July 2015 Archives

Speak up

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Recently, I've noticed that my hearing hasn't been as sharp as it once was. In certain settings, it's difficult for me to hear people talking; I've found that my ears ring for an extended period of time following any exposure to loud noise (like when I run sound).

While normal ear plugs do an adequate job of protecting your hearing in most situations, they're absolutely horrible for use when I run sound at a gig, or when I'm at a concert and want to clearly hear the performance. I've tried everything from generic foam ear plugs, to fitted foam plugs, to products from Earasers (a semi-custom-fit ear plug), to some really bizarre looking cone-shaped plugs, and they all stink. They simply muffle and muddy-up the sound too much. I can't mix a show when I can't hear various nuances from the performance.

I was about ready to kiss the last of my hearing good-bye, when I stumbled across 100% custom fitted, musician's ear plugs. The company that produces them is called Sensaphonics and they promise that their ear plugs will protect your hearing while still allowing you to hear the full range of sound.

I was a little hesitant to dive-in and purchase these, especially since I had tried "semi-custom" ear plugs before (with mediocre results), and more so because they require an audiologist to take a custom impression of your ear canal so that Sensaphonics can create a set of plugs designed solely for your ears.

I read as much as I could find about the custom plugs and then set about finding an audiologist that could make the impressions for me. I found Dr. Veronica Heide of Audible Difference was a local authorized representative for Sensaphonics, so I scheduled an appointment and went in for a hearing test and fitting.

Dr. Heide is awesome. She's very friendly, super knowledgeable, and excellent at explaining everything in understandable detail. If you're looking for a set of custom-fit ear plugs or in ear monitors, I cannot recommend her strongly enough.

Upon arrival to her office, she used an interesting camera scope device to examine my ear canals. As she peered in, I could see what she was doing via a computer screen. She said that my canals looked good; there was a little bit of wax located quite a bit into the ear canals, but she expertly cleaned it away with a little tool. I snuck a picture of the inside of my ear canal from the scope device.

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Dr. Heide explained that wax is a good thing; she used a model to show me how your ear actually functions, how your brain interprets air movement against very fine hairs that it then uses to activate your ear drum. It was so interesting to see and learn about.

With my ears cleaned and ready to go, she then inserted a special device into my ear that measures your hearing sensitivity. Forget about the "standard" hearing tests where you're supposed to raise your hand when you hear a certain noise... this device was super cool and quite high tech. Here's a graph that shows what my hearing response was like for my left ear:

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The lowest green line (with the boxes) shows my hearing response... not good. :-( No wonder I couldn't hear a lot of people's voices - the frequency range where my hearing dips is right about where most people talk. Ugh.

Dr. Heide explained that my hearing will never improve - once it's damaged, that's it. She did say that with the ear plugs that I can avoid additional damage and preserve what's currently there. So, my timing could've been a little better (I should've done this years ago)...

With the tests complete, Dr. Heide used a special silicone-like epoxy to take an impression of my ear canals. The product reminded me a bit of Silly Putty; she carefully rolled it into a thin tube and inserted it into my ear (with a piece of string so that she could remove it). The substance expanded and when removed, yielded an exact replica of my ear canals. She sent those off to Sensaphonics, and within a few weeks, I had my custom ear plugs.

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I went to Dr. Heide's office to have the fit tested and verified - everything looked (and felt) great. She told me how to care for the ear plugs and gave me a few tips and tricks about them as well. She suggested that I label the carrying case so that if I were to forget them somewhere, someone would hopefully return them to me; hence, the Sharpie marks on the carrying case. :-)

So, how do they work, and why do they allow the full frequency response to get into your ears while attenuating the volume?

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See the white part in the center of the plug? That's a filter, that actually behaves like a passive speaker. The ear plug itself is molded and fit so that it blocks 100% of the sound entering your ear, and the little filter allows a much smaller volume of air to enter into your ear canal, thus lowering the volume that you hear, while still allowing the complete frequency range to get through.

You can swap out different filters to allow for more or less hearing protection as required. It was amazing to have the ear plugs in place yet be able to hear perfectly clearly. They're also very comfortable, which is a major bonus - no more fidgeting around with ear plugs and trying to get them to fit just right. These can only fit one way, and it's the correct way, every time.

So... whether you're a fan of concerts, club shows, sporting events, shooting firearms, or working in a noisy environment, I'd strongly urge you to protect your hearing as best as possible. And, there's no better way that I've found than with custom-fitted ear plugs. It's money well spent, and Dr. Heide is really awesome - you won't regret the purchase!

I can't make this up.

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I must be a glutton for punishment, a masochist, or some combination thereof.

A few days ago, I was sitting at home when I heard a "POP!" followed by a whistling noise, followed by the smell of natural gas. I rushed into my kitchen, where I discovered the source of the issue - my super ancient, super ratty, super tiny stove had failed and was now spewing natural gas into the house.

I quickly turned off the gas supply and opened all of the doors and windows. Whew. That could've been a disaster... I then set about searching for a new stove to replace the "apartment-sized" stove that had just failed.

An apartment-sized stove measures 24" wide. That means you can't set two frying pans side-by-side... not very convenient at all. I measured the available space for the stove and discovered I could squeeze in a 30" stove, which was excellent for a number of reasons. I'd have more available cooking space, and ironically, 30" stoves are less expensive than 24" stoves.

After much searching, I found that Best Buy had a beautiful Samsung 30" stove, and it was in stock, and it was on sale. Double win!

