Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Stuff I had nowhere else to put :-)

Has Shooting Messed Up Your Hearing? Cost Effective Hearing Aids Definitely Do Exist and You Have Choices!

Folks, I have shot firearms almost my whole life.  My dad would hold the .22 rifle up and let me pull the trigger when I was too little. Over the years I progressed to bigger and bigger firearms of course.  My buddies and I would give each other a hard time about ringing ears after shooting.  I didn’t even know about hearing protection until I got a Desert Eagle .44 Magnum and the dealer said I better get some good ear muffs.  After going shooting, I was sold.  Fast forward about 30 years and I always wear hearing protection and make anyone shooting with me do the same.  Now you may wonder why I feel so strongly about this plus my support of making suppressors as easy to purchase as any firearm.

Plain and simple, let me tell you that my hearing is shot.  I can’t hear my wife half the time – all joking aside.  I can watch people talk in a noisy room and not hear a thing they say.  I need to ask folks to repeat stuff – it’s very, very frustrating.

I have seen several hearing doctors over the years and they all point the finger to my years and years of shooting as the culprit.  It’s known as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).  The sudden pressure of a firearm round going off can do a world of hurt to your ears.  I’m not going to go into details in this post but if you want to read more about the damage shooting can do to unprotected ears, click here, here, or here.

So now we are at the heart of this blog post -the current doctor identified my hearing loss in both ears, the right more than the left and in the upper frequencies.   I needed hearing aids —  he told me  that surgery would not help me.   Now please note I did have a professional exam by an ear-nose-throat specialist.  Hearing loss can happen for many reasons including impacted wax in the ear canal, viruses, etc.  It pays to know what you are dealing with and what your options are.

After the exam, I had a follow up appointment and talked to a lady in the doctor’s office about the hearing aid models they carried and they started around $1,500.  She was recommending a pair to me for $5,000.  Holy crap!!! The good news, she said, was that if I lost one, they would charge me $100 to replace the unit.  Wow…

All the models she showed me had pros and cons but what struck me was that the technology was totally unimpressive for the price.  Why can I get a quality Plantronics Voyager ear bud for my phone that supports Bluetooth for $59 from Amazon???  Their hearing aids required a giant clunky box to be worn around your neck just to do Bluetooth.  Seriously, my stinkometer started going off the more I thought about the pricing.  Needless to say, we didn’t buy anything and returned home after scheduling a follow up visit to decide on whether to buy the $3,300 or $5,000 models.  By the way, I needed a pair so I’d assume single units would be half what they quoted me.  It was a fortune regardless.

I was at home thinking about this problem and it dawned on me that a doctor’s office was likely to be higher than a kite and that the power of market demand must mean there are others offering lower cost solutions so I did a quick search on Amazon and jackpot.  There are tons and tons of hearing aid / hearing amplification products on Amazon and the prices start under $100.

I did my research and opted for the Britzgo BHA-1222 because it used rechargeable batteries and got good reviews plus the cost was very low.  It seemed like there wasn’t an exact match for what I wanted – more frequency modes to try which sounds best, digital noise cancelling, adjustable tube for behind the ear and rechargeable.  The last part – rechargeable – matters to me because I have a hard time with small parts due to my tremor.

The BHA-1222 is not perfect but it fit my criteria for good enough — Interestingly it is listed on Amazon.com in multiple places and the reviewer scores vary a great deal.  In the end, I had a very simple theory – my hearing was shot and just about anything would be an improvement so pick something good enough and learn.

Each hearing aid arrived in its own case with its own charger, ear pieces, etc.  The below only shows one white package but I really got two sets of everything.

The hearing aids are not ear specific out of the box.  In other words, there is only one model you order regardless of ear.  You can twist the flexible tubes around to fit your ear.

The top silver button switches from high-frequency boost to low-frequency boost.  The middle rocker is for volume and I have mine as low as it will go.  The bottom is a stiff on-off switch.

I paid $129.50 for a pair and it shipped direct from Britzgo.  It arrived maybe 2-3 days later – I was pleased with that.  The instructions say to charge them for 7 hours so I did that.

