What do Tinnitus, Costco, and a 6000 lb Dog Whistle Have in Common?

Short answer: Hearing.  And if you’re 28 0r 30 and figure you can skip this article, you just..might..want to linger a moment if you’re thinking you might make it to 50 or 6o some day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo solve the above riddle, the tricky one is the dog whistle.  The T-37 twin jet trainer,which I learned to fly on, had that nickname for a reason.  High-pitched jet engines will deafen you in 45 seconds should you forget your bunny ears.  Add to that one memorable Joe Cocker concert at F&M played at 5000 db, plus a torrid love affair with Ms.Winchester, Ms. Remington, and Ms. Colt…and you’ve planted the seeds for a visit to….guess where: Costco!  …..Huh?

aaaaa  costcoCostco: is an interesting corporation that wisely realized that hearing aids are  soooo overpriced that they could actually give people a break on the cost and still make gobs of money.  Truth be known, I doubt that the actual components of any hearing aid cost much more than $100.   But watch out.  You can splurge and spend 3 or 4k a pair if you go to a boutique supplier who sells three or four a week.  Check it out for yourself and spend a fraction of that amount.  I am in no one’s pocket.  I already paid full price for mine.  But I did my homework on Google, as did the New York Times in a recent article. Figure on paying about half as much at Costco, and…the examination is included in the price.

Tinnitus:  It’s a phantom sound, which means it’s occurring  inside your brain.  Shove an earplug in your ear and you’ll hear the tinnitus even better!  It’s the reward you can get from living la vida loca.  LOVE rock concerts?  Me too!  But, ya play…ya pay.  I paid dearly.

aaa -Tinnitus-RingingCoping:  Where tinnitus gets tricky is if you find yourself fixating on the sound as in, “For the love of GOD, please go away for just five f–king minutes of silence!”   Tinnitus won’t ever go away except when you’re asleep.  I don’t think there’s a term for audio claustrophobia…but it’s real.  There were times early-on when I wanted to gouge my ear out.  Don’t do that…the tinnitus might still be there.  The only deal in town, and trust me, is to make peace with the monster.

Some people don’t try.  Some have nervous break-downs.  Some have worse…the worst.  The word of the day is: ADAPT.  I call tinnitus my on-call white noise machine because sometimes, when one of my pups (or some other individual) is snoring in bed, I can turn my bad ear in their direction and Voila!!!  I’m not a big rap music fan and I do my little maneuver for that as well.   And you’d be surprised to discover how many people have hearing loss and/or tinnitus.  The thing is, no one wants to admit it much less talk about it.

aaa looking-in-the-mirror

Yup, that’s Rob Lowe gazing in the mirror. Rob’s deaf in his right ear, too.

And here’s the crux of this story:  Your biggest enemy?  Care to guess?  It’s our own ego.  Go look in the mirror.  That’s the person you have to convince and win over.  For men and women, no matter how intelligent you are, the argument goes:  But, it puts me into a different category.  It starts with a G and rhymes with tweezer.  No one on the planet wants that label.  But guess what, when you have to ask your family and friends to repeat themselves…fairly often, they already know what’s going on.  And the truth is, they’d MUCH, MUCH prefer you stick something totally invisible behind your ear so you can re-enter the human race.

Question:  Do you find sometimes that when you go out with friends to a noisy restaurant, you’re faking the amount you understand more than you used to?   Join the club.  Because most of my affliction occurs in the right ear, I would carefully plan and claim the chair that pointed my “good ear” in the  desired direction.   It sorta works a little bit…  Does it fool my friends?  I seriously doubt it.

My first experience with people who really needed hearing aids.  My in-laws.  God, it was awful.  Decades ago we’d fly down to Florida to visit them at their apartment in Sea Winds.  Their TV was set to stun small animals and when they talked to each other, it was just below an all-out yell.  Both insisted they didn’t need any help.  In fact, their  pig-headedness truly cut them off from the world.  I vowed not to go that route twenty years ago.

A Point:  I think we boomers should come up with a better term than hearing aid.  It stinks.  I don’t like it and I don’t intend to put up with it.   Ever hear of Blue Tooth?  It’s state of the art.   Now, with a little help from my friends, we substitute Silver Tooth for the mundane… hearing aid.  I’ve got a state-of -the-art Silver Tooth, that’s T-coil and i-Pod enabled…AND IT ROCKS!!!  


I was going to take a new shot, but Pam said, “Why? You can’t see it anyway.” So…here’s what I look like with the thing installed.

Vanity:  Like most mature guys, I am quietly vain and highly insecure.  First fitting yesterday, Dave at Costco slips a thing the size of a teardrop jelly bean behind my ear and a tiny tube in my ear.  I ask Pam, “How bad is it?”  I turn my head so she can see.  She puts on her glasses.  “Did he put it in?  I can’t see anything.  I can’t see anything at all!”  Bottom Line: technology has gotten better.  It’s not like the olden days.  It’s virtually invisible.

