Incremental Improvements



I have to consider myself fortunate that I was stricken with pretty serious hearing impairment… Together with my technical background, it allows me to try an idea out, and immediately hear when an improvement actually works, or not.

I don’t need to work blindly, hoping to see an improvement, and waiting forever for clinical trials to be completed. I get a much faster development and improvement cycle than most other researchers.

And one of the interesting things about hearing corrections is that practically every little thing you do leads to some kind of improvement over not doing anything at all. That’s why treble EQ helps. Shouting helps. Linear compression helps, but could be much better.

But I have learned, over the course of this project, that our sonic memory is very leaky. It is extremely difficult to remember, in detail, how something sounded, even just a moment ago.

So you can imagine how difficult it was, in the early days of this project, to make improvements, but not be able to remember how an oboe or a guitar used to sound when I had good hearing.

Sure, it sounded better to me now than when using nothing, but is that how it should sound? That’s why the EarSpring equation was so vitally important – it describes how things ought to sound. I don’t need to rely on faulty memory.

Another thing about hearing damage, as applied to this process, is a psychoacoustic thing that happens for me, and which gives me much more acute hearing than unimpaired people: I live in a normally dark world, except when listening through my Crescendo system. So any little sound, with Crescendo’s help, that isn’t part of my darker world, really stands out to me.

I can hear the harpist’s fingernails buzzing against the strings, and her knuckles rapping the frame, during the playback of a harp concerto. Anyone else is so inundated with extraneous noises throughout their day, that their minds just naturally tune out those kinds of incidental noises. They easily hear the sounds, but they don’t really hear them.

Since just about anything you do helps, I had to seek beyond myself for guidance toward the ultimate proper musical hearing restoration. I had to study the nature of hearing from available knowledge, do a lot of deep thinking, and build a lot of physics models to help understand what ought to occur. Guided first by accumulating knowledge, then listening to see if the predictions were true.

I had to read between the lines of much of the known knowledge. As stated, it is often incorrect or misleading or misinterpreted. And I had to jump over some fences to reach unorthodox interpretations that actually sounded more correct in implementation than what was supposed to work.

At first it wasn’t funny when my efforts invited strong rebukes from those in the audiology community. I was stepping on their claimed turf, and I was an ignorant outsider, as far as they were concerned. (You didn’t even use the correct terminology in your letter to me!) 

But now I think the joke is on them. (And yes… you really can and should, write an equation to express how hearing works…)

I continue to make minor tweaks here and there – did I get the scaling by all the factors of 2 correct in that last version? What about those new dynamics? Are they impeding the reverb tails?

But I have to rely on the Physics, like a blind person feeling the banister on the staircase, to guide me in the right direction.

  • DM

[ Heh! My old company, Refined Audiometrics Laboratory, used to sell the world’s finest Parametric EQ, called PLParEQ (phase linear parametric EQ). I think it is a bit of a hoot that some deaf guy created that… ]

Author: dbmcclain

Astrophysicist, spook, musician, Lisp aficionado, deaf guy

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