Listening Fatigue: Are Your Ears Tired?

listenerfatigue

We’ve often debated here at C. Crane what exactly listening fatigue is, but then Bob (yep, Bob Crane, founder of C. Crane) mentioned something that struck a chord. Bob has some hearing loss due to years of working around loud equipment and growing up in an era where the louder the music, the better (and Bob is REALLY excited we’re making a public announcement to everyone – yes that’s sarcasm). He said “Listening fatigue is real. It’s caused by your brain trying to piece together the missing parts of the audio. Having hearing loss does not help but if an audio source has poor bass response I find myself trying to fill in the missing low tones and make them whole. If an audio source has poor mid-range then voices are muffled and difficult to understand.”.

Wikipedia’s definition: Listener fatigue (also known as listening fatigue) is a phenomenon that occurs after prolonged exposure to an auditory stimulus. Symptoms include tiredness, discomfort, pain, and loss of sensitivity. Listener fatigue is not a clinically recognized state, but is a term used by many professionals.

C. Crane has always tried to tailor our audio for voice clarity. Meaning that we manipulate the bass and tone to accentuate consonants which can make voices more legible. Since it seems many of you are listening to talk a good percentage of the time, having clear words is a no brainer. We’ve also heard a lot of people say things like “I’m finally able to hear the words to my music” or “Your radio is the only one I can listen to all night” and “Your pillow speaker is a life saver; I can now fall asleep listening to my audiobooks”. In our research we found some great sites that give far more in depth explanations that we could, but these quotes from a site about hearing loss in relation to listening fatigue really stood out “…Processing and constructing meaning out of half-heard words and sentences. Making guesses and figuring out context…. ’s like doing jigsaws, Sudoku and Scrabble all at the same time. And “…with the addition of hearing loss, the brain has to work, think and concentrate harder than it would with normal hearing and this teamwork is disrupted, increasing the challenges of communication and leading to listening fatigue.”

We believe that comfort also plays a role in the fatigue. If something is irritating or doesn’t fit well, energy is expended to compensate or negotiate that factor. If it’s really uncomfortable whether due to poor audio quality (think harshness or distortion), additional noise (like noise in a line or hum or buzz) or poor fit, the timeline to listening fatigue can be shortened dramatically. This is where figuring out the correct tool for the job comes into play. Much like being a craftsman and knowing when to use which tool, the same can be said for listening. While some of it is subjective, some isn’t. If you’re listening at night, a pillow speaker might be a great choice. This allows you to keep the volume at an appropriate level, have the privacy you desire and eliminates the discomfort of wires in your ears and around your head. If you plan to sit and listen for an extended period, headphones might be a better choice for comfort of your ears. If you’re in an area without a lot of background or other noise, a radio may be better. If you walk or jog, finding a good pair of earbuds that don’t introduce noise in the cables is a big deal.

Last but not least, consider turning down the volume and/or taking a break. It seems counter-intuitive but your body is amazing and will do things to protect itself including shutting down. Keeping the volume at an appropriate level, especially when listening to earbuds, can make a huge difference.

Have you experienced listening fatigue? Enter your tips for preventing or reducing it in the comments below.

What is Shortwave?

worldheadphonesdreamstime
Shortwave radio
is a radio transmission using shortwave frequencies, generally 1.6–30 MHz (187.4–10.0 m), just above the medium wave AM broadcast band. Many of SW’s properties are similar to AM like the ability for the signal to travel long distances.

Since the early 1900’s, there have been significant advances in radio. One of the biggest advances that has had the most impact on shortwave, is streaming on the internet and through internet enabled devices like smartphones and Internet radios. Many of the most popular shortwave broadcasts in the late 90’s and early 2000’s have almost disappeared from shortwave and switched to streaming. If stations are still broadcasting, they often no longer broadcast to the Americas or much of Europe.

At any one moment, there are literally hundreds of millions of signals now transmitted from a wide range of devices. Cell phones, garage door openers, AM and FM broadcast stations, police, fire, airlines, TV stations and even the AC power to your home all occupy a part of the frequency spectrum. Time, propagation and the ionosphere all have an impact on what you are able to receive. Because all signals are affected by these things, it is important to understand the basics of radio transmission.

If you really want to learn about shortwave, the best way to learn, is to listen to it. ShortwaveSchedule.com provides a list of all the signals currently broadcasting at the time of your search and is a great starting place for your shortwave listening quest.

Why Would I Listen to Shortwave?

