If you watch the Yin & Yang of cable news channels often (CNN and Fox News), you probably can replay those “Listen Up” hearing device ads in your sleep by now. Yes, that’s the product that’s apparently adamant on putting the hearing aid industry into the red. Certainly from their commercials, it looks like an ingenious product with a reasonable price besides. But their commercials also straddle the line of pure camp, especially with the actors they hire to make it look like the greatest invention of all time. If you don’t at least laugh internally at the sight of the perturbed wife yelling at her husband to turn his music or TV show down, then you’re apparently too easily convinced by bad actors in commercials.
Well, of course, the major selling point of the “Listen Up” device isn’t just the supposed ability to more prominently hear music and TV shows when the sound is down. The commercial also turns this device into a product that compromises private conversations that are out of earshot. Some might feel creepy watching a ubiquitous TV mail order male actor (those people do get around) put on the Listen Up device and overhear women talking about him while working out in the gym. The camp factor goes into full tilt when it gives the idea to guys they’ll be able to hear women remarking about how hot you are.
Sure, guys might be disappointed in what they really hear from afar when they put this device on their ears.
When it comes to being able to hear people talking outside of hearing distance, there isn’t a doubt that the Listen Up device works. All you need to see are the reviews on Amazon.com (here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000QJ9M2M) to have evidence that this thing amplifies sound. What the commercials don’t say is that it not only amplifies people talking off in the distance, but also every other sound within the same parameter. That might explain why so many people are giving it one star on Amazon, plus saying it’s a rip-off.
One thing you can say about Listen Up is that it at least might be a fair alternative to a hearing aid for those who can’t afford one. A lot of health insurance policies don’t even cover a hearing aid, which might seem unfathomable to those who think hearing loss is covered in most health plans. For those inflicted with degraded hearing, it’s not exactly an easy road, so you can be sure the people making the Listen Up device are making a cleaning on those who want to not only hear better but also want to eavesdrop on conversations. While the latter might be dangerous in certain circumstances, being able to hear absolutely everything could be equally dangerous.
Ok, since I’m one who has the hearing of a canine (something I continually protect and why I don’t go to rock concerts often), I can hear you all ranting about why being able to hear better through this device would be dangerous. It’s because of the enhancement of other noises within the periphery that could potentially damage your eardrum further.
On that Amazon.com link, you can plainly see from those ticked off at the product that many people who use it end up hearing annoying sounds other than the target sound they want to pick up. That’s all a matter of simple physics in the world of sound. The only way you’d be able to get the best use out of a Listen Up device would be if all other sounds around you are quiet and the singular target you’re picking up is the only one making any sound in the premises.
With that, you have a truth in the commercial when the husband sits in bed listening to his favorite late-night show in full sound without having to jack up the TV to disturb his wife. What they don’t show is if his wife starts snoring (now there’s an opportunity for “SNL” to satirize this commercial) and the husband starts taking in large sound waves of the snoring that overcomes the sound of the TV. Unfortunately, many people are experiencing exactly that same problem…if more often picking up other household sounds nearby other than a wife or husband snoring.
As we all know, that could be dangerous, particularly if a peripheral sound is particularly loud to begin with. Say you’re at a lecture and can pick up the lecturer just fine with the Listen Up headphones. Then, someone behind you screams out loud in adulation–hence giving you the sound decibel of a jet engine right into your head. Such a situation is what’s happening to so many using the Listen Up device and why it should be taken back into the workshop to be tweaked. If it can be reworked to target the source of what a person really wants to hear, then it would truly take a bite out of the hearing aid market.
Right now, hearing aids are still the best way to have more targeted hearing without having to jump to the ceiling hearing the sound of a shrill person or more natural sound nearby enter your head. Even so, it won’t stop people from trying Listen Up, mainly because of health care problems in America. It ultimately comes down to random noise and whether you’ll have the luck of the draw having one target sound in a room. Those who gave Listen Up a positive review on Amazon.com obviously had that happen to them–while the rest dealt with the more common scenario involving a symphony of amplified sounds.
You could argue that anything that can help you do something better without spending a fortune is at least worth trying. Better yet, if you still have good hearing as I do, it’s best to keep it that way so you don’t have to scramble finding something helpful while you suffer from the embarrassment of asking the person you’re with what was just said in a movie or concert. The statistics are mind-boggling in how many people already in their 30’s are in that boat. They’re losing their hearing under their own volition due to listening to loud music on their iPods, at concerts or via sounds in the environment they can’t do anything about.
Despite the persuasiveness of the Listen Up commercial, it’s always better to overhear a positive conversation about you in a gym from afar via your own naturally acute hearing rather than wearing an imposing device that looks like a considerably less hip iPod…