I then selected the ear cone that fit my ear best and had to fiddle with getting the thing on right.  I’m getting better at sliding the unit behind my ear and the little probe into my ear.

After a month of using them, I have some observations:

Pros:

  • Cost effective – I’ve learned quite a bit so far and feel like I’m getting pretty good value.
  • They do have good battery life – I haven’t run out yet and charge them each night.  What is cool is that the charging cable has a USB cable on one end so that gives you a lot of flexibility for charging in the field, on trips, etc.
  • Boosts the volume all I need – I am at the minimum setting right now.  I’d say my hearing loss is right on the border hence some sounds seeming loud to me.
  • I can hear sounds I haven’t heard in a long time at low and even normal volumes.  It’s pretty cool actually and hard to describe.

Cons:

  • Despite noise cancellation claims – it still boosts either some or all of the other sounds besides what you want.  It can be distracting but I can deal with it.
  • I wish I could lower the volume further.  Even at its lowest setting, some sounds are too loud.
  • I am using the smallest ear cone and it fits but the right hearing aid has a tendency to fall off.  I’m still working on the fit.
  • If someone drags a chair across tile or concrete the sound will make me jump!  My wife gets quite a kick out of that.
  • We went and saw the new Star Wars movie and while it did a remarkable job at some points early on, I had to take them out as the high-volume sounds like explosions were clipped and I am betting that was intentional to protect the wearer (me) from further hearing damage.  This is actually a pro come to think of it 🙂
  • I wish the tubes from the amplifier units to the ear cones were adjustable – I think that might be one reason why the right hearing aid falls out but I can mange for now.

So, it’s a bit mixed but all in all I am good for now.   At this price, I can afford to start and learn.  If I find something better, I can change.  If I lose something or ruin one, I am not going to panic!

For example, I may consider something from Otofonix or the Banglijian BLJ-109 at some point in the future.

I wanted to write this up and share about shopping for hearing aids on Amazon as I have had many people tell me that they can’t afford hearing aids even though they want them – well, at least you have options now.  I’d still recommend starting with a doctor first to make sure you know if you are a candidate for hearing aids and how much loss you need to compensate for.

In terms of the listings on Amazon – read the features and the reviews.  I always pay careful attention to what people write and not just the score.  There are a ton of vendors with a ton of models so be careful – I see some get lousy scores and I would flat out avoid anything less than four stars but it does depend on the price and how much you want to gamble.  My preference is to see at least 30 reviews but you will notice many of the hearing aids have fewer reviews so the more reviews the better in general.  No reviews at all would be too risky for me.

By the way, I did buy a small semi-rigid case to go in my pocket and hold both hearing aids.  I am very happy with it.

I hope this helps you or someone you care about who needs help finding an affordable hearing aid.

To help you start digging here are a number of affordable models on Amazon that have a four star rating currently and are backed up by Amazon’s excellent customer service:

The following are the same model as what I am currently using – the Britzgo BHA-1222:


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Britzgo Digital Hearing Amplifier (Rechargeable) BHA-1222 (Pair) / Varta Battery/ 5th Generation Digital Chip – USA/ FDA Approved/ Personal Sound Device


Features: EXTRA LONG LIFE RECHARGEABLE VARTA BATTERY, CHARGE PROTECTION. SAFE. Save money with a rechargeable hearing aid made by the industry leader. Intentionally designed with an extra long battery charge, and charger protection to increase the battery life., AMERICAN MADE KNOWLES SPEAKER- SUPERIOR AMPLIFIER WITH 2 FREQUENCY MODES Hear through a top quality Knowels speaker and multiple settings. The BHA-1222 has 2 preset amplifier modes accessed by pushing the “M” button on the device. Program 1- High frequency range and, program 2- low frequency range for your comfort., 1 YEAR WARRANTY, FREE REPLACEMENTS, 90 DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE! If for any reason you’re not completely satisfied with your hearing aid, we will issue a refund or replace as requested., SIMPLE TO USE & EASY TO WEAR Easy, one finger button controls. Easy to wear and lightweight. Adjustable tubes for both right and left ears. Comfortable fit., DOUBLE LAYER DOMES & DIGITAL CHIP TO DECREASE WHISTLING SOUNDS Our 5th generation digital chip is equipped with Smart Noise Cancellation that significantly reduces ‘white noise’ and ambient distortions, paired with our double layer domes, this hearing amplifier allows the user to hear what’s most important.

