of my new found street cred for a full hour, before blowing it again on the way home by putting my hand out at the bus stop for an approaching bin lorry.

Mrs Magoo goes to the opticians

I was summoned to the opticians for the annual contact lens check the other day. The usual optician was on holiday, so I was seen by a nice young chap who looked a bit like Robert The Bruce, and a glamorous trainee with very cold hands. I don’t know if there was a note on my file saying Here Comes Trouble, but in a startling display of foresight as I entered the room, nice young chap took one look at my giant handbag and put it where I couldn’t trip over it once stripped of my lenses later on.

He turned out to have a good belter of a voice, and with my newly-restored mid frequencies, I reflected that this would be the first time I would be able to hear an optician clearly in the dark. After the usual scintillating rundown of my contact lens wearing habits, the eyechart came out and the big silly glasses appeared. I think nice young chap must have had a bad experience with a hearing instrument on a customer in the past, because rather than ceremonially placing the silly glasses on my nose in the time-honoured fashion, he made a furtive adjustment and handed them to me to put on myself, instead.

After confirming with the chart that I am still extremely short-sighted, it was time for me to noisily pull the hearing aid out with the leg of the silly glasses, before removing the contact lenses for the orange dye in the eye bit. The lights went out, and once nice young chap and the glamorous trainee were satisfied that they had totally blinded me with the slit lamp, and flipped my eyelids inside out several times in the manner of a bike mechanic levering a tyre off, I was invited to re-acquaint myself with my lenses. From the chair, I screwed up my eyes to locate the sink where they were sitting before lunging purposefully at the spot.

“There’s some lens solution on there if you want it,” said Robert The Bruce helpfully as he wrote up the notes. “Ah, yes,” I affirmed confidently as I hurriedly tried to fish the first dropped lens out of the sink. Bent double over the worktop, under the unrelenting stare of the glamorous trainee, I screwed up my eyes to pinholes and identified several potential bottle shapes. After picking up the Aloe Vera moisturiser followed by an antibacterial handwash, I sensibly gave up and asked for assistance.

With the corneas given a clean bill of health and vision fully restored, I went off to do a nice spot of shopping, sporting a pair of fetching orange-rimmed eyes.

A behind the ear crisis looms

I’ve lost my contact lenses. Not just one pair, but three months’ supply. They come through the letterbox in an extremely sturdy postal box which needs specialised cutting gear to get into, so they usually sit on the kitchen table with the other un-dealt with mail until such time as I am motivated, usually by desperation, to hack into the box. Like this morning at breakfast. Prompted by finally opening a tea-stained letter from the optician which has been used as a mug mat for a few days, I dropped my porridge spoon in horror and started groping at the table as if blind and trying to locate something.

“Where’s that box of lenses?”

“What box of lenses?”

“The one that’s been sitting here for ages. I’m on to my last pair…”

I dramatically touched the spot of the last known sighting with my hand as if to spiritually connect with the missing box. It didn’t work.

“Serves you right,” said the spouse, “you’re always leaving things everywhere. If it’s not bloody lenses, it’s piles of cack from that handbag of yours.”

I had to agree. I’ve now got 24 days to find that missing package before I have to go to work with my Mrs Magoo glasses on, propped up on one side at a jaunty 10 degrees to the horizontal.

Never do today what can be put off till tomorrow

This little piggy is wearing the spouse's glasses

I’m panicking. I’ve had about five weeks to prepare for a Pecha Kucha event  which involves talking about 20 images on a topic of your choice, each image strictly timed to be shown for 20 seconds. It’s been organised by my colleague to take place in four days’ time and, as usual, I’ve only started putting it together today. Over the last week I have considered and rejected a variety of potential topics, including the rivetting ‘The Psychology of Walking’ which would have described in intricate detail the primitive behavioural mechanisms engaged when one encounters a stranger who is walking irritatingly alongside at exactly the same speed on the walk into work. Also rejected were ‘Things That Make You Do What You Don’t Want To Do’ which would have featured the paranoid thought processes induced by  daringly deciding to ignore notices such as those saying ‘please use tongs’ at cake counters in shops, and ‘Who The Hell Put That There’ which would have itemised, amongst other things, the many annoying things I’ve tripped over at work recently.

After all that, I’ve settled on ‘How Being Short Sighted Increased My Vocabulary’ which describes how I very creatively evaded getting glasses for nearly ten years after failing a school eye test at age seven. It’s a potential car crash mixture of biography, ancient Mesopotamian Cuneiform writing systems and myopic experimental pigs playing computer games, and it’s either going to be a barnstormer or end up in me being booed off the stage. I may discard the hearing aid on the night just in case it’s the latter…

No shit, Sherlock

I’ve always known that I’ve not got particularly sharp hearing. In pubs and restaurants the spouse is always commenting on music that’s playing and whilst I can certainly hear that there’s music, I can never tell what it is. I last had a hearing test in primary one and it was the audiological equivalent of someone sneaking up behind you with a shipping siren to see if you jumped. Now that I think about it, though, there are several things that really ought to have alerted me. Unfortunately my infinite capacity for wonder at all things perceptual blinded me to the bleedin’ obvious. Take the phone: I’m right handed but have used the phone in my left hand all my life because I feel can’t hear properly when I use it right handed. The logical and obvious conclusion would be that the right ear is faulty, but I’ve always attributed it to a miraculous ‘all in the mind’ quirk of perception coupled with the need to keep my right hand free for doodling purposes.

Then there’s the sight. Having spent my whole life worrying about being extremely short-sighted, clearly I’ve been very pleased with the relative quality of all the other senses. A journal extract from 6 years ago should have rung some alarm bells, however. It describes how, having been cruelly stripped of my contact lenses during an eye test, I stepped in my handbag and fell over the bin on my way back from the sink to the chair, a taxing distance of approximately 1.5 metres. I then had to keep asking the now invisible optician to repeat everything because, as I noted, “It’s really weird…I can’t hear what people are saying when I don’t have my lenses in”.



Blog Stats

  • 184,643 hits