Friday, November 6, 2009

The Hearing Test

I described before how the school nurse tested me for color blindness. She'd do a few other tests on me during the time I spent in elementary school. She did the bend-over-to-see-if-your-spine-is-curved test for scoliosis on all the students in the gymnasium one day. And she'd weigh me and take my temperature if I visited for any ailment. But the most dubious test I ever received was the hearing test.

The hearing test is very straight forward. It involves a Tester with a machine that makes beeps at various pitches and volume levels. And it involves the person being tested, the Subject. Usually, the subject wears headphones that are designed to fit over the ears to block out ambient noise. Nevertheless, the test should be conducted in a quiet environment.

The subject's role is to raise a hand whenever he or she hears the beep. It is assumed that the subject will not raise a hand periodically even if there's no beep. But just in case, the tester will cause the beeps to come out at random intervals.

So there I was, sitting in the school nurse's office, wearing headphones, listening to the very distant sounds of an occasional clatter of typewriters, the squeak and groan of a chair, the slamming of a file cabinet drawer and other office noises. (The school nurse's office was adjacent to the main office.)

And then the beeps began. There were deep-sounding bassoon-like beeps, medium flute-like beeps, and tweeting-little piccolo peeps. They were all fairly easy to hear, and I raised my hand as each one came and went at fairly regular intervals.

But very soon, the beeps got to be quieter and quieter, and the office noise seemed to get louder and louder. My hand-raising became more tentative. But I noticed something interesting. The beeps seemed to be accompanied by a faint hiss. So at some point, I would raise my hand whenever I heard the hiss, regardless of any beep.

The nurse soon terminated the test even though I had still indicated I could hear the beeps. I suppose she just wanted to verify that my hearing was at least normal. Apparently, she was uninterested in my supersonic, vampire-like hearing, and was content to let me congregate with the mere mortals in my class.

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