Roll under Beethoven

by George on 12 March 2012

The Unbearable Deafness of Being

Remember John Lennon’s croaky voice in Roll over Beethoven? One of those memorable teenage moments from a song voted the 97th out of 500 greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine.  Inspiration for the song came from Chuck Berry (he’s still with us) wanting to play his kind of music on the piano and having to wait while his sister practised classical music. Wind the clock forward 2 generations and you can store all of the Beatles songs and Chuck Berry’s on a little MP3 player  – or your iPhone. Earphones fit discreetly inside the ear meaning you don’t need to have the sound up so high but someone always manages it, with the irritating high frequency sounds leaking out.

Result? 10 million people in Europe are now thought to have NIHL or Noise-induced Hearing Loss previously mentioned here after a 3Cs Community meeting. Noise can be from work, environment or self-inflicted and with that number of victims, how long before the first lawsuit? In the UK we have the Noise at Work Act 2005 and an EU directive. But in order to sue one needs data, which is where LimitEar – another presenter at 3Cs Community meeting last week, come in. Their monitor tells if the safe daily dose of noise is being reached and are seeking funding for further product development. BSkyB and the BBC are trialling the equipment.

The same technology has other uses. Christmas 2011 and the Duke of Edinburgh has a coronary stent fitted. But where do you put it? Blood is opaque so you can’t put a camera down the artery. Using sound to find out where the problem is, is less intrusive and the sensor for this which LimitEar makes, is the thickness of a human hair.

Hearing deteriorates with age with the higher frequencies being most affected. All graphically illustrated last weekend when George is attending his first class for a Radio Amateur Licence with Bromley & District Amateur Radio Society. Been meaning to get round to this for decades but with cancer, a Freedom Pass and now three grandchildren, it really is about time. 10 of us have enrolled and the club members have set up an impressive array of equipment, including a frequency generator. The range of human hearing  [approx. 100 Hz - 15,000 Hz]  is demonstrated from the very low frequencies round to the very high ones. From a very deep note, the frequency is increased when the lady sitting next to me goes Ouch! putting her fingers in her ears. Yours truly can’t hear a thing, giving me a hint perhaps of what poor Beethoven must have felt when he went deaf.

Fortunately hearing aids are very discrete these days and it turns out that not only deaf people use them. During the troubles in Northern Ireland the IRA used them apparently. Wearing a hearing aid increases hearing sensitivity. Different guns sound different when you cock them, drop them or fire them. Lying in ambush this extra sensitivity might allow you to tell what type of guns the opposition has when they quietly cock their weapons before an attack. A small matter maybe but it might give you an edge. Amazing what you read in thrillers these days.

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