Technology Is Beautiful, When It Works

One of my favorite sayings is “technology is wonderful when it works, when it quits working life suddenly becomes horrible. A couple of weeks ago I experienced a failure of the connection between my phone and my ears. We sent a man to the moon and recently landed an unmanned ship on Mars, but we are still unable to produce a hearing aid that works effectively. My aid is made by Siemens, a German company the size of General Electric. Their products are world renown for reliability. One of their most reliable products is jet engines. Yet, when it comes to the lowly hearing aid it lacks something. Probably because everything they make is the size of a locomotive and the hearing aid is the size of a pea. The hearing aid I currently used is a now called Signia. Siemens finally decided to break off the hearing aids from their parent company and to let it stand on its own. That is common is big business. Cut it loose and let if fly on its own.

Bluetooth technology is separate from Siemens, and most likely Siemens has a license agreement with Bluetooth to connect their hearing aids to the rest of the world and to my ears. It is Bluetooth that allows my phone to be piped into my ear. For a hearing impaired person that is a miracle. Listening to a phone conversation over a common phone or a device like the iPhone is not a pleasant experience. First, if I hold the phone too close to my ear I get a shrill feedback. Second, If I accidentally touch my cheek against the touch pad I readily disconnect myself in favor of some app on my phone. Third, phone companies today cut the amount of energy and effort it takes to transmit real sound over the airwaves. They conveniently cut frequencies that they deem unnecessary for people to hear a conversation. To a hearing impaired person these missing sounds contribute to their handicap. When I get the sound piped into my ear directly, it is a thousand times more effective. The same holds true for televisions and radios. With the Blue Tooth device sending the sound directly into my ear the experience is enjoyable. As opposed to listening to a program via tinny-television speakers into a tiny hearing aid microphone located behind my ear and then piped into my ear canal through a tiny hearing aid receiver. I love my Blue Tooth, except when it stopped working.

My trusty Bluetooth pendant has hung around my neck for three plus years without any disruption in service. Each night I plug it into a charger and in the morning I rehang it on my body. The necklace is really an antenna it uses to transmit signals. If I take the necklace off I no longer get sound piped directly into my ears. I made an appointment with my audiologist to have it fixed.

Siemens Easy Tech Pendant for Bluetooth

In the past year I have had a couple of problems with my hearing aids and have had to take them in for service. Because of COVID I could not enter the building. I called when I arrived and they came out to my car to learn what the complaint was. This time, I called thinking the routine is the same. It changed. They now allowed me to enter and I was able to sit opposite the technician and explain my problem. I asked him where Dr. Laura was. He said she no longer works for us. I know she would have been able to resolve the problem much quicker but she wasn’t there any more. Mike as he is called honestly told me he has never seen a device such as mine. After all it is three years old and technology changes rapidly. He found a number on the device and called it. Luckily, the other end knew of this model and told him it is repairable for a fortune. Visions of spending a fortune to have this device repaired and then my hearing aids crash. This is the third set I have owned and each has failed at three years and a few months. Regardless, it is only money so I went for the repair. Hopefully, the aids will last long enough to make it worthwhile.

Technology is beautiful when it works, but when it doesn’t I want to stomp on it.

Cold Callers

Is it just me, or is there an inordinate amount of people calling who are interested in wasting my time with their sales pitch? I try to be polite to these callers, but that is asking a lot when they insist on being aggressive in their approach. The latest barrage of callers is trying to make me switch out my insurances. I tell them I am very happy with a forty year relationship with my insurance company, and the caller has the audacity to ask why am I so happy? One reason is because I don’t get aggravating calls from my guys and gals, but they do listen when I call them. That is when they make me very happy.

Over the last four years I have been questioning myself over the sanity of keeping a telephone line. Ninety-nine percent of the calls I receive are from telemarketers, and or scams. Why do I continue to pay a high price to have a service at my disposal that is not being utilized? How stupid can one be? Two stupid is what I say. I have two phone systems at my hand and only one of them is mildly useful. I have to admit that I like my cell phone much better than the land line. At least with my smart phone I can get the caller streamed right into my ears through Bluetooth. That means I can hear the caller. On the land, line I rely on getting the noise transmitted to my hearing aid microphone which does a somewhat crappy job of interpreting the noise and translating it into intelligible speech. My calls kind of go like this:

“Please speak louder I can barely hear you.”

“IS THIS BETTER?”

“Yes, but only slightly”

The caller then realizes he has a crack-pot on the phone and tries to hurry the call. I say, “please slow down your speech, I am very hard of  hearing and it takes me more time to process what you are trying to say.”

“Ohh, I’mm soorrry, I’ll try to speaak morre cleaarly.”

“You still sound like you are calling from a sewer in China.”

