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.

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?