Except for the part where I had to deal with Best Buy again. Those with sharp memories may recall that I had a heck of a time obtaining a washer and dryer set from Best Buy. To say I was hesitant to deal with them would be an understatement, but I didn't have many options, so I ventured over to the store to place my order.

The order process was simple and went off without an issue. I reminded the employee about my previous experience, and he assured me things would be absolutely perfect this time around. He gave me his business card, which included a direct line to him, and an e-mail address. Perfect!

Upon returning home from Best Buy, I discovered an e-mail and a text on my phone. They both confirmed my order, and reiterated the delivery time and date: Tuesday, July 7, between the hours of 10:00am and 12:00pm. Things were looking up.

Fast forward to Monday, July 6.

I received a second set of e-mails and texts, both of which once again confirmed the delivery date as Tuesday, July 7 between 10:00am and 12:00pm. Superb!

Monday night (July 6), at around 10:30pm, I received an "unknown" call (no caller ID) and a voicemail that lasted six (6) seconds. The message said, "Your appliances will be delivered tomorrow between 1pm and 3pm."

Huh? That's confusing... And, I couldn't return the call, because there wasn't a number to call. Great.

So, on Tuesday morning, I grabbed my sales person's card and called his direct line. Voicemail. So, I left a message and requested clarification about the delivery time. I also sent an e-mail, which was promptly returned as "undeliverable" - the address was invalid. Oye. This was not looking good.

10:00am to 12:00pm came and went, without any sign of the Best Buy delivery truck. I called the direct number again - voicemail. So, I left another message. After stewing for a bit, I decided to drive over to Best Buy and talk to them in person.

The guy in the appliance department did some research and said, "Yep, here it is - confirmed 100% - your delivery time is 1pm to 3pm today."

I showed him the 4 e-mails and texts that showed 10:00am to 12:00pm, and he said, "I don't know who sent those, but it's wrong. It is 1pm to 3pm today."

I pointed out that they came from Best Buy, and he said, "But I don't know who sent those." Ugh. This was going nowhere, and 1pm was approaching, so I cut my losses and returned home to wait.

1:00pm to 3:00pm came and went. No truck. So, I called the store and spoke to the same person that I met with in person just a few hours earlier. I told him it was beyond 3:00pm, and I didn't have my stove. He said, "Oh yes, our drivers are very busy today and are running late. They will be there by 7:00pm."

What? You didn't know this when I met with you 2 hours earlier? Unbelievable.

At around 3:30pm, the truck arrived. The driver came up to my kitchen, looked at the existing gas line and went out to grab his tools. He came back with a pair of pliers, and tried to disconnect the gas line with a pair of small pliers... needless to say, the line wasn't budging.

I said, "You don't have a pipe wrench or even an adjustable wrench?" He said, "Nope, this is what I've got. You may have to call a plumber to have this disconnected and installed." (insert huge eye-roll from me)

I said, "I used to be a mechanic; I'll get my pipe wrench - hold on a second." I went out to the garage, grabbed some wrenches and proceeded to loosen the line in about 10 seconds. The driver said, "You seem to know what you're doing here. We'll go grab the new stove and bring it up."

The stove made its way into my house, at which point the driver said, "Here, sign this delivery receipt." I read it over, signed it, and said, "Ok, should we work on getting it unwrapped and placed?"

The driver said, "We're running late, so since you know what you're doing, I think we'll get moving." (insert another eye roll from me)

After they left, I noticed they had left their delivery manifest behind...

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Notice the red part that I circled? Seems to show my delivery was supposed to be the 5th stop, and take place between 10:28am and 11:03am. Morons. Not only are they morons, they're lying and deceitful morons. A double crime.

Fast forward to me trying to connect the new gas hose to my existing gas pipe... thanks to my ancient, cobbled-together house, the new gas hose would not fit my existing gas pipe. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

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Not only was the fitting too small, the pipe was too tall to allow me to flush-fit the stove against the wall. I'd have to shorten it and get a properly-sized fitting on it. Joy.

Frustration #3 manifested in gas pipes that had been put together not with teflon tape, but with some type of cementing compound. This made removing the existing pipes nearly impossible. I say nearly because there's no way I could've gotten them apart, were it not for the invaluable help of my local plumbing supply store owner, who lent me a nifty new-style pipe wrench that actually locked onto the pipe and didn't slip, no matter what. I owe that guy about 100 beers...

$14 in parts later, including a safety valve for the gas supply line (it detects line leaks and automatically shuts off the flow of gas if a leak is detected), and I had a workable solution. Here it is all put together and leak tested:

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Looks a little nicer and is a little more simple, eh?

With the gas line sorted, I unwrapped/packed the stove, put together the burner assemblies and grates, and set the stove in place (leveled it, secured it, etc). The finished product looks like this:

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So much nicer. However, I vow to never, ever purchase another appliance from Best Buy, no matter what. Those jokers are unbelievable (literally and figuratively)...

I spent the rest of the evening doing some guitar work with my pal Jeremy:

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My ESP Eclipse was in need of some TLC. Jeremy polished the frets, oiled the fret board, replaced the bridge, restrung it, and adjusted the intonation and action. I loved the guitar beforehand; now I'm head-over-heels about it. It's such a drastic improvement from the way it was. Looks like I also owe Jeremy 100 beers or so. :-)

And finally, throughout the entire ordeal of the appliances and guitar repair, this thing remained unimpressed and non-enthusiastic. Go figure.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2015 listed from newest to oldest.

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