[CQ-Contest] Fwd: [FCG] riding the RF gain...

don.chisholm at home.com don.chisholm at home.com
Wed Dec 5 20:23:33 EST 2001

I am of a somewhat younger generation of contester and I do not have nearly
the hours of experience of my elmers have digging out weak signals. However,
I have a few layman opinions for ear protection in the contesting
environment. As a musician and music teacher, my hearing is my most valuable
sense. I would be sooner be incapable of taste, smell, touch, and sight all
combined than to lose my hearing.

When contesting, I employ a few preventative measures to ensure that sitting
with cans strapped to my head does not leave any discomfort or slight
ringing in my ears. Early in my contesting career, I experienced this rather
noticeably once after operating my first 160 contest in 1995 and it really
concerned me. Only once since have I noticed it again after a contest, and I
decided to do something about it.

First, I firmly believe in headphones that block out as much ambient noise
as possible (for noise-floor reasons that others on this list have very
thoroughly explained) while still providing adequate comfort - I'm can be a
whiny baby in the comfort department. Having worn several types of studio
recording/pit monitoring phones, many consumer and professional grade Hi-Fi
sets, and a variety of communications sets, I have concluded that the Heil
Pro Sets are not a bad choice at all. They are lightweight (comparatively)
and comfortable. They also block out all noise in my shack and seem to be
adequately effective in other shacks I have operated.

Secondly, I create a visual reference for volume control to be sure that my
hearing is not becoming desensitized over time in the operating chair.
(Consider an analogy of a dance club and how it "isn't as loud" after you
have been there for a few hours.) In order to do this, I set the ATT so the
band noise is around S0-S1. Then I tune in some signals and set the radio
volume at what seems to be almost (but not quite) too low, then make a mark
(or a mental note when guest operating) where the volume is adjusted. As an
operating habit, I try to always employ the attenuator and RF gain to keep
the band noise in check. If I never, or only seldom, move the volume control
from this spot, I am OK. However, here in W8, many QSOs require a lot of
knob-turning. I very frequently (from forced habit) check to see that the
volume and RF gain/attenuator are not set at inappropriate levels, and make
necessary adjustments. I have noticed that this really helps over extended
times in the operating chair. After eight or ten hours, if the volume
control is no higher that it was to start, then you are likely not suffering
from any physiological desensitization.

Lastly, in CW contests (which is about all I operate), I use as little
sidetone as possible. At home, I use no radio generated sidetone whatsoever.
The constant hammering of the same tone in your ears for extended hours,
days, weeks, etc. will surely desensitize your inner-ear receptors (and
processors) and could possibly cause permanent damage. Furthermore, most of
us do not need it - the computer generates perfect CW and any CW paddle
"fills" can be monitored through the PC speaker sidetone at an adequate
volume or sent directly from the keyboard, ensuring accuracy.

If there is ever a dissertation in my future (maybe there might be,
someday), I plan to study specific-frequency desensitization associated with
some of the "white noise" we experience in our daily lives and how this
directly affects the lives of musicians.


Don Chisholm
dchishol at oakland.edu

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