Britzgo Digital Hearing Amplifier ( Rechargeable)

Personal Sound Amplification Device

The BHA-1222 is our most popular rechargeable hearing amplifier, and one of the best selling rechargeable aids on the market. Smaller lightweight size, makes for a comfortable fit and it’s simple to use.

Our unique design includes German made Varta internal batteries. They are known for outlasting the competition, and are safer to use. Simply recharge your battery when it runs low, and save money on replacing batteries.

This BHA-1222 comes with a 5th generation digital chip ,and is equipped with Smart Noise cancellation. This eliminates unwanted white noise, whistling and general auditory distortions, allowing the wearer to hear what is most important.

There are 2 excellent sound presets that enhance high and low frequencies with one simple touch-control button. These frequency settings are channeled through a top grade Knowles speaker, made in the USA.

The BHA-1222 is backed by a 1 year warranty. If for any reason you decide that our hearing amplifier isn’t right for you, within 90 days, we’ll issue a full refund. No questions asked.

List Price: $349.00 USD
New From: $129.50 USD In Stock

Remembering My Dad – Carroll Spafford & The M1 Garand Story

Well folks, yesterday was my dad’s birthday and he would have been 91 years old.  I owe him a lot and often think of him.   The pain of losing him is less but I miss him.  He started me shooting when I was so little that he had to hold the .22 rifles and BB Guns and help me aim.  He taught me the basics of shooting rifles and shotguns along with a very heavy dose of how to keep them clean and oiled plus firearms safety.

At any rate, I want to share a special story with you – how a great bunch of guys on AKFiles cared in amazing way and helped me get a Garand for my dad.  It’s a very, very special memory for me so I am combining two posts I did back in 2011 telling the guys there how things went with the purchase and the first trip to the range.  I’ve wanted to do this for a long time just in case something ever happened to the original posts.  So, here they are in memory of my dad.

This first part of the story is from a post I did on AKfiles on February 15, 2011, telling guys how things went — I can’t believe it’s been over six years:

Well gentlemen,

The Garand arrived today via FedEx from CMP and was in fantastic shape. The finish is great, fittment seems solid, action is smooth and the wood is in pretty good shape. I’d say the CMP outdid themselves. You know what, they shipped it FedEx Priority Overnight because they knew why I had ordered this rifle from the very start. I am so very impressed by the staff I talked to there.

So, after looking the rifle over around 9:30am this morning, I called my parents to come over for lunch. My dad had no idea what was going on. I had them sit down on the couch and gave my dad a 1960s Garand tech manual I told I had found and let him read it while my wife and I finished getting things ready.

So he’s looking at the manual and my mom and wife are in the room and I ask him – “Isn’t that the rifle you had in the Army but could never afford?” My dad said “Yes” and was thumbing the pages of the manual while I went downstairs. He really had no idea.

So I went downstairs, got the rifle in its CMP case and came up to them without my dad seeing what was in the case and he really didn’t pay it any mind. So I told him “I think its about time you have one” and at first it didn’t really hit him what I said. He even took the rifle from me without really saying anything.

I told him “Dad, this is your rifle and we are going to enjoy it together this summer.” At that point, I think it registered and he asked “It’s mine?” and I told him it was and that it was a real Springfield Armory M1 and not a reproduction. The government Springfield Armory has always been special to him because he grew up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and I guess because it was close to home.

He was looking it over and while he did that I told him about all of you and what you did to help. The prayers, the well wishes, guys wanting to send money, the stories of their fathers, what the CMP did to help and at that point, the only time in my life I have ever seen it, my father started to cry. He told me he never thought he would hold one again.

After a few minutes, we got ourselves together and he started really looking the rifle over. He pushed down the follower assembly, or whatever you call it, in the magazine well and carefully pushed the bolt closed saying he didn’t want to get “Garand thumb” and he explained what that meant to us and then the stories began.