  1. Governments often use shortwave “utility” bands. Utility bands are where the action is on shortwave and are used for reliable long range communication. Coast Guard Search and Rescue, coordination of US military aviation and spy networks all use this band. One reason it continues to be used, is it is very difficult to block these transmissions. Utility stations generally operate in upper sideband mode. Virtually none of these type of transmissions is on the Internet.
  2. During a big crisis, whether it be an earthquake or hurricane, your best source of real news can be shortwave. Ham operators do an excellent job of contacting emergency services and handling messages between people. You may have experienced “all circuits busy” situations or failed text messages in a large scale emergency situation due to cellular towers being down or overloaded. Amateur radio is the only communication that works well under all circumstances and for that reason, it will continue to be used for the foreseeable future.
  3. News from other countries will give you a new perspective on the world. Following shortwave closely over a few months will give you information that approximates the political information the President and staff have at their disposal to make global decisions. When you listen to shortwave you find out how difficult it is to make decisions with global consequences. The political bent of a country slips out providing you with an alternative point of view. There is a whole world of listening and very little of it may be found on the Internet.
  4. You might stumble across a Pirate Radio station

If you have the urge, you can even take to the air waves yourself by becoming a Ham operator through the American  Radio Relay League (ARRL). You don’t even have to learn Morse code anymore unless you go for an advanced classification.

SWLING.com is probably one of the most comprehensive sites in regard to shortwave and advocating for it. This article on Does Shortwave Radio Have a Future really outlines what’s available and what’s not and why.

Share with us the most interesting shortwave broadcast you’ve heard.

Earworms – The Science Behind Songs Stuck in Your Head

earwormpiechartRegardless of who you are or what you do, it happens to everyone at some point in life: earworms.  Not to be confused with that pesky larva that destroys corn and tomatoes, an earworm is defined by Wikipedia as “a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind after it is no longer playing”.  This annoying condition is formally referred to by experts as involuntary musical imagery (IMI), and a great deal of research has been done on this particular phenomenon.  This is no surprise since earworms are experienced by about 90% of us at least once a week, according to the Earworm Project conducted by the University of London.  Though most of us regard earworms as merely irritating, research indicates that 15% of people consider them so disturbing that they disrupt thought patterns and interfere with their lives.  This is a more serious condition known as intrusive musical imagery (IMI).

While it is still not understood exactly why we get them, analysis reveals that the type of song and your situation definitely influence the probability of catching an earworm.  In a Discover Magazine article, Professor James Kellaris, also known as “Dr. Earworm”, asserts that we are more susceptible if we are stressed, tired, or exposed to music repeatedly or for long periods of time.  And catchy songs with an upbeat melody or repetitive lyrics are more likely to get stuck in our heads than music without such patterns.  Which explains why so many of us are significantly distracted by the innocent verses of Disney’s “It’s A Small World”, doesn’t it?  Oops, sorry about that.

So what can you do to unstick that bothersome song?  Suggestions made by HowStuffWorks in “Getting Rid of Earworms” include some of the following:

  • Sing another song, or play another melody on an instrument.
  • Switch to an activity that keeps you busy.
  • Listen to the song all the way through (this works for some people).
  • Turn on the radio to get your brain tuned in to another song (or news program).

Here is where C. Crane can help you cure the dreaded earworm syndrome.  We have great radios for audio and reception, and have a number of options depending on your priorities.  Keep one of them handy for the next time you get that annoying commercial stuck in your head.

Enter to win in the comments on this blog by answering this question:

Tell us the most irritating or unusual earworm that ever got stuck in your head.

Win the CC Pocket Portable AM FM and Weather Radio. Drawing will be held August 31st. Only one entry per person.

Congratulations Emily Taylor! Thank you All for participating!

DO YOU RIDE?

P1020104 curves Sue Garcia is an avid motorcycle rider and works here at C. Crane. She and her husband ride as often as possible. Sue has lived in Humboldt County all of her life. She’s ridden in over 22 states. With thousands of hours of riding under her belt, she can’t wait to explore more roads.

DO YOU RIDE?

For those of you that ride and like to cruise the roads on motorcycles, this is for you. I’m assuming if you clicked on “Do You Ride?” you probably ride too or maybe you’re considering it.

I don’t know how old you are, but I feel the need to tell you we are both 60ish and our mantra is this: “We are going to ride as much as we can, for as long as we can.” The reason I told you how old we are is that in our travels, we meet more bikers in our generation than any other age group and I feel a special kinship with these “seasoned” riders” that still get on and ride. Our passion is curvy roads with corners. Lots and lots of corners! The more corners the better! There are so many roads and so little time.

