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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

School Nurse is BACK! Fun With Beeps: The Hearing Test

Yes, it's another Note from the Frontline of Nursing.
You remember those days when you'd be sitting in Math class and Mrs. Peterson had that sullen look on her face because class was being disrupted. It was, and there wasn't a thing she could do about it. One by one children came in and out swapping for the next alphabetical last name to get a ten minute vacation from those agonizing decimal points.
It was time for the school nurse to check your hearing.
Admit it, you got a non-innocent FAIL look on your face and said, "I thought I heard a beep in my right ear that time, but I'm not sure." All in the name of killing a few more moments of Math.
I did it, too.
Until I was the one on the other side of the machine.
Enter the 1963 Hear-o-Matic Deluxe. I'm fairly certain that our department hadn't upgraded the things since Pete Best was still with the Beatles.

The golden days of hearing tests. This is a typewriter. The little boy raises his hand when Nursey gets to the end of a sentence and the typewriter goes "ding!"
I took a cleaning wipe to the machine and wiped the grime of a million kids from it. Eww.

I calibrated the bulky Hear-o-Matic. We measured children at 250 to 5000 Hertz. Not the rental cars, but a highly technical audio thingy that has to do with measuring the conduction of sound wave thingies your hearing thingy. Trust me on this.
The problem was, when I set it at the standard guidelines, the wires to the headphones (can I just remind you that the headphones are eeewwww after they clamp onto a thousand heads?) got kind of worn and wouldn't transmit the beeps at the right pitch (which is the Hertz thingy.)

What's this mean for you, little student?  Well, it means you will fail your hearing test, and I will have to send your mother a letter saying you can't hear shit, and she will freak out and the next day my phone will ring from 800 mothers and a few angry fathers who will demand to know which McNursing School I went to.
And this is how he's going to look again in a month when he gets the next letter that Norbert's BMI is 26 and he's clinically obese. Parents *love* that letter!

We don't want that.
So I called my boss and told her that the machine really wasn't working well and I couldn't hear the beep at 250 and 500 Hertz thingies.
"Easy fix!" she said. "Just turn the volume all the way up!"
Well. OK. But as far as I can tell, that kinda defeats the purpose of standardizing the Hertz and decibal levels for all the children.  
Not that it mattered.
Not at all.

As you well remember, these tests included a little jaunt to somewhere quiet - usually the library. Well, I packed up my Samsonite looking case and trekked off to the library, which was the quietest area, but still not so quiet.
You see, it was a lovely Spring day, and to get some fresh air, windows and doors were propped open.
But I gave it my all.
By the 3rd student I saw the massive failure.
"You know how it works? You raise your hand each time you hear the beep. Right hand for right ear, left for left."
She raised her right hand. I lifted the headphone from her ear.
I said, "But I haven't even sent a signal. You at least have to wait for me to start the test before you start faking it."
Then I heard a beep. She said, "That was the beep. Don't you hear that?" She took the headphones out of my hand and clamped them to her skull again, listening for the beep.
And another, and another.
And she kept raising her damn hand.
A truck was backing up outside, beeping.

Oh, Mr. Trucker, How many children have you helped pass their hearing screenings?

And I packed my things up and went back to the clinic where there were much easier issues to deal with. Like a sudden outbreak of fevers in Mrs. Johnson's English Class That Is Having An Exam.

1 comment:

Mark Rossmore said...

We need annual physicals for my job. The guy who does them is a total hack. Amongst many things, when his staff administer the hearing test, do they put you away in a soundproof room and give you a heads-up when the test is going to start? No.

First, they put you in a room with large windows which face the very busy 9th avenue. There is traffic. There is the dude with the gas-powered leaf blower. There are people chattering in the hall right outside the door.

Second, they give you no warning before starting the test. Not even a "Okay, here we go." So, between all the outside noise and the madness indoor, by the time you realize "Hey... what's that tone?" you're already halfway through flunking your test.