‘At medical school I was taught by Dr. Nimmo, an elderly Edinburgh physician who wore a pinstripe suit, carried a heavy gold watch, and whose combed white hair was held in place with pomade. If he realized that a patient was hard of hearing he’d take his stethoscope from his jacket pocket and ceremoniously place the earpieces into their ears. Taking the other end in his hands, he’d speak slowly and clearly into it as if into a microphone. The focus and amplification of the stethoscope meant that he didn’t have to shout loudly, and the privacy of the patient on the open ward was preserved. For the most part his patients found the role reversal hilarious; occasionally the medical students did too. I remember him turning to one student who was sniggering a little too conspicuously. “There’s nothing funny about trying to communicate properly,” he said. “Use whatever means you can to understand and be understood.”’

From a review by Gavin Francis in the NYRB of  ‘I can hear you whisper: an intimate journey through the science of sound and language’, by Lydia Denworth.

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