A couple of weeks ago (the latter part of July) I rode the California Hwy 101/Hwy 20/Hwy 36 loop (11 hours and 466 miles). My husband Scott and I ride big cruisers and we ride every single weekend we can. We’ve only missed 2 weekends in the last year. Even with 50 lbs. of leather on, we ride. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, our Anniversary are no exceptions. The only thing that makes riding better fSue Gor me is my rock n’ roll music. I take my CC Witness Plus with me always: Bike – check, me – check, CC Witness Plus – check and so on (and in that order). I hear stereos blasting from other bikes when we pass them on the freeway or in town and although I’ve had a stereo on a bike myself, it doesn’t compare to how great my music sounds with my CC Witness Plus! I’ve tried all kinds of earbuds over the years and the CC Buds are my favorites for comfort, price and sound.
Last summer we hit 15 states in 12 days (CA, NV, WY, UT, NE, KS, TX, OK, LA, MI, AR, MO, IL NM and AZ). (I counted CA, even though we live here, beStrugescause we rode the entire length of the state on that trip). We averaged about 650 miles a day. Late this summer (August to September), we’re going to take a month off and hit all 48 states in one trip. Even though my CC Witness Plus has 2GB of memory built into it already, I add my recorded 4GB memory card to the SD card slot on the side of the unit (for a tremendous amount of music) and in preparation for the upcoming trip I’ve got 5 memory cards full of rock n’ roll! I’ve been recording from my CC WiFi Internet Radio for months now and believe me, I won’t get tired of the music I’m taking on the road with me. I want to ride the Tail of the Dragon starting in Deals Gap, NC (318 curves in 11 miles)! And I can’t wait to let you know what I think of the Dragon and the other twisty roads around Deals Gap. I’m sure we’ll need to spend 3 or 4 days in this area, because we just can’t miss rides with names like Devil’s Triangle (TN), Blood Mountain Run (GA), the Moonshiner (NC/GA/SC) and my personal favorite, the Warwoman (GA)!

This coming road trip we’ve allowed enough time to actually get off the bikes and check out some neat stuff along the way. On our road trip last summer RedwoodsI was honking my horn and pointing as we passed things we could see from the freeway. We had a blast when we rode Route 66 in 2014, so we rode it again last summer. Williams, AZ is worth a look-see and a good place to stay if you’re going to the Grand CaLivin the dreamnyon. Bourbon St and the French Quarter in New Orleans were awesome too, but mostly it was just a lot of honking and pointing from the freeway. It’s a little scary riding through tornado country, we just have earthquakes where we live, so I’m keeping my CC Skywave in my saddlebag with it tuned to WX Alert and I’ll check it when we stop for breaks or see those dark, funny looking clouds in the sky. Seriously, last year we rode at a 45 degree angle for miles and miles in Kansas. When we finally checked into a motel and turned on the TV there was a big red warning on the screen and they were telling everyone to get on the bottom floor away from windows. You bet I’m taking my CC Skwyave!

C. Crane is right off California Highway 101. In fact you can see it off the overpass that’s right out the front showroom doors. I invite all of you to stop by and have a cup of coffee and a cookie (heck, they’ll give you as many cookies as you like). Come and enjoy our weather and by all means, take a ride through the Redwoods and aMendolong the coast.

But, if you like a challenging ride: a ride with corners, curves, twisties and switchbacks, stop by and if I’m in the office, I’ll share some of the secrets of our roads with you.    If enough riders respond, I may be able to keep writing about what I love to do most and I’ll share our road trips and tips with you. For the many, many riders that come into Humboldt County and for those that like to ride the kinds of roads Scott and I do, there are some rides you don’t know about yet and will love. Maybe, after yScott and Sueou ride Hwy 36, you’ll even want to start your own Best Rides list.

If you are intrigued about riding Highway 36, stop by before your ride and I will give you an idea of what to expect. You might even want to take a picnic lunch with you. If you start the ride from the east side and you get to C. Crane before 5:00 on a weekday, I’d love for you to come by and tell me your Hwy 36 thrills and chills stories!! Take a photo of your bike along 36 and we will post it on our Facebook page and in a future blog post.

Until then, Journey On Biker Buddies!river

Where do your travels take you this summer? Enter to win in the comments on this blog and win the CC Witness Plus. Drawing will be held August 17th. Only one entry per person.

Congratulations Terrance, the winner of the CC Witness Plus! Thanks to all who participated.