Ringing in the Ears: Navigating Sound in the Bell Tower

White text on a blue background reads: Ringing in the ears, navigating sound in the bell tower. To the left of the text is a white outline of a hearing aid. Top right is the Fun With Bells logo.

Are your bells too loud, or too quiet? Could some simple tips help your hard-of-hearing ringers to cope better in the tower? This podcast sees host Cathy Booth and guests explore the fascinating world of sound.

First, Alison and Chris share their experiences of ringing whilst using hearing aids, and come up with some terrific tips to make life easier both in the tower and in the pub afterwards.

Then Cathy quizzes her husband Roger on sound levels in towers. Turns out that it’s not just the decibel volume that matters, but reverberation and structural sound count too. Nobody wants a bad case of ‘clapper knock’!

Whether you want to soak up the sound with wall-to-wall carpet, or crank up the volume by leaving all the doors open, this podcast is perfect for you.

About Chris Shore

Chris has been ringing for about 9 years since starting to learn at the age of 50. He currently rings in Cambridge. He is most comfortable ringing call changes and Plain Hunt, covering and hunting for other methods. When ringing downhill and with a following wind, he has been known to complete a plain course of Grandsire inside.

He is very grateful to his current band for putting up with someone who occasionally completely mishears what the conductor says!

A white man in his late 50s with grey hair and a checked shirt stands holding the end of a bell rope and smiles to the camera.
Chris Shore
A white woman with short brown hair smiles at the camera. She wears glasses and a floral top.
Alison Collins

About Alison Collins

Alison learned to ring 40 years ago at Grappenhall in Cheshire, on an 11 cwt ring of eight bells. Grappenhall ringers were well known at that time for ringing relatively fast and to a high standard of striking. She left Cheshire to head to Polyversity in Newcastle Upon Tyne and found the church in Jesmond to be both architecturally eye catching with a detached tower and the ringers friendly. The 18 cwt ring of eight bells were rung appreciably slower and Alison found Grappenhall bells way too fast when on home visits. A sandwich year with British Rail in Birmingham gave her the chance to join yet another band, at Great Barr and to ring at surrounding towers.

Alison returned to Grappenhall permanently after an offer of employment drew her back home. She is an active member of the band, which includes her daughter Rebecca. They are now ringing on a fine ring of 10 bells which were cast by Taylor and installed in 2019. Grappenhall continues to strive for ringing excellence and ringers feature regularly in branch and guild competitions on 6, 8 & 10 bells. Alison has finally mastered counting backwards from 10 and may eventually ring a ¼ peal of surprise Royal on an inside Bell, once she has overcome the challenge of recovering from a fractured elbow.

About Roger Booth

Roger learnt to ring in Gloucestershire as a teenager, and is now living and ringing in Hampshire after spending 40 years in London. Roger has held various posts within local ringing societies and on committees of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers.

As a Chartered Surveyor, Roger combined his professional career with pleasure and played a leading role in major bell restoration projects at Bermondsey, Isle of Dogs, Limehouse, Rotherhithe and Walworth in London, as well as the transfer of several redundant rings of bells to new homes.

To help ensure there were adequate numbers of ringers to ring these restored bells, Roger has turned his attention to issues of recruitment and training. In addition to his roles within the Association of Ringing Teachers, Roger is also the owner of the Charmborough Ring and particularly interested in new initiatives to grow the number of  new ringers.

Roger Booth

Top Five Takeaways

  • Conductors – tell those outside the circle to be quiet, catch the eye of the ringers before involving them in a change and call ‘that is all’ at the end, rather than ‘that’s all’
  • Ringers – if you are new to hearing aids, experiment using the ‘music’ or ‘speech enhancing’ setting, depending on your needs. Stand where you have a very good view of the conductor and work extra hard at your ropesight
  • Use a mobile app to quickly check the decibel volume in your ringing room – if it is too high then bring in some professional advice
  • Check out Mike Banks’ presentation ‘Sound control inside and outside of the your tower’ https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Mike-Banks-Sound-Control-slides_2.pdf
  • Got concerns about your hearing? Get these checked out as soon as possible. Several studies have found a link between untreated hearing loss and dementia risk. Why not try the RNID’s free online hearing check www.rnid.org.uk/check

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