Posts Tagged 'teaching with a hearing loss'

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…”

 

All I want for Christmas

Tetra Shed

“It’s beautiful, I want one!” I drooled, as Hearing Aid Avenger unveiled the stylish alternative to his original soundproof booth suggestion for background noise control in the new studio.

“It’s called the tetra shed® “, said Hearing Aid Avenger.

“According to their website,” he continued, “it’s a new modular building system which, as a single module, has been designed to be a modern garden office. You’ve always said you wanted your very own shed, and I reckon its tough outdoor credentials will make it very suitable for coping with indoor activities in an art college, those students don’t half make a mess…”

“Very true”, I sighed, remembering a recent monoprinting class which involved the enthusiastic rolling of black ink. The washing up session afterwards left the place looking like the aftermath of a devastating explosion in a squid processing factory.

The robustness of tetra shed in the face of inky explosions certainly made it appealing but, selfishly, I was far more excited about another aspect of its unique construction. With all its doors closed it looked like a beautiful blue-black rock sculpture. I pictured myself hidden away secretly inside with my laptop. In moments of acoustic distress, I could take out my hearing aids and efficiently despatch my admin duties from behind tetra shed’s closed doors, instead of flailing dementedly in the full acoustic crossfire of the open plan office. This shed could change my life.

“How much does it cost?” I enquired with great interest.

Hearing Aid Avenger gets inspired

acoustic booth

Hearing Aid Avenger tests his prototype solution to background noise in the new studio

“I’m just not sure about it…” I said hesitantly, looking at the image of a grey box lined with acoustic foam, “maybe it’s the colour…or…or, perhaps the loop sign on the side is a bit overkill? The new studios look like a white cube gallery. They’ve been designed by a world renowned architect. Whatever we come up with to lessen the sound of 150 people talking simultaneously has to visually fit in with that…”

As I studied Hearing Aid Avenger‘s lovingly rendered solution to background noise in the stunning new, and as yet unoccupied, design studios at the Institute of Artistic Endeavour, I noticed his face fall at my lack of enthusiasm for his idea, and felt a little mean. After all, he’d been good enough to come to my assistance during a moment of acoustic panic about cookie-bitten group discussions in the new space, and there was no denying that his sound proof booth suggestion for the studio was very practical. It was just that it lacked a certain je ne sais quoi in the aesthetics department. And ventilation.

“Never mind”, I said, “at least it gets the ball rolling. I can think about approaching HR to see if they can help out with specifics once we’ve done a bit more research. Talking of which, I’ve been reading this very interesting Action On Hearing Loss Unlimited Potential research report into hearing loss in the workplace. Some good stuff in there about who to turn to/ not turn to for assistance, for example. Wish it had been around three years ago…it might even have prevented the unfortunate Occupational Therapy incident. Very embarrassing, even by my standards.”

“Yes”, said Hearing Aid Avenger, looking at his watch.

“Now, if you don’t mind”, he said, ” I’m off to do some ideas for a secret storage space in the studio for a packet of size 13 batteries. You’re going to be needing them.”

Into The Unknown

hearing aid avenger's long walk

 

As the chattering students dragged their chairs noisily to the front for the final project briefing in our temporary decant site, nobody noticed the tiny red-caped superhero enter the room. He looked a bit tired. Just like me.

“I’ll be glad when you move to that shiny new building next month and I don’t have to walk along this never ending corridor any more,” said Hearing Aid Avenger as he surreptitiously passed me a fresh size 13 battery to replace the one which had inconveniently died a few minutes earlier. After two and a half years and one hundred and twenty battery changes in our temporary site, I too was looking forward to the Design School of the Institute of Artistic Endeavour moving to its spectacular new home.

“Can’t wait”, I said, lifting one half of a pair of cymbals out the way of the projector stand, and using a large piece of wood as a shovel to clear a laptop space in the alarming mound of studio detritus on a table.

“Although…” I hesitated, “there might be a few challenges ahead in the new place. Must say, from an acoustic point of view, I like my teaching spaces to have doors on, and four walls, but there’s no doubt the open plan studio for the entire department is absolutely stunning. It looks just like a gallery space, with its beautiful polished concrete floor and pristine white shuttered concrete walls, its double height ceilings and sleek glazing to let the light in. It’s all about bringing people together and sharing. Group discussions and 1-1s will take on a whole new energising dynamic with 150 people talking in the background instead of just 50.”

I thought I saw Hearing Aid Avenger wince.

I continued, “If it just had an architect-designed hearing aid battery storage space and a pop-up sound proof booth in the studio, it would be perfect. The office is almost as far away from the studio in the new building as it is in this one, and if I suddenly need to hear someone talking, or do a lightning battery change, things could get tricky…”

“Let me see what I can do”, winked Hearing Aid Avenger.

It’s all relative

“What’s even worse than having to do a phone interview?” I asked my colleague the other day, as we passed in the corridor whilst doing the annual round of student recruitment interviews.

