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The Bel, the Bell, the DeciBel, the dB and the dBA
The "deciBel" is a unit for sound volume. It derives from the "Bel", used to measure radio broadcasting power, which is too large for sound on a human scale. A tenth (a "deci") is more appropriate. Thus, the "deciBel", abbreviated as "dB".
The capitalized "B" is an honorary protocol, in this case for A.G. Bell. What happened to the other "L" in Bell's name (as if it wasn't short enough)? It was dropped to avoid conflict with the naval time unit, the "bell". A related unit, the "dBA", is a term for sound power adjusted more exactly for the level of human hearing it produces, or "loudness", which is a non-linear relationship to power.
Loudness evolves from the pressure of sound waves upon the eardrum.
The highest pressure the ear perceives as hearing, is five million times the lowest. To compress this immense range, the deciBel scale is compressed logarithmically.
Women's voices are different from men's because the
female head is usually 15% smaller, with vocal cords shorter and finer. To
resonate (create sound) in these conditions, her cords must oscillate twice
as fast as men's. This yields a distinctly different-sounding "feminine"
The 700-Mile Yell
On a clear dry day , a human yell can be heard five miles away. That's nothing, compared with the cry of a finback whale.
Its vocal cords (actually folds, not cords) create the loudest sounds of any living thing. Its extremely loud, very low pitched cry (20 Hz) can go up to 700 miles through the water. (Acoustics are very different in the ocean than in the air). A male finback, looking for a good time and calling in all directions, can introduce himself to every female finback in well over a million square miles of ocean.
Go do the math: area in square miles equals Pi (3.14) X the square of the radius (700 miles X 700 miles).
The Inner Ear Defines Evolutionary Stages
There are six watersheds in the evolutionary development of mammals. Two relate to the inner ear. The reptilian stage is marked by the development of the stapes (stirrup) bone. At a great time later, two more bones (hammer and anvil) developed out of the reptilian jaw. When the three bones started working together, it marked the 6th and final watershed, the development of true marsupials (mammals).
Is This an Early Binaural Hearing Aid?
Nope. Meet the "Topophone". This 1890's sailor listens for another ship, to avoid collision in fog. When the sound is loudest, the line between the metal "ears" becomes the base of an isosceles triangle, with the other ship at its far apex. Thus, he's looking in the right direction. One tube telescopes. The trick is to adjust its length so both tin "ears" resonate identically. Also, the sound intensity gave an experienced user some idea of the closeness.
That thing on the right is a "binocular ear", a military device used before radar came into use. It would warn of the approach of enemy aircraft.
It has enormous sound-magnifying power, so you better not sneeze in front of it.
Probably British, 1930 or before. They built massive sound funnels on their coasts for that purpose.
Here's some more of the same stuff:
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Visible Speech or the Speech Spectrogram, is a tone vs. time display. It flows sideway at the speed of the speech. Brightness and color indicate loudness and inflection. Speech can be read accurately, but only
with intense experience. Only one person we've heard of, Prof. Victor Zue of M.I.T.,
is totally fluent in it, and famous for that. It took him eight years to train
or synethese his brain. Synethese, assuming he actually hears the
speech in his head (which we assume) rather than just reads a picture. (If you forgot what synethesia is, go back to our P.4).
Can you imagine "hearing" this thing ?
(The device is used in speech training of the deaf. The student speaks individual words, trying to match the instructor's pattern).
Cancer and the Cochlear Implant (C.I.)
There may be a link between cancer (particularly in children) and exposure to low frequency EMFs (Electro-Magnetic Fields of about 50 to 60 Hz). In Sweden, it's addressed as a fact. In a New York City study (reported by the World Research Foundation in 1992), phone cable splicers constantly exposed to low dosages (about 4 milliGauss) of low frequency EMF, developed at least twice the colon, blood, brain, and prostate cancers of an unexposed control group.
The implanted C.I. coil collects EMFs via magnetic induction, from its exterior mating part. The C.I. doesn't operate at low frequency, but the implanted coil can collect that from elsewhere. For example, six feet from a common lamp cord, there's almost one milliGauss of low frequency EMF. There's much more under an electric blanket, and near large motors and power lines.
The suspicion of brain cancer from cell phone use, has some connection.