Das Test:  Takes half an hour and is more sophisticated than you might expect.  Tip:  DON”T CHEAT!  Dave related an anecdote of a middle-aged guy who really wanted to ace the test.  Two minutes into it, Dave stopped.  “I’m not playing anything and you’re still hitting the damn button.  Do you want to play or do you want me to help you?”  The test was painless and about as effortless as you can get.  I was surprised.  By the way, Dave was aces.

First Impressions:  The part behind your ear is about the same as when you  first put glasses on.  In short, if you’ve worn glasses or sunglasses, no big deal.  The wire goes in your ear.  You can feel it a little but I’m pretty sure in an hour or so your brain will forget about it.  Not heavy, not intrusive.

The Sound:  Dave warned me.  He said, “Your brain has been adapting to your lousy hearing in your right ear for years.  What you hear will sound too loud…period.  In reality, it will be exactly the same as what your left ear experiences.  It takes time for your brain to relearn. ” He was right.  It sounded a bit sharp and a bit loud.  More importantly, however, I felt like my right ear had been turned off for the past five years.  It was back on again.  Pam and I walked around Costco, a noisy, tinny, non-desirable place to test a hearing aid (?)  Dave had an answer ready:  “Go walk around in the real world, Henry.”  Point taken.

Pamela noticed two things right away.  (1)  I was smiling  (2) I was talking more softly.  Pam always walks on my left.  Today she walked on my right and then behind me.  She talked softly and even turned away as she spoke……..and I COULD HEAR HER!   Then she started murmuring little naughty things behind me and I began cracking up.  Yeah. It works.  Dave said it’d take me 20+ minutes to even give it any kind of a fair chance.  It took me five.   We walked back and I jutted two thumbs way up in the air.

A surprise I wasn’t expecting:  He removed my  ‘invisible dual-quad, supercharged, hemi-head Silver Tooth’  and here’s exactly what it felt like.  It felt like someone had yanked the wire off one of my stereo speakers.  It felt like someone had made a loud noise and I was temporarily deafened.  I wanted it back, even after five minutes.

The most important thing you need to take to Costco is a positive attitude.  All else will fall into place.  I expect to give you a follow-up in the near future.


P.S.  You’d be amazed how many famous people have hearing problems.  Start with about 75% of all the 60s-80s rock stars.   Add Stephen Colbert,  Bill Shatner,  Bill Clinton, Rob Lowe, and a cast of thousands and you’ll get the idea.

Some questions I have that no one has answered yet.  Like Bose speakers, is there any progress in isolating the sound of my tinnitus so my Silver Tooth can produce an out-of-phase signal…effectively canceling out my tinnitus?  No one can answer that for me……YET.  Anyone interested in pursuing this???

Question two:   Do they make sunglasses that incorporate a Silver Tooth into the eyeglass arms?  It’s prime real estate for the device and would make them even more convenient.

Question Three:  With Graphene and other technological breakthroughs, can I expect my Silver Tooth to have a base and treble so I can get really, really super sound interpretation?  If not…. CHOP CHOP.   We boomers know what’s possible.  Let’s get working on the newest iteration of Silver Tooth.  Beethoven is waiting,  Shubert is waiting.  The Band is waiting.  JT is waiting.  CCR is waiting.  Rap music?  Not so much.





10 Responses to "What do Tinnitus, Costco, and a 6000 lb Dog Whistle Have in Common?"

  1. Henry Harvey says:

    My girlfriend has been selling eyewear for years. I see a patent for hearing aids in temple of eyeglasses.
    Pam Farrior

  2. Henry Harvey says:

    Hey Pam! You’re right on target. I did a little sleuthing and apparently there’s a corporation in the Netherlands that is right on the cusp of making a viable eyeglass hearing aid. It seems like a no-brainer…………….except if you take your glasses off to clean them, you go “off-line” for a minute or so.


  3. Henry Harvey says:

    You gotta be kidding me. Ever since i somehow got randomly on your email
    list, I’ve been forwarding 90% of them to all my friends and family
    because they’re so chock full of common sense and not so common sense. And
    we have corresponded. But this takes the cake. It’s like you wrote this
    one to me.

    About 20 years ago, around age 26, i had a random episode of violent
    vertigo. Full on crawling spinning puking stay in bed for 2 days vertigo.
    Then another like every 6 months for about 2 years. Then mild vertigo
    every day, then gradual hearing loss and increasing tinnitus ( how do YOU
    pronounce it?). After a full on cat scan and other tests i finally found
    out i have Meneires Disease. Now at 47 I live every day with mild to
    sever tinnitus and about 90% hearing loss in my right ear. At first I
    tried quitting everything. Salt, chocolate, sugar, caffeine. Basically
    life. Finally i just learned to deal with it and now I’m used to it.
    Playing loud music and electric guitar for years could not have helped.

    However it is not so easy for my fiends and family and students. They
    constantly have to repeat themselves and i always have to put my good ear
    to them if i want to hear. Noisy places with lots of voices are like Hell
    and i can never make out anything. I had visited an audiologist years back
    but was always under the impression that a hearing aid would exacerbate my
    tinnitus. Is that not the case?