“Having to do a phone interview via Skype?” he proffered, quick as a flash and stealing my thunder with a much better answer than the one I had been about to give about not being able to do a phone interview because the candidate had put the wrong contact number on their application form.

“Jeez, never even considered having to interview by Skype”, I said with horror.

The thought of the candidate being able to watch me writhe like a worm that’s been chopped in two, as I strained to decipher broken English via an echoey satellite connection, was traumatic. Throw in the unedifying spectacle of fiddling with squealing hearing aids as well, and it made such an inhumane test of endurance for both parties, that I wondered if I could sell the idea to Channel 5 for a reality TV show.

When I did finally manage to make contact with my elusive phone interview candidate on the other side of the world, just seconds before a pneumatic drill started up outside the open window, I simply stuck a finger in the non-phone ear and reminded myself it could be a whole lot worse if Skype was involved.

What Was That You Said?

“Has anyone got any comments on this piece of work that are actually audible?” said my sharp-eared colleague to the assembled group of students who were fading fast. Friday afternoon’s critique, and my listening capacity, were reaching their weary end.

My request for people to raise their hands before speaking, and speak up a bit, had worn off five mins after it was made, and now only those with naturally loud voices and visible mouth movements were audible. Everyone else seemed to be involved in some sort of silent lipspeaking conspiracy.

“You’re going to put a big what on the wall?” I asked a student who had at least managed to project 50% of the words in a sentence into range of the hearing aid circuitry. After a swift repetition, the reply from the group who had been tasked with coming up with a noise control solution for the studio was still elusive.

“Sorry?” I said, leaning forward and craning my neck uncomfortably to narrow the gap between me and the speaker to 30 feet.

“AN EAR! We’re going to put a big ear on the wall!” came the reply, this time from five people in unison.

As I groaned inwardly, my mind wandered to an abandoned Kookybite Innovation. The Mumble Eliminator is designed to flash a visible warning to the speaker, when the level of speech reaching my ears falls below 60 decibels.

Must get one made for the studio as a matter of urgency…

 

Speed Mumbleliminator

ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

Oh dear. A week, as they say, is a long time in politics, but it’s an even longer time in hissing hearing aids. Ever since allowing myself to be persuaded by Clinic O that the abominable static noise emanating from the circuitry of my newly acquired Danalogic i-FIT 71 aids might be something which could be conquered by the neural plasticity of my auditory cortex, ie I’d get used to it, I’ve somewhat regretted it.

Although it is a marvellous coping phenomenon that my brain fashions the hiss into the phantom noise of a shower when I am in the bathroom, and the noise of a deep fat fryer when I am in the kitchen, its creativity is stumped when I’m in silence. In quiet surroundings, the hiss sounds just like an annoyingly hissing pair of hearing aids. It’s loud enough to mask other high frequency sounds, and I’m worried that an escaped rattlesnake could sneak up behind me undetected.

Demented in the empty office at work on Wednesday, I sought solace in the perfect place to escape from the hiss. The studio. “Budge up!” I said enthusiastically to a student, who had been reclining comfortably on the sofa with her book until my unexpected arrival with my laptop disturbed her. I listened for a bit to make sure that the soundscape was to my liking, then sat down to attend to my daily mountain of emails. Ah, this was more like it. The hiss was slightly less audible. The studio was only half full of students, but they were working in groups so were producing plenty of chat. I was slightly disappointed that there was no loud music, but was heartened to hear the reassuring rumble of the extraction system overhead. The noise of 60 feet of exposed industrial ducting was going some way towards drowning out the hiss but was not eliminating it entirely. I was on the verge of asking someone to open a window so that the noise of the nearby motorway could help out a bit, when an even better solution presented itself in the form of some impromptu furniture moving by students. Several chairs and desks were dragged mercilessly back and forth across the bare concrete floor, producing a rich variety of soothing scraping and grinding noises. Ahhhh. That’s better I said to myself, I can’t even hear the hiss now when I listen out for it. Maybe they were right at Clinic O after all!

Then it all got spoiled. Without warning, a heavy 6 by 4 foot sheet of mdf was knocked over by accident, causing a very loud bang. Although the bang itself was extremely acoustically satisfying in the bare concrete space, it was followed by a pregnant silence as everyone waited to see if there had been a casualty. This was all the hiss needed in order to sneak back in to my consciousness. Ssssssssss. Then to my relief, a round of shrieking and laughter began, followed by a purposeful bout of hammering to fix the damage. Phew.

The studio door banged open and shut with a pleasing regularity throughout, and every so often, the plumbing let out its usual foghorn blast every time a tap was turned on. As I basked in the racket, I reflected that the only thing that could possibly make the ambience more perfect for masking unwanted hissing noises from hearing aids, was the sounding of the twice weekly fire alarm test.

“Can I talk to you about my project?” said a student who had just wandered into my field of vision.

“Certainly”, I said, hoping there was going to be plenty to look at.


Archives

Blog Stats

  • 154,480 hits