In 2007 the W.H.O. concluded that frequent, long term cell phone use, is "possibly carcinogenic" due to action of EMFs on the brain. The New York Times (10/21/11) mentioned this to be inconclusive at present. But this year, it was again proclaimed possibly carcinogenic by a research group in Israel, if used more than 8 hours per month.
It will take more years to conclusively know the long term effect of EMFs in the C.I. and in cell phone use.
There's presently a question of allowing d/Deaf people to serve in in the American military. The story of Keith Nolan is interesting:
Or let Keith Nolan tell you, in this YouTube video:
There are a dozen "everybody-knows" opinions, all against Mr. Nolan's objective, at this site:
To one extent or another, deaf people surely have served in combat roles in all the world's wars, though few records exist.
In the latter years of WW2, when the German army was short of men, whole divisions were formed of those normally unqualified for service. One was the so-called "White Bread Division" in which 10,000 soldiers with stomach ailments were provided with special diets and other remedies.
Another was the so-called "Ear Division", mostly of hard-of-hearing soldiers and included a special battalion of deaf and mute men, we'd say around 800 of them, going by the usual size of German infantry battalions.
Among other assignments, this deaf-&-mute battalion served to defend the German Atlantic Wall, and to cover the withdrawal of German forces from Warsaw before the Russians arrived. They were part of the 19th Army, 356th Division.
The Spokeman Review of Spokane, WA (1/12/1945), quoted an American major's comments on POWs from this special group. " [He said] the deaf-mutes were all together, spoke to each other in sign language, and were among the toughest soldiers I've known. The deaf mutes ...... were exceptionally calm and unworried by noises of whining artillery shells, airplanes, and other alarms of battle. They ... were used mostly to hold fortified positions".
There were deaf soliers in WW1:
In the late 19th century, it was reported in the Paris Journal:
"During the Franco-German War, an army corps of 400 deaf and dumb Francs-Tireurs were led into battle against the Germans". (Francs-Tireurs were soldiers trained to be partisans behind the enemy lines, to harass the German rear).
Erastus "Deaf" Smith was an active participant and officer in the Army of Texas.
The deaf and mute Emanuel Philibert of Savoy was a Colonel in the calvary of the King of France, Louis XIV. (See our Page 12).
Israel is the only country in which d/Deaf people are required to serve in the military, including some in combat roles. Isreal's tiny population requires it. A selected group of officers are trained in sign language.
Young disabled people of both sexes are free to enter the Israeli military in a special program, in non-combat rolls. There was an interesting YouTube video on it, but some clod took it down.
It has been reported here and there of d/Deaf men serving in the American Civil War, mostly on the Confederate side. This link mentions a few:
And What's This?
Well, it's surely some kind of gas mask, looking like it's from the late 19th Century with all that leatherwork. But what's that super ear horn for?
If it not to hear the enemy at a distance, it could be a custom hearing horn for someone with a bad left ear.
Otherwise, no idea.
__________________________________________ Some Worthwhile Books
Say you arrived from Mars and wanted a book to get smart on Deaf education, culture, and the Community. No easy pick -----there’s are bookcases full of that. We’d settle for this as a starter.
The Other Side of Silence--- Sign Language and the Deaf Community in America),
by Arden Neisser (Knopf, 1983).
Why that? Neisser is a hearing reporter, strong on observation and reasonably restrained on opinion. Starting out knowing little on these subjects, he dived enthusiastically into almost everything pertinent and researched the background of what he’d gotten into.
Sure, the book is 30+ years old, but that’s about when much was evolving ----the watershed of a sort of Deaf Renaissance. Yes, you’ll miss the ADA and Deaf-President-Now. But you’ll have a detailed macro view of where it was all going, and be well-grounded for where it’s at today.
300 pages and quite verbose, but generally not heavy; not much ivy tower babble. Manualism and oralism get much comparison. Some parts are like a novel. We particularly enjoyed the coverage of the signing chimps, told like it really was, unlike like what the media told us. (See our Page 3).
It is inexpensively available on Amazon.
If related social matters would interest you, these two very opinionated works would be of interest. If you are hearing, disregard the title of the second one and read that too. It is most interesting. Both are short, inexpensive e~Books.
Return of the Deaf Mute: The lost Legacy of the Greatest American Deaf Generation, and For Deaf People Only. The authors of each are Janna Sweenie and David Boles. See interesting descriptions on Amazon.
