Using Honolulu 311 and my adventure with hearing aids

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Just a few routine items.

First of all, a “thank you” to the garbage collectors of the city. Two weeks ago I submitted a photo of a piece of trash that was sitting along the pavement just down the street from our house. There was an upholstered chair, and what looked like maybe an old bed, and they had been sitting there for over a month, maybe even two months.

We had seen them in the morning and thought they had been put aside for a scheduled bulky item pickup, but that never happened. So I finally managed to submit an application through the Honolulu 311 system. That was two weeks ago. Then last Friday, I received a phone call asking me if the junk was still there, and assuring me that someone would come and assess it. I had to explain that the pile was growing, including what appeared to be a van’s load of yard waste. Then, just yesterday, surprisingly, the chair and other furniture was gone, but the yard waste was still there. But when we walked past the place before dawn this morning, even the garden waste had been cleaned up.

I’ve reported beach park graffiti and other issues before, and found the 311 system always gets a meaningful response from the city.

Now just a quick note on the new pair of hearing aids purchased at Costco and picked up yesterday.

It seems I’ve overestimated how long I’ve been dependent on hearing aids. I thought it must have been at least 15 years, maybe more, but after digging through all the information I could find, it looks like I bought my first pair in 2008, and this is my third pair, the second via Costco.

For a long time I didn’t realize that the problem was my own hearing rather than the world full of mumbling people. The straw that broke the camel’s back was realizing that I couldn’t hear the judge in a hearing even when I was sitting in the front row, about as close as I could get without being a defendant. I was going to interrupt and ask the judge to speak, but luckily I noticed that other people in the audience didn’t have the same problem.

So I went to get my hearing checked out, first to a posh ear, nose and throat doctor who was known to do a checkup, then to try and sell me a pair of hearing aids at an extortionate price. I entered my hearing test results and got out of there quickly before I was tricked or tricked into this unnecessary investment. Next stop, Ohana Hearing Care, a little shop in South Beretania where my mother had been going for years. Small place, personal attention, good service, cheaper than premium spread.

But by the time I went to get my next paycheck about five years later, I had read about the wonders of Costco hearing centers. An excellent warranty, including a period of coverage if you lose one of your devices. All at a much lower cost, with service available through any Costco that has a hearing center.

This first pair of hearing aids from Costco was purchased in October 2013. And they still worked pretty well, except they didn’t have the ability to work directly with my iPhone, and I thought the hearing tech had probably come a long way in those eight long years.

Anyway, I took another hearing test two weeks ago and was directed to the two products that make up the bulk of their sales, Costco’s own Kirkland model, a priced set very reasonably priced by a major manufacturer with most bells and whistles included, and the Jabra Enhance Pro PM, which costs several hundred dollars more.

I spent time trying to figure out the significant differences between them. Both have small receivers that fit behind your ear, with a small wire and speaker that fit into your ear. Very similar in size and appearance. The Jabra offers a choice of rechargeable or regular batteries, while the Kirkland was only available as a rechargeable version.

The Jabra boasts of lasting up to 30 hours on a charge, which claims to be “best in class”. I liked it. Then I saw that the Jabra was on Apple’s list of “certified for iPhone” models which they say should work fine if you live in the Apple environment. And that’s definitely where I reside, along with my Mac laptop, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. In the end, this influenced my choice and I opted for the Jabra.

There was a two week wait for delivery from the mainland, and my appointment to have it installed was Tuesday.

This involved nearly an hour of ‘calibration’, adjusting the hearing aids to compensate for specific problems in my own hearing, frequency by frequency. Lots of fine tuning it seems, then connecting to my iPhone properly, taking a practice ride after downloading the iPhone app, then I walked away with a new level of hearing.

I felt a very noticeable improvement. If my ears were eyes, their world started to look a little fuzzy, like letters on a vision board that were readable but didn’t qualify as “sharp”.

Now the world I hear is pretty “sharp” again, and I hear more talking, and watching TV, than I’ve heard recently. So far, even though it hasn’t been much more than 24 hours, I’m pretty impressed. Now I still have to play with the app’s “programs”, settings designed for common situations, being in a restaurant, focusing on hearing someone you’re talking to, or alternatively trying to function in a group. There is another program for listening to music or watching TV. Another that offers “ultra focus” on someone in front of you in a noisy environment. There are probably others that I haven’t worked with yet.

Costco offers this with a three-year warranty, including two years of replacement if lost. Free cleaning recommended every few months, which can be done while we shop at Costco.

I’m still getting used to the way the world sounds, and I imagine it will take my aging brain about a week to get used to it all. Right now count me as a very happy camper.

This is my experience. Your mileage may vary.

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