Posts Tagged 'Sound localisation'

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…

It’s A Miracle!

My hearing aid service yesterday turned out to be the fitting of a nice new tube. I was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t a complete dis-assembling of every component under an electron microscope as I’d imagined, but I was also slightly relieved, because that meant no trace of my temporarily removed illegal self-adhesive bling would be found.

“Have you been shown how to clear the tube of wax?” said the hearing aid lady cheerfully, as she noted that my last visit to Clinic O had been in 2010 and I seemed to be somewhat clueless about basic hearing aid maintenance.

“Yes, but I’ve never had to unblock it even once, my ears don’t seem to produce much wax”, I announced proudly. I was glad that cascading cerumen was at least one problem I didn’t have in the hearing aid department. Now that the conversation was flowing, I seized the opportunity to casually drop in my desire for stereo hearing.

“I was wondering if I could try two hearing aids, my sound localisation is absolutely crap”, I opined eloquently, watching carefully for a potentially negative reaction. There wasn’t one, so I pressed on. “I teach a group of fifty students…I can’t tell where voices are coming from in discussions….it’s worse with the hearing aid than without…in fact, I wonder if you can tell me why they’ve given me the aid in the marginally better ear…wouldn’t that accentuate the difference between the two?”

I thought I detected a slight frown. I had to tread carefully.

“Of course, there’s not much difference between the two ears…the right one sounds different to the left one, but the audiograms are similar…” I decided to quit while I was ahead.

“Do you mind if I look in your ears?” said hearing aid lady, reaching for her otoscope after verifying onscreen that both audiograms were indeed similar.

“No, not at all”, I said, glad that things were going so famously.

“Hmmmmmm”, said hearing aid lady, there’s no wax in your tube because it’s all stuck inside your ear canal. The right ear is totally blocked and the left one is partially blocked. I can’t see your right eardrum. You’ll need to get that cleared out.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

“I knew it!” I said, “I always knew there had been a terrible mistake!” My heart soared as I saw myself pictured on the front page of next week’s Metro newspaper. I was clutching a ball of earwax in a specimen tube in one hand, and a no longer required hearing aid in the other. The headline was sensational:  EX-COOKIE BITE WOMAN WEEPS AS SHE HEARS HER BARITONE VOICE FOR THE FIRST TIME AFTER GETTING EARS SYRINGED. “ENT CONSULTANT, 3 GPs AND HIGH STREET HEARING CHAIN ALL TOLD ME I HAD CONGENITAL HEARING LOSS, WHEN IT WAS WAX ALL THE TIME” SAYS STUNNED 45 YEAR OLD LECTURER.

“Steady on”, said hearing aid lady without even seeing the front page of the Metro. She was detecting the familiar sound of straws being clutched. “It might not make that much of a difference to your hearing, but it’ll probably make some. Make an appointment with your GP to have the wax removed and then make an appointment with us to see about fitting a second aid.”

Crash Bang Wallop

Sound localisation, the ability to determine where a sound is coming from, is very important in a number of situations. It stops you from being run over when crossing the road, it allows you to locate the source of a question in a crowded room without making yourself dizzy, and even more importantly, it allows you to get your head out of the way when a strange noise turns out to be your three-tier letter tray sliding frictionlessly off the formica shelf above your desk, after a door slams.

The sobering effect of a metal tray hitting the back of the head made me appreciate that my sound localisation faculties are not quite what they once were, and I cleared the shelves of other heavy objects as a precaution. This turned out to be very wise, and when the Attendance folder tumbled noisily from its perch after a particularly loud series of door slams a couple of days later, I was ready for it.

Tweet Twit

Spring has definitely sprung, and it’s been birds, birds, birds all weekend on Bute. Big ones, small ones, ones that sound like birds, ones that sound like squeaky gates and car alarms, and ones that sound like cats miaowing. One of these days, I’ll find out what type of bird makes each sound, but matching the sound with a sighting of the bird is tricky, especially when one keeps looking in the wrong direction. The soaring gull high overhead today that sounded like a plane was an entertaining collage of ears, eyes and confused brain which made me realise that, with my defective sound locating faculties, I’ll never be able to get a job as an air traffic controller.

This was a double blow, since after this morning’s walk along the beach, a career in ornithology is now out as well. As I rushed to show the spouse this beautiful newly-hatched egg I’d found, I was rather disappointed to discover that it was actually a washed up ping pong ball.

Stage Left

A nice empty studio caused by the atrocious weather

As the Christmas pantomime season gets into full swing, I feel that I may have found an exciting new career. My defective sound locating faculties ensure that every group discussion hosted by me is accompanied by embarrassing shouts from the audience of “They’re behind you!”, “They’re over there!” and the even more embarrassing “They’re right in front of you!” every time someone speaks. At the sight of my frantic head rotations, passing strangers could be forgiven for thinking that there was a faulty pair of eyes in charge of the proceedings, rather than a faulty pair of ears.

It would seem that the hearing aid causes my brain to tell me that every distant sound emanates from my left ear canal. Whilst I know that, to the best of my knowledge, there are no students in my left ear canal, my head still insists on turning there first anyway, when taken by surprise. The necessary cognitive manual over-ride of this reflex takes valuable milliseconds, which allows just enough time to completely miss the question and for impatient audience heckling to start.

Still, I may have a glittering future as a groundbreaking Method acting pantomime dame ahead of me.


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