The national Deaf Community had most of its development in the 19th Century, and this book covers that period. It's good to read this early on for more background. It includes the story of the Deaf Community in Matha's Vineyard.
A Place of Their Own is available inexpensively from Amazon, and their reviews are well worth reading. The authors are John V. Van Cleve and Barry A. Crouch.
Here's another and something of a classic. It's focused on the culture, and quite extensive, comprehensive and well done, big and heavy, loaded with illustrations.
You can get the June, 1981 paperback edition of Deaf Heritage in used condition, on Amazon for under $10 (including the shipping), and that's truly a bargain.
We'd recommend this book , No Pity by Joseph P. Shapiro (Times Books, 1993) as an accessory to those above. It's also by a reporter. It covers the civil rights revolution which few people ever imagined happening.
It affected 50 million so-called disabled people, of which d/Deaf people, are very much a part. It’s a macro-view of the whole thing, with a fabulous chapter on the Deaf World, and you’ll find many related things, eugenics for example.
From the book:
"The 1988 protest by deaf students at Gallaudet University was a defining moment for the [entire] disability rights movement. It was the closest the movement has come to having a touchstone event, a Selma or a Stonewall."
To one who is late-deafened, particularly recently, we'd suggest this book before all others:
Rebuilt: My Journey Back To the Hearing World by Michael Chorost (HMH, 2006), especially if a cochlear implant is being contemplated.
It's about $5 (including shipping) from Amazon, and almost all of their reviews for this book are
Here is a very recent book by Prof. Harry Lang of NTID, Fighting in the Shadows: Untold Stories of Deaf People in the Civil War.
Read the reviews on Amazon when they pile up. It is presently priced at about $35 -------but of course there's the library.
Meet El Diablo
This tough-looking honcho is Frank McCombs (d.1876), a deaf soldier of fortune.
He served with various armies in China, Greece, and Nicaragua. In 1910, he fought in the battles of Mulato and Ojinaga. Although he was an American citizen (born in Seattle to a wealthy farming family) he fought on the Mexican side against United States troops ---for the thrill of it..
He was deaf. Also mute, but it's unknown if mute because of deafness, or because he didn't know the language of any country he fought in.
He was known in Mexico as El Diablo (The Devil). He was an insomniac and his specialty was sneaking out at night to kill sentries of the opposing troops (including fellow Americans)..
Meet Black Coyote
It is said this 35 year old Deaf American Indian may have ignited the dreadful Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. A detachment of U.S. calvary came to the Lakota reservation and demanded the Indians surrender their rifles. He either refused or didn't understand the order. Somehow his rifle discharged while it was being wrestled away from him, provoking the soldiers to fire on the Indians ---who fought back. (There are varying accounts of this). Up to 300 Indian men, women, and children, and 30 soldiers, were killed. YouTube has this video with ASL (a bit too fast with the finger-spelling) and open captions (but which disappear halfway through).
Google "Black Coyote Deaf" for a lot more information.
Presbycusis and Dementia
Presbycusis is the loss of hearing that
most hearing people experience as they grow older. It is supected as being a cause
of dementia, Alzheimer's, and even heart disease. Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article (2/11/2013).
"Currently approximately 85 percent of those
affected with hearing loss are not treated and that it may be the nation’s most damaging and costly sensory handicap. It is a hidden disability, often not obvious to others or even to those who have it.
"As hearing worsens, those afflicted are likely to become frustrated and socially isolated. Unable to hear well in social settings, they gradually stop going to the theater, movies, places of worship, senior centers or parties or out to restaurants with friends or family. Social isolation has been linked to depression and an increased risk of death from conditions like heart disease.
"The resulting loneliness is one of the most important determinants of health outcomes in older adults. It has been linked to an increase in inflammation through the body which in turn can result in age-related disorders like heart disease and dementia.
"One of the possible reasons that hearing loss may lead to dementia makes a lot of sense. The brain dedicates a lot of resources to hearing. When the
clarity of words is garbled, the brain gets a garbled message. It has to
re-allocate resources to hear at the expense of other brain functions. Thus the overworked brain may lose “cognitive reserve” or the ability of healthy parts of the brain to take over functions lost by other parts".
Here is the link to the article:
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