The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Saturday, May 30, 2009]

I Think This Is Good...

When we left Johns Hopkins yesterday, Laynie was not sure about her new map. She thought it was too quiet. But she thinks that after every new map, and then the next day it seems louder. It's like her brain takes time to realize that things have changed.

Sure enough, today things have changed. I can't remember if it was when we were doing listening therapy or if I was just talking while signing, but something I said made her wince... and not the content ;). She thought that maybe her high-pitched-sounds-bother-me problem was back. But speech sounds had never bothered her before; the culprits were things like plastic bags and running water. Of course, we decided to test what bothered her. We both have a healthy amount of scientific curiosity (OK, we're nerds). So, I said, "Sssssssssssssss," as loudly as I could, close to her. It wasn't too bad. Same with "shhhhhh." I said, "Eeeeeeee," and it was immediately apparent that the /i/ sound bothered her. I thought that /i/ had a second formant... oh, brother, I'm going to have to explain this.

Vowel sounds have two main frequencies, called formants. The relationship between the two formants is how we know which vowel we hear. There you go.

So I thought that /i/ had a high second formant, somewhere around 2000 Hz. Believe it or not, I remembered this because of a project I had to do for Speech Science class in 2006. Thank you, Dr. Dromey.

I wondered if Laynie might have gained ground in the mid frequencies, 1500-4000 Hz, and that those might be what was bothering her. I tested other vowels, and /i/ and /e/ ("ee" and "ay") were the worst for her, followed by /ae/, the short "a" sound, as in "hat." Because my nerdiness knows no bounds, I located a chart on the internet that contains vowel formant information. It was on Wikipedia, which means there's about a 50/50 chance that it's correct, but it did seem to agree with what I remembered from Speech Science and Physics of Acoustics classes.

Yes, aren't I the smart one. Mid frequency second formants. Another website said that nasals have formants around 2000-3000 Hz, so I checked, and /m/ and /n/ bothered Laynie, as well. Laynie suggested checking this using the piano. What a fine idea.

Ah, the internet, treasure trove of information. Naturally, it was easy to find a key-frequency correspondence chart for a piano. And, as an added bonus, I knew that my piano would be quiet accurate, having been tuned less than two weeks previously.

The piano proved to be an excellent resource, supporting my supposition that frequencies between 1500 Hz and 4000 Hz were bothering Laynie. Actually, down to 1300 Hz bothered her.

I know that these sounds are torturing Laynie, and that she now hates a strident or brassy voice more than ever, but I think this might be excellent news.


Laynie | June 1, 2009 at 6:43 AM

Why you think it might be excellent news?

Annie | June 1, 2009 at 7:40 AM

Two months ago, you became sensitized to the high frequencies. High pitched environmental noises bothered you a lot, but you were more easily able to recognize them in the speech sounds. I'm hoping that is what will happen with the mid frequencies now. I'm hoping it means the mid frequencies are louder now... that maybe everything above 1000 Hz is at 25 dB.

Laynie | June 1, 2009 at 7:58 AM

Ah, I see... Fingers cross...

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