Thus goes the conversation, but inevitably I’ll finally figure out what the person is selling and then end the call. My goal is to make certain the caller is as relieved as I am at ending.

Things might be better if the phone services would send all the sound over the lines. In their attempt to streamline and reduce costs they eliminate much of the digital signal. I now understand why there is a resurgence in sales of vinyl records. People seem to believe that the sound they get from an old fashioned vinyl disk is much more rich than that of the digital noise they get from Apple.

Add the complications of phone companies trying to conserve bandwidth to the sound interface between the caller’s microphone to my telephone receiver, to my hearing aid microphone, and then into my tired ear mechanism and multiply it by the caller’s national dialect, his inability to enunciate, and the speed with which he speaks, and I don’t care. I think the phone companies should pay me for the calls they put through because of the extra time it takes me to get rid of these callers.

Some of the worst calls come from the Mid-eastern countries that learned to speak English from the British and have mixed it with their native language. To me they sound like they are speaking with a mouth full of marbles while under water.

Over the past many calls I have learned not to answer immediately. If I hesitate and stay quiet the call doesn’t connect me to the recording or an actual human. I wait for them to say hello and ask for me before I engage. When they do engage I wait long enough to learn what they are pitching and then hang up. I will often try searching for the number to determine where the call originated. Usually, I  learn that the company has a block of numbers from which they call. So If I place a block on a caller another caller from the same place will call a day later.

After insurance salesman, the next most aggravating caller is the professional fund raiser. My most polite answer is that “I can’t afford a thing at this time, thank you for calling” click. The worst experience is when I am too slow in responding and the guy takes off like a rocket with his spiel and I have to get a word in edgewise. Usually that occurs when he asks for an answer to a yes, I will donate question. I will tell him I can’t and he immediately goes into another endless rant about the importance of supporting his cause. When I finally get a moment to speak I say. “You didn’t hear me did you, I can’t” CLICK. The ugliest trick is when I put the receiver down and walk away. Eventually the phone gives me the disconnect signal.

None of these ploys is fun, nor is it exciting to me in any way. At times I empathize with the poor guy calling because it is his job and I begin to think about his situation  with a wife and ten kids at home all in college for a nano-second and then regain my sensibility. You have to love rejection to have a job like that, and I would have to be desperate hungry to become a telemarketer.

 

Hacked?

Behind the ear aid

Behind the ear aid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A strange thing happened to me yesterday which drove me crazy. Since I recently reached middle age, I can admit that one of my physical deficiencies is poor hearing. My love-hate relationship with a pair of world renown Siemens hearing aids began three and a half years ago. I love my aids when they work, and I hate them when they do not, or are marginal at best.

This day, they worked. Peg and I sat having lunch within a few feet of our TV listening to news as we usually do. The house was cool, but not cold, while the outside temperature stood at ninety-two degrees. I spent the morning working on the 2013 Monet Vision and came in rather sweaty, but by the time we had lunch I felt dry.

My aids sent me a string of tones of unusual sequence. The electronics will send me a set of four notes running down the scale when a battery dies, but this one was entirely different it went up and then flat. Within a few seconds of the alarm, the aids shut down. I didn’t panic immediately, I just pressed the button on the right aid and turned them back on. The two devices respond to each other wirelessly. Within a few seconds I got another set of tones and a shut down. Oh, oh I thought, this is not good. This time I pushed the button on the left side and they turned back on, but without the usually tonal ping that says ‘I am on” yet in deed, both aids were on. The signal tones and shut-downs lasted for a good ten minutes as I played with the buttons and the aids continued to communicate with each. Peggy thought I was going crazy. I left the table to install a new set of batteries. Nothing changed, they continued to shut down after sending tones from one ear to the other in various notes.

I removed the faulty aids and installed my new MSA30X sound amplifiers that I bought from a TV ad for $47.95. WOW! They do amplify. They do such a good job, I could hear every sound 30 times louder than normal even though I had them turned down to low. Background noises are the worst, and Peg’s voice still unintelligible. I couldn’t take these new aids either.

I spent the rest of the afternoon reading in wonderful silence. By the evening hour I decided to try using one aid alone. Since the right one seemed to respond more normally, I put it in and turned it on. It worked, and I didn’t get the Mexican Hat Dance playing before shutdown.

This morning I reversed the order and used only the left unit, it worked. After two hours of trouble free function, I installed the right unit. I turned them both on, and experienced wonderful stereo sound again. So far, they are still functioning (knock on wood), and I am back in the “love” phase.

All I can deduce is that the NSA read my boring e-mails, and because they didn’t find anything incriminating they went one step further to hack into my head through my hearing aids. What other explanation can there be?

Tracey J Boothe Publishing Blog

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