Towards the end, he looked at the rifle again and tears started one last time.

Guys, thank you so much for all you have done. He was so excited – so happy. It was amazing and I am not a good enough writer to tell you how he looked other than to say he was profoundly touched by all that you guys did to help, what the CMP did and so on.

I have a lot to learn about M1 Garands, that’s for sure and I look forward to learning about this one with my dad.

Tomorrow we go to find the results of his bone marrow tests and I told him that no matter what he and I have the Spring and Summer to look forward to so we can take his new Garand out and test it.

Never take your loved ones for granted and do whatever it takes to be able to spend some time with them. Life is precious and time is short.

Thank you my dear, dear friends. You are all amazing.

The second part of the story is from July 27, 2011 when my dad I finally were able to take the Garand to the range:

It’s funny how fast time flies by. As you know, I bought an M1 Garand for my dad and gave it to him. Getting to the range with him was always on the “to do” list but never quite made it to the top due to job conflicts, health, kid stuff, and so on. Before I knew it, time flew by. You don’t realize how fast time slips by until you look back.

On June 27th, my father in law fell over a small 18″ tall dog fence, cracked a neck vertabra hitting a couch and compressed his spinal cord. He will not recover from the injury and subsequent complications caused by kidney and heart disease. It was such a freak accident because he was only 75 and full of energy. Now, he is sedated and kept alive by machines in ICU but still able to think and move his eyes. Calls and well wishes from you guys really, really helped. Bubbazan, Elkaholic, Ding … you guys are great. I can not thank you enough.

I told my wife that it really showed me that we can’t take loved ones for granted or leave loose ends undone. I told her I absolutely had to take my dad to the range with the new Garand. We are home this week catching up on bills and work while my wife’s family takes turns watching my father in law. Thus, I got an opportunity and seized it. Sometimes, and this was one of them, you need to make things happen and that’s what I did.

It’s been real dry and hot here which, for my dad, is perfect because there are fewer mosquitos – when they bite him he swells up huge because his compromised immune system goes nuts. Monday night I had a crash course in M1 Garand disassembly, cleaning and lubrication. Youtube videos and some web pages people had sent me helped tremendously. The CMP armorer knew about the situation with my dad and other than cosmoline in the stock, the rifle was immaculate. The trigger group was gun metal grey and lightly oiled inside. If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn I was looking at a new rifle based on the quality of the parts, lack of wear and cleanliness.

I used Mobile synthetic grease to lubricate the rifle. It really made the rifle nice and slick. I was very concerned about recoil hurting my dad so I installed a medium Limbsaver Slip-On Pad just to be safe. It fit great and really cushioned the butt. So, I packed it up and made sure I had the ammo, targets, hearing protection, and so on for the range.

On Tuesday, my dad arrived and we loaded his van up and headed to the sportsman’s club for an afternoon of shooting. When we got there we had the range to ourselves as it was 3pm. It was sunny, hot and no mosquito in sight – things were looking great.

We set up on the range. My dad was definitely excited – he’s always been a big one to understate things but I could tell. Bear in mind an 85 year old man doesn’t move too fast and he was clipping right along. We set up on the 50 yard line to do our testing.


Now I had cleaned and inspected the rifle as best I could. Even so, we installed it in a stand and fired a test round with 25′ of string. Of course, my dad had the honor of pulling the cord and doing the first test firing.

The rifle functioned flawlessly on Greek M2 ball ammo. No bulges, primer looked great – the cartridge looked just fine. We inspected the rifle and everything looked great. My dad had this huge grin on his face.

Of course, the next thing to do was to fire for effect! The old man got down on the bench and lined up. He did it so smoothly that you just knew he and Garands knew each other. I was running around taking photos.

He squeezed off his first shot from an M1 Garand since the last time he fired one in Korea in 1945 – literally 65 years ago. Now bear in mind this was round #2 from the rifle – no changes to the sights plus my dad hasn’t been shooting for almost a year.

