Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tone Deaf

Don’t let the title mislead you. I have sung my whole life—voice lessons starting at age three—so I know how to find a note and carry a tune …

…when I can hear it! One of my favorite chapters in Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights—the book—is called “Huh?” It’s about when I discovered that my natural hearing batteries were running low. So, I don’t excel in audio. But hearing aids?

Talk about a blow to the ego. I am a baby boomer. I am a vain baby boomer, so if I had to do some old lady’s gig, I wanted total in-canal aids, the kind you can’t see unless you’re looking for them with a magnifying glass.

I also wax poetic in my book—no ear pun intended— about how one of my favorite characters,
Gil Grissom on CSI, has a hearing problem far worse than mine. It could threaten his career, although I doubt that’s why his character will leave the show this season. And I reveal one of my nuttier pastimes, signing the words to “Who Are You” by The Who at the beginning of each show. That’s signing as in sign language, although I sing the song at the same time, too. Sign language is something I learned years ago, before I ever learned I might need it someday.

One of the drawbacks to
my jazzy little Phonak hearing aids is that they are omni-directional. Freely translated, when I hear a sound, I’m not sure which direction it’s coming from. This could be dangerous, if not fatal. Imagine a car or train with a loud horn blaring at me, and I think it is aiming at me from the left, and I jump right—into its path!

This is one reason why I’m letting my Audriologist—my audiologist named Audrey—talk me into a different kind of hearing aids next time around. She claims they’re still discreet. I claim you can see them short of a safari into my ear canals, which makes them distasteful. But I realize I won’t care what I look like if I’m (gulp) dead!

One of the other drawbacks to being omni-directional, besides not being sure where a sound is coming from--when a cell phone rings, I’m not sure whose it is. If you’re a cheapskate, like me, who balked at popping for a ring tone and paying extra, you’re stuck with the standard issue. Most people “mobilize” with only a few main carriers, so the chances are, your ring tone is on a lot of other people’s cell phones. I not only can’t tell where it’s coming from; I can’t tell if it’s mine. Joe Blow and Jane Doe, both standing within five feet of me, might have the same tone.

There’s one more issue. Am I the only person so annoyed by
Brenda Leigh Johnson’s ringtone on The Closer that I’d like to throw her phone against the wall? There is distinctive; then there is downright irritating. All the tones loaded into my newest cell phone are so obnoxious; it’s a clear conspiracy by my cell phone company to make more money selling sounds. Sounds a human being can actually stand.

True confessions: I have always wanted “Who Are You” as my ringtone. Not only am I an avid fan of all the CSI’s and their theme songs by The Who, but what could be cuter or more ironic? It rings and sings—“Who are you?” Purchasing ring tones is something I have always feared, especially with those crazy companies that have fine print, forcing you to sell your firstborn and all your grandchildren if you don’t pay a zillion dollars a month for the privilege of playing with cell phone music. They seem like scary swindlers and way too expensive.

Clearly, life was a lot simpler and cheaper when we had single-color, black rotary dial phones, when private lines were a newfangled luxury, and when our phone “numbers” were a misnomer, because they had both numbers and letters. (GArden 5-5194. Do you remember yours?)

Back from my nostalgia trip to today’s more complex communications: Late at night, I often can’t wind down, and that’s when I make my worst online purchasing mistakes—or get it right by accident—both of which happened with my new ringtones. I felt more comfortable buying them from
Verizon, my carrier. After all, we already have a personal relationship, and if they pull a fast one, I can take my business elsewhere. After my new two-year contract expires.

On previous searches, I’d never been able to find a major company that carried “Who Are You,” only those in the scary-expensive category. To my delight, Verizon now has it! I like to do a different tone for calls from home and my husband’s cell, calls that come only from him. (The cats haven’t mastered calling. Hard to do without opposable thumbs.) For Tim, I chose “
My Guy” by Mary Wells, a boomer classic I adore, one we often play on the jukebox at Mel’s.

Now for the mistake. I noticed there were two categories, ringtones and ringback tones. I wasn’t sure what ringback tones were, I was tired, and I bought one—another boomer fave, “You’ve Got a Friend.” This version is sung by Carole King.

I found out it’s “on hold” music while your phone connects. So, my friends will know they’ve got me, even if they don’t have me on the line. “Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend?” Be patient. She’s coming!

This trio only cost me a one-time fee of $3 for each ringtone and $2 for the ringback tone. Of course, there’s a $1/month access fee for ringtones, so figure with the $12 annual charge, it’s $20. And another $12 next year, the year after, etc. They were my birthday present to myself for the joy I’ll get hearing those tunes each time the phone rings—and knowing it can only be my phone.

The new hearing aids cost $5,000. I think I got an incredible bargain by comparison.

Still, my new ringtones don’t tell me which direction the train is coming from ……


Pat Montgomery said...

Very interesting for me--my hearing is going. Maybe I will need to talk to your

Teri Dempski said...

I know my time is coming, I can already tell my hearing is not what it once was. The TV is a little louder and the volume is way up on my phone.

Ringtones, I'm like you, just a little afraid to cross that bridge. I always make do with the standards, but I also have mine vibrate too, and I carry it in my pocket.

I loved looking at your slide show!

Nice post!

Melodieann said...

That's the solution Teri! It's the same one I use. Since I can't have a ringtone I like without joining some 'tone of the month' club, I simply set mine to vibrate and carry it in my pocket. Even if it's just laying around the house, it makes enough noise vibrating that most times I can still hear it. Even without hearing aids!

Anonymous said...


My hearing has actually gotten better. I don't have patience, though for annoying sounds, or everybody using speakerphones.

Glad that you are finding the right combination of medical help and changing your behavior and environment for the best options!

Take Care,


PopArtDiva said...

Okay, here's what ya do: cut off the cord from an old cell phone headset and glue it to your hearing aid that you think is too visable. Let the cord hang down into your blouse (so nobody notices it's not attached to an actual cell phone!) People will just think your hearing aid is a cell phone headset!

I'm with you - that Nokia ring tone drives me bonkers on The Closer everytime Brenda's phone rings. I want to grab her phone and upload a cool ringtone to it - something like I SHOT THE SHERIFF or maybe the shows own Theme music!!

I have uploaded some fun retro tv themes to my phone - if you call me my phone will play The Mickey Mouse Club or Davy Crockett or even Captain Kangaroo, but my favorite is the cartoon theme from Dudley Do Right!

Joyce Mason said...

OK, Teri and Melodieann--you're going to get me to buy clothes with pockets yet! Thanks for the good vibrations!