Posts Tagged 'noise in open plan learning spaces'

Hear, hear

TED talk

“Sorry, didn’t mean to make you jump,” said Hearing Aid Avenger apologetically as he appeared beside me in the office on Friday, “but why is your desk facing the wall… wouldn’t it be better facing the other way so you don’t have your back to the door? You’ve always sat facing the door…”

“There isn’t enough room”, I said glumly, “but jumping out my skin every five minutes is the least of my problems. Where have you been the last few weeks? I could have done with your help round here.”

I was in a bad mood and it was just about to get worse.

It turned out that Hearing Aid Avenger was just back from delivering a TED talk on Hearing Aids and Noise in the Learning Environment. I was slightly jealous of his all expenses paid trip to California, but when I heard he’d had a bit of a mixed reception for his ideas, which were remarkably similar to mine, I changed my tune. His hard-hitting presentation had ruffled a few feathers, with the unveiling of a manifesto which was as radical as it was brief:

TED projection

Apparently, when the manifesto appeared on the screen, there was a loud cheer from the audience, and a group of hard of hearing lecturers in the front row threw their hearing aids on to the stage in rapturous appreciation. Meanwhile, a fight broke out amongst a bunch of architects in the back row, some of whom were outraged by the suggestion that hearing and concentration were more important for learning than sensory stimulation. When they were unable to make themselves heard because of the poor acoustics, a riot broke out in the auditorium and Hearing Aid Avenger had to be escorted backstage for his own safety.

“Wow”, I said, “I wonder what would have happened after this TED talk by Julian Treasure…”

 

Hearing Hell

cone of silence

“How can I help you today?” said the very nice audiologist to Clinic O’s cookiebite bad penny. I had turned up this time in a last ditch bid to see if there was anything that could be done to reduce the overwhelming amount of amplified background noise which is currently rattling my cochleas, and my nerves, in the architecturally stunning new learning spaces at the Institute of Artistic Endeavour.

“Can I show you some pictures of where I work”, I pleaded, “then what I’m asking might make more sense. When I say I’m a lecturer, people assume I stand in a lecture theatre talking all day, but I actually spend most of my time listening; doing one to one tutorials and large and small group discussions in the studio with a group of 50 on average. I’ve only got a mild loss; it’s always been tricky because of the environment, but now that we’ve moved to open plan for the entire department it’s impossible. I don’t know what to do…if I take the hearing aids out, the noise is vastly reduced, but then I can’t make out what the students are saying in normal conversation. I can hear fine in quiet spaces, but I’m rendered deaf in here… ” I pulled out my iPad to show the photos of my studio on an open mezzanine above the main studios.

“Oh dear, I see what you mean, you haven’t got a hope with hearing aids in there”, said the very nice audiologist. “It’s all hard concrete surfaces and glass, and with all the noise coming up from below, and in the sides from the refectory, and 120 people in the space all doing different activities, no hearing aids would cope well with that. I doubt there’s much I can do, but let’s take a look at your settings, there might be some small adjustments that can be made. You never know.”

A few mouseclicks later, and the disappointing news came that all the noise reduction features were already activated. It seemed there wasn’t much room for manoeuvre. The very nice audiologist explained that a lot of background noise inhabits the same frequencies of the cookie bite zone where the amplification is required, therefore reduce the background noise, and you reduce the amplification on voices at the same time. Catch 22, hearing aid style. Can’t hear with ’em, can’t hear without ’em.

Nonetheless, she did some adjustments on the standalone speech in noise programme for me to try, leaving the speech in noise settings on the automatic programme unchanged, so that I wouldn’t be any worse off if the tweaks didn’t work.

They didn’t. Cone of Silence it is, then…


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