Consulting, Publishing, Engineering

Can you hear me now?

My son’s junior high school called me and asked if I could help with the mandatory hearing tests for the 7th grade. I said “sure!” I am in the middle of writing a book on how to make information accessible to people with a variety of disabilities, and though I’m not up to the audio chapter yet, I will be soon, so I figured it would sort of apply to what I’m supposed to be working on. Plus it would be a nice break from sitting in my office staring at the monitor all day.

So they sat me behind a machine that makes a variety of tones at different frequencies. The kids would come in and sit down with their back to me, and I would put the headphones on them to ensure that their hair wasn’t in the way and that the headphones were seated on their heads properly. I had more trouble with the boy’s hair than the girls–apparently the style for boys at least at this junior high is the old Beatle mop-head look. Most of the girls had pony-tails or otherwise pinned-back styles.

The kids were instructed to raise their hand when they heard a tone. My job was to turn the dials, push the button that made the tones, and note whether or not the hands went up at each level and for each ear.

Each tone would sound in only one ear at a time . Although it didn’t matter and wasn’t part of the instructions, almost all the kids would raise their right hand when they heard the tone in the right ear, and their left hand when they heard the tone in their left ear. I don’t know what this means, if anything.

This was just a preliminary screening, anyone who had troubles with any of the tones was referred for other tests. Of course, there was a certified audiologist checking up on me and the other volunteer moms, and the school nurse was there too. She brought coffee cake (yum!) and helped keep the kids under control while they waited their turns. We went through something like 200 kids in an hour-and-a-half.

I came back home feeling like I’d contributed something to my community, a very nice feeling.

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