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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
The second vital phase of the Psycho Acoustic Laboratory's work during the war was revealed to the press by Hallowell Davis '18, associate professor of Physiology, as he exhibited the product of five years of research on rehabilitation of veterans deafened by the noisiest war in history, to a group of copy-hungry newsmen gathered in Mem. Hall Monday.
Early in the war, the University was called on by the Surgeon General's Office to test the 14-odd standard commercial hearing aids on the market, and if possible to make recommendations for increasing their efficiency. Not only were those, initial goals realized, but revolutionary principles in the fitting of such devices were discovered in the process, declared Davis.
Use Audio-Guinea Pigs
With the assistance of Gordon E. Peterson, research fellow in the Psycho Acoustic Lab. Davis made painstaking tests to find out more about the workings of the partially deafened ear, and to measure the loudest sound which both normal and defened subjects could tolerate with comfort. Using conscientious objectors as guinea pigs, he was able to design the "theoretically perfect hearing aid."
"The existence of such an aid would have been doubted before the war," said Davis, "because it war formerly felt that fitting a hearing aid was like fitting a pair of spectacles. Each individual deviation was measured, and made up by specific compensations in the old method.
Clinical data available today, declared Davis, has proved this theory wrong. "People can get used to hearing aids just like they can bulge in and out of a rented dress suit; what at first seems to be a terrible fit can be psychologically adjusted to."
This new theory of fitting the hard of hearing is called the "high fidelity system" since the emphasis is on reproducing the sound with accuracy, rather than merely rounding out the reception of the ear itself. The original method was called "selective amplification."
Presented as one of the most successful guinea pigs was Hubert K. Beard '10, a former president of the Boston Guild for the Hard of Hearing. He dramatized several of the problems confronting the hard of hearing, such as making adjustments for musical sounds as well as conversation.
In closing, he extracted the battery from his back which supplies the power for the receptor which he carries in his ear. He did not, however, point out the dangers of sitting on one of the terminals.
Davis concluded the meeting with a tribute to Rudolph H. Nichols, associate director of the Electro-Acoustics Laboratory, giving him credit for the excellent liason maintained by the two labs throughout the work on the project.
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