Way back in the day, when I was in my early teens, I loved drama and I used to appear in school plays.
I played the part of The King in Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat and Mr Bumble in Oliver. Incredibly, the school let me sing live on stage (those poor hearing people), even though I can’t sing in tune, which might explain why, as time went on, my parts got smaller and smaller.
The highlight for me was playing Knuckles in Bugsy Malone. I was part of Fat Sam’s gang, I had some funny lines, and every night, we would put a cream pie in the face of a different teacher as we walked out through the centre of the audience.
Knuckles’ thing was, obviously, cracking his knuckles. Every time he used to do it, Fat Sam would tell him to knock it off, I’d do an embarrassed face, and the audience would laugh.
Throughout the rehearsals, I had assumed that the sound of Knuckles’ knuckles cracking would be made by using sound effects. But just a a few weeks before we were due to perform the musical, my teacher told me I had to make the sound with my mouth. Without moving my lips.
Eventually, after many hours of practice, I found a way of making a clear clicking sound using my tongue and my upper palate, while keeping my lips completely still. Then I found a way of making the sound loud enough for an audience to hear.
Thankfully, I come from a deaf family, otherwise I think they might have gone nuts.
The performance – and my clicking noises – were a success. But the funny thing is that today, nearly 20 years later, I still make that clicking sound – just for a different reason.
The click is my own personal test sound. Like a photographer’s colour test card, it’s my barometer for how well I can hear.
I make the clicking sound every time I put my hearing aids on so I can check that they are set at the right volume. I know exactly how that click should sound, and if it is a bit muffled, too quiet or too loud, I then adjust my hearing aids accordingly, or clean out my ear moulds.
I hadn’t even considered that I do this until last week, when I heard my wife making an intermittent ‘ha’ sound.
It didn’t sound like she was laughing, by the way, it sounded like she was just saying the word “ha” like someone who is sarcastically making the point that they don’t find something funny.
Fortunately, I hadn’t just cracked a dodgy joke – she wasn’t very well and couldn’t hear as well as she usually can.
I soon realised that the ‘ha’ was her making her own test sound, just like my click.
When I mentioned this to her, she expressed surprise that I had heard her making the sound – because it is such a natural thing for her to do.
She then told me that someone she knows says “hello hello hello”as their test sound, which made me laugh.
All of which made me wonder whether this is something that many hearing aid wearers are doing without thinking about the fact that we’re doing it. Do you make a test sound to check whether your hearing aid or cochlear implant is working properly? And what is it? Tell us below…
Charlie Swinbourne is the Editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being a journalist and an award-winning scriptwriter. He writes for the Guardian and BBC Online, and as a scriptwriter, penned the films My Song, Coming Out and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen.
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. Find out how to write for us by clicking here, how to follow us by clicking here, and read our disclaimer here.
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