    We love Costco and the wife and I go there all the time. I think i need to
    check this out. How much did it cost you? I think one of the things that
    kept me from trying one was the cost and the fact that it wasn’t covered
    by insurance. Reading this has got me really stoked to check it out. I
    guess they aren’t waterproof or anything but they sound really non
    intrusive. So does the increased volume in your right ear help mask the

    Thanks again Henry for another post that has had a positive impact on my
    life. Nice to know i am in such good company. I really dig Rob Lowe and
    Colbert. And you of course. Haha.


    • Henry Harvey says:

      Hey Jonathan,

      I always pronounced it tinn eye tis. When I talked to the audiologist I asked the same thing. He said tinn eye tis, too…it always seemed like I was sticking my pinky finger out to say it the other way.
      Okay, short answer: tinnitus doesn’t get amplified at all, because it’s not a real sound, it’s a sound our brains generate somehow. No sweat on that one.

      Just got an email from a buddy whose wife spent $5000 a year ago on a pair. He wished I’d written the article a year ago. Anyway, you can spend anywhere from about $800 to 1300+ for one. ….sounds like you only need one as I do. I spent $1200 on mine….coulda spent less.

      They have a three month honeymoon time where you can return it and get your money back…no sweat. So why the hell not try it???? The biggie…and it’s a biggie. Some people adapt quickly. Some people take 3-4 weeks for the brain to acclimate. When you put it in your ear, that ear which is down 90% has become the norm for your brain. First time you put one on it will sound too loud and too tinny. But you’ll hear stuff. It gets better.
      FWIW, you article made my day, Jonathan. Thanks for that.

      Getting deeper into the tinnitus, I’m trying to get the right people together to do a little experimenting on setting up a device that’ll allow you to tune in and duplicate the precise sound of your personal tinnitus. (We’re all a little different). Once a sophisticated tone generator is put together, creating that sound….out of phase (peaks where the troughs should be and vice versa) then, at least in theory, we can make the tinnitus appear to disappear inside out brains.

      Have a good night.

  4. Henry Harvey says:

    Icks naaa on the rap say!
    Sherrell bought a $5000 pair a few years back and put them in her jewelry condo. Hated them. But, I hate that I have to expain every show, every movie, every speech. Really, it is just a little annoying. She puts up with my MS and my scotch, so….another dram please!
    Glad to read you love yours, and the Band again.

  5. Henry Harvey says:

    I think the big wrinkle is the fact that when you first try them out, your brain has spent years adapting to the loss. It takes weeks to a month for the brain to truly “rewire” itself. You gotta hang in there and really give it a good shot. Costco also has a 90 day honeymoon period if you just can’t adapt to them.

  6. Henry Harvey says:

    Having worked around jets my whole navy career, I got use to ALWAYS having foamies in my ears. Every jacket and pants pocket had them in it so I always had them with me….part of the uniform. Another habit I had was to ALWAYS wear foamies when I used ANY power tool inside or outside the house. When I had my hearing tested a few years ago, the technician asked me to verify my age. She w surprised because said I had the hearing of a 20 year old. No wonder I’m always asking people to please turn the volume down. Taking care of your assets when you’re young and invulnerable proved to be wise. At 75, the hearing is still good. You did a nice thing by removing the stigma of wearing Bose speakers for those who need it.

    BZ my friend,

  7. Henry Harvey says:

    Good show, Phil.
    I’m guessing there was someone in your life, who showed you the route to take. Thank them as well.

  8. Henry Harvey says:

    Hi Henry,

    Thanks for spreading the gospel on hearing protection. Sadly, younger folks aren’t prone to believe in their mortal obsolescence and, ironically enough, ‘won’t listen’ until it’s too late for them as well. Take it from someone who’s youthful garage band misadventures landed me squarely in the same boat. Re your question on applying an out-of-phase suppression methodology to eliminate or reduce tinnitus, my guess is that it won’t work. With audio noise suppression technology, the out-of-phase energy waves moving through air essentially deconstruct each other as they intersect. As you point out, with tinnitus there is no sound energy moving through air – the noise signal is entirely electric and within our nervous system. Adding an additional audio signal won’t effect that electrical signal and may even leave you hearing both tones, as strange as that might seem. I suspect a solution will require some type of intervention in the nervous system itself and is likely years away.

    But keep thinking – I’m all for anyone trying to solve the tinnitus issue! BTW, were those ‘olden days’ before or after the days of yore? 🙂


  9. Henry Harvey says:

    Hi Rick,

    Thanks for your superb assessment of what I feared regarding the tinnitus. It makes sense that you can solve with phasing, something that isn’t a real (mechanical) tone to begin with.
    Still, I’d love to be able to dig deeper and learn where that tone is being generated. There must be some tiny pea-size piece of grey matter that’s sending it out. Love to “pop it” with a discreet laser shot.


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