A while back, I started hearing (!) about a new product from Bose. This is a company well respected for building quality sound systems. They sell radios, speaker systems and all sorts of stuff to make enjoying TV and music nice. I have one of their Bluetooth speaker systems in my workshop, where it latches onto my phone when I step inside and I can play music when I am working. Nice
The new product is a weird gadget that looks like this:
This crazy thing fits around your neck, and those weird gadgets at the end of rubber tubes are baby speakers, one for each ear. The funny rubber hook shaped gizmos on each side help keep the speakers in your ears.
In that neck ring is a bunch of fancy electronics and batteries. The batteries in this thing are recharged using my iPhone charger, and they last about 10 hours.
As Dr. Lai at M.D. Anderson said after my surgery there:
We kinda eradicated the eustacian tube in there!
What he meant to say was that the tube that runs from behind my ear drum into my sinus area, allowing fluid that builds up back there to drain away, was gone in my left ear. Fluid is still building up, but it cannot escape. If nothing is done, my hearing on that side evaporates.
I have been having Dr Scholl put a small plastic tube into my ear drum to drain the fluid, and that helps. But it only lasts a while. As the tube clogs up my hearing varies from "I can just about hear", to "I can't hear a thing"!
Worse yet, old age is hurting the hearing on my right side as well.
The result is obvious!
I don't her so good
Dr. Scholl had me get a pair of standard hearing aides, and those things cost $4000. Fortunately, my health plan covered them, but I do not now if I can replace them, and , if so, how long before I can do that.
I was starting to get annoyed with them. They can be adjusted, just not by me. If I ma`ke an appointment with the clinic where I got them, they can make one louder than the other, which helps me hear in my left ear, while amplifying the right at the same time.
The problem with this setup is that I can not get the left side loud enough to really hear out of that side, except right after Dr. Scholl puts in a new tube.
Slowly, my left ear fades from usefulness.
New Hearing Aides
The latest hearing aides work better, and some come with iPhone apps to let you play around with the balance at home. Much nicer, but another pair of those will cost around $4000 again. I was just about to try some of those, when the Bose product showed up.
And it is a hot seller!.
Bose makes a lot of fancy headphones for music lovers, and some that cancel out noise or even muffle it. You see folks wearing these on airplanes so they do not need to listen to my old Chief Scientist I used to work with, Hans Von Ohain's invention - the jet engine. (You did not know I worked with the inventor of the jet engine? You should dig nto my old blog postings!)
All of those headphones are designed to work with your music source, usually a phone. (Gee, I thought phones were for making calls to other human beings. These days, most folks text with their phones, then play games, update Facebook, or listen to music the rest of their time. Until they go to sleep!)
The new Bose gadgets are called "HearPhones" and are designed to help people hear better. They are not just for the hard of hearing, they also improve your ability to hear conversations in a noisy room. They can be used to listen to TV, or music as well.They do not need a phone, since they have their own microphones to pick up sounds, and they can greatly improve the quality of the sound you end up hearing.
The Bose App
Bose has an iPhone (and others) app that lets you control how this thing works. You can adju things so it focuses on sound straight in front of you, (which I use when teaching), or it can pick up sounds in a wide arc around you in a group setting. In fact, it supports four customizable "zones" you can tune to your liking.
These gadgets cost $500, and I was hearing that everyone who had a set loved them.
Only problem was that they were no where to be found. I tried Best Buy, and two Bose stores near me, and no one had a set to try out. I did not feel like spending that much money, sight unseen, before actually holding a set and hearing it work.
San Marcos Outlet Mall
Cheryl and I occasionally go to San Marcos to the Outlet Mall there to buy clothes. A few weeks ago, Cheryl needed a few new outfits, so we headed to her favorite place there, Chicos. A few doors down was one of the Bose outlet stores.
After we finished at Chicos, we walked over to the Bose store. I intended to ask them when they expected to see these critters. Wonder of Wonders, they had a real set in the store. It had been returned by someone who wanted a less expensive set, and they decided to keep the thing for demonstrating. It was not even on display.
The clerk let me try them on, and he set up an iPad to control it. I put them on and cold hear Cheryl from some distance away. That was great. Usually, even with my hearing aides, I need to be fairly close to someone to make out what they are saying.
I decided I did want a set, but I had to order the thing, since they were not in stock. It would probably take a week to get them.
Oh well! I placed the order, and paid for the them with my credit card.
The next day, with a receipt in hand saying everything was cool, I got an email from Bose telling me that my card had been declined. Funny, it worked when I paid for the things, and there was no reason that there should have been a problem.
I called the next day to see what was up. The person on the phone told me the same story, and asked if I wanted to place the order again. I was a bit suspicious about this whole thing, but I called Bose directly, and did not use the number on the email message, just in case. Still, I was not going to give out my card number again, so I told the person to run the card again and see what happened.
No problem, just like when I placed the order. A bit embarrassed by the situation, the Bose person upgraded my order to next day Air, and I had a set the very next morning.
Sometimes it pays to press for better service, and not let them tell you what to do.
Now I have much better control of my hearing. Things are not perfect, but much improved. That is, as long as I am willing to look a bit weird when wearing these things.
The HearPhones come with three sets of attachments for folks with different sized ears. I have tried all three before finding a set that seems to fit right. The fitting is a bit finicky. These devices sample the sound outside, then inside your ear and process both to make the sound better. If the fitting is not right, they can shit down completely. When I was trying the ear adapters that were not the right size, I occasionally had everything go quite.
The biggest of them is what I landed on, and things are much better now.
I have worn them in several of my classes, and I can hear student asking questions much better. I can even hear them sleeping (if they snore), but I wake them up in those cases. Yuk, Yuk!
I am also able to her the radio in my truck at a much lower volume, and I can hear the TV much lower as well.
What is fun is playing with the Bass and Treble settings. If I turn the Treble all the way up, students sound like Micky Mouse. If I turn that down, and the Bass all the way up, they all sound like James Earl Jones (This is CNN, for those old enough to remember that).
What was hilarious what what I discovered this afternoon.
I walked across my yard to go to the mail box and heard every blade of grass crunch as I walked on it. Never heard such a thing. I thought I was walking on Rice Crispies!
I also heard a bird in the top of a tree, and I thought it was on my shoulder.
I probably had the volume adjusted way too high, but i did not have my phone in my pocket, so that was it, I had to hear things they way they were set.
The next time I go visit Dr. Scholl, we are going to play with these things in his office. He had heard of them, but never actually saw a set. Maybe I cheated his business out of a new pair of hearing aides, but in the end, these things make my life better.
I am glad I spent the $500 for them.
Wait, I hear a bird in the tree, three houses away. I better go check on him!