Archive for November, 2019

My hearing aid journey, part 2

November 26, 2019

I now have (and am wearing) my hearing aids. I got them yesterday, and so far my experience is definitely positive.

My initial thoughts were “how loud my clothes are swishing, and how loud this traffic is”, and I really noticed a difference in how my own voice sounded. But I could make speech out better, I think. Going for dinner in a reasonably loud restaurant today was good, and I could make out what my wife was saying easily – and I could listen to the conversation at nearby tables as well.

The effect on musical sounds its a little strange. For some time now, I had thought the top octave of my piano (which is nearly new) was a bit dead, but with the aids in it sounded much better. Indeed, the (real) piano sounded altogether better, with a very strong presence. Oddly, the electric one sounded just the same, which does seem strange. The aids do appear to introduce an artefact: even a pure tone at 2kHz sounds amplitude modulated at about 8Hz, and the exact sound changes depending on the angle of my head. (But a 1 kHz tone sounds much as it did).

I also noticed that listening to a weir on the local river, the sound of it – both the quality and the level – depended on the direction my head was pointing in.

But so far, I think they do make a difference, and my wife thinks so too. I need to test them in a more difficult environment, like a committee meeting or a relatively noisy public location…watch this space.

(A little later on) Playing my clarinet with the hearing aids in was a strange experience. Each note – particularly higher notes – seemed to have a bit of amplitude modulation, a little like vibrato, even though I definitely wasn’t putting any in. I had to take the hearing aids off to practice. Oh well: but if that’s the only problem, I’ll cope. I did hear something a little like this on piano – and more so when I tried playing a MIDI keyboard through a saxophone VST plug-in, but it wasn’t as annoying then!

I am be-grandfather-ed

November 26, 2019

On Thursday November 21st, my daughter’s partner, Katy, had a daughter, Avery Skye. I’m really pleased to say that I am now a grandfather, and look forward to meeting her (they live in the USA, so I can’t just pop over with soup and meet her, unfortunately).

My hearing aid journey: part 1

November 18, 2019

For some time now, I’ve been aware that my hearing was deteriorating. At first, I thought it was wax covering my eardrum, and to some extent it was. Last time (a few years ago) I had my ears micro-vacuumed, it really helped: previously I had gone up to students talking to me in tutorials in order to make out what they were saying. And again when I had my ears micro-vacuumed again recently, it did help, but my wife has been telling me for some time that I wasn’t hearing well.

I did have a simple pure tone audiogram produced a few years, ago, and it did indeed show 40dB or so lost at 4 to 8kHz, but I was not impressed by the audiologist who did the test. But now, having been impressed by the people who did the micro-vacuuming this time (Edinburgh Hearing Practice, at their Auchterarder location), I decided to go for a test with them.

This time the test was in a soundproof booth, and as well as pure tone audiometry, they tested me on isolated words presented to single ears (dichotically), and to speech presented in babble noise. This time I was impressed by the testing, and I could see from the results that my hearing had worsened, and I could see from the errors I’d made in identifying words that my loss of higher frequencies was getting in the way. I’d also noticed that I was finding it harder to make out speech in busy environments, or where there was often more than one speaker – in the common room, or in meetings, for example. It was beginning too make me stop attempting to have conversations in crowded environments

So it came as no surprise to me that my tester reckoned I should get a hearing aid. I know from my professional background that it’s worth getting an aid before one’s hearing really deteriorates too far, so I was open to his suggestions.

I went for it: two behind-the-ear (BTE) aids, with the receiver in the ear-canal (so my residual hearing should be unaffected). I’ll post again once I have them to try!

Arran Gare’s Book “The philosophical foundations of ecological civilization”

November 6, 2019

I’ve had a great deal of respect for Arran Gare for quite some time now, having read some of his philosophy while working on my (and Plamen Simeonov’s) Inbiosa project. Fairly recently, I had read a review of this book, and I thought it would be good to read it. I had to get it on inter-library loan, as my first impression was that it was rather expensive… but now I’ve found there’s a paperback version too, and I’ve just received it.

This is an important book. It styles itself as a “manifesto of the future”, and it is an attempt to push philosophy back into the mainstream of thought, an attempt to move away from the fashionable reductionism that mainstream science takes, and an attempt to make this new world-view able to deal with the real problems that face society. I’m not a professional philosopher (though I did study two years of Natural Philosophy many years ago at Glasgow University), but I have been a professional University scientist, and his critique of the managerial and impact-led modern University struck home.

How can I encourage you to read this book? It gives a philosophical backdrop to the recent upsurge in environmental politics, it provides a philosophical explanation of the commodification of people, of the way in which democracy has been attacked, and liberty and freedom have been turned into purely financial issues. It’s not always an easy read, but it is certainly much more readable than other philosophy books that I have looked at.

Why should you read it?

  • If you are a scientist it helps you to understand the universe as interacting processes, rather than attempting a totally reductionist understanding, which is impossible, because the universe is always interacting and interconnected. (Pure reductionism only works if you can control all the circumstances, like , for example, in the LHC at CERN: but it’s not much use if you want to understand biology or societies or economics).
  • If you are concerned with ecology, it provides a philosophical backdrop to why we have the ecological problems that we do, and perhaps some hope that there might be some ways of going forward to tackle some of the underlying issues that led to the ecological problems, rather than looking for purely technical solutions, that will almost certainly not work.
  • If you are involved in politics, because it might help you to see a different way forward from the purely economic measurements that dominate current politics,. at least in the UK.
  • If you’re an economist, because it might help you to realise that it’s time to re-train (!)
  • … and if you’re simply a living human being, because it will help you to understand how you have been being sent down the garden path by corporations and politicians over the years.

I’ve read about half of it now: the introduction, chapters 1,5, and 6, and the Conclusion. I strongly recommend you read it too!