That definitely excited both of us so he got down to business


He fired 7 rounds – each time we’d unload the rifle and walk down to look at the target (I forgot my spotting scope). He was happy and talking about the rifle, how to adjust the sights, it was great. My dad got tired and asked that I shoot the rifle. I went on to fire 9 rounds realtively quickly from 50 and 100 yards before we had to leave. Not one single failure or problem of any kind – not one. The rifle functioned perfectly. I got a real nice note from the lead armorer at CMP wishing my dad well and I think they are an awesome group – all of them.

After shooting the rifle I was amazed at how little recoil there was. More of a push than a slam plus the recoil pad made it a joy. My dad said it didn’t hurt at all. We were able to spend about two and a half hours at the range and just had a great time. I’m definitely going to take him more this summer. We have a checkup on his cancer at the end of August and we’ll need to decide whether to keep watching, or just what. When we were packing up, I told him that I couldn’t afford the fishing boat but at least I could get him a Garand and that brought out a big smile. It was a great day – I was so happy and he was too.

Again, I want to thank all of you for your awesome support. We all have our own personal trials but having people go out of their way to help is an amazing thing. I feel very lucky to have a wonderful family and to count so many of you as friends.

God bless all of you and your families.

Sincerely,

George

In closing

Never miss a chance to spend time with your families.  Just before my dad passed away on September 20, 2014, we were planning on taking the Garand out to the range.  The day we were to go he decided against it as he didn’t feel up to it.  A day or two later he passed away in his sleep.  I really wish we had that one last shooting session but I do have some great memories and they outweigh the regrets.

We miss you dad.

 

In case you are wondering, here’s a bit about my dad:

Carroll Spafford, 88, of Stevensville, formerly of Battle Creek, MI, passed away peacefully on Saturday, September 20, 2014, at the Hanson Hospice Center.

Born in Boston, MA on June 26, 1926, to George RH Spafford and Hazel Holmes (Mr. & Mrs. Spafford) of Everett, MA.  His parents, older brother (George Kendall) and younger sister (Phyllis) moved to a farm his parents bought in Derry, NH, when he was a young teenager.  While there, he attended Pinkerton Academy in Derry and graduated in 1945.

On March 30, 1945, Carroll enlisted in the US Army and was sent to Korea to join the 6th infantry division guarding against any attempts by the Japanese to retake Korea.  While there he rose to Corporal overseeing a seven man heavy machinegun squad.  He was honorably discharged on December 30, 1946, and returned home.

As part of the GI Bill, he attended the Wentworth Institute of Technology and obtained his MC&TD degree in 1949.  After several years working, he then attended Ohio State University and received his MBA in 1955.

Carroll’s career took him to Detroit and Ford Motor.  While in Detroit he met and married Alpha Lee Turman on November 26, 1964.  Following a brief stint working in research at the University of Michigan he then accepted a rewarding position at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, MI, where he taught business management and economics/

In 1967 he and Alpha had a baby boy, George, who was joined by his sister, Rebecca, in 1971.  They had a small farm North of Battle Creek with a collection of dogs, cats, horses and gardens plus summer car trips all over the US that occupied their time.

In 1986, he retired from KCC and he and Alpha volunteered at Junior Achievement in Battle Creek.  In 2002, he and Alpha moved to Stevensville, MI, in order to be closer to their grandchildren.

In 2012, Alpha passed on and Carroll continued on with the help of many talented and much appreciated care givers.  He is survived by his son, daughter, three grandchildren (Paolo, Alyssa, and Erika), his sister (Phyllis) and a very large extended family who all love and miss him greatly.

Beware of Power Line Networking – Netgear Powerline AV500 Failure

Okay folks, I’ve just spent the last few days and some money replacing equipment blown by an apparent power surge through Netgear Powerline AV500 equipment.  What these units do is to transmit ethernet network signals over the AC wiring in a building and are billed as an easy shortcut to pulling wire.  Our house has a lot of solid ceilings and is a bear to pull wire through so I opted for these to try and save some time.  I have used these for a number of years now up until we had thunderstorms with plenty of lightning last week.  One day by daughter told me the TV no longer was connected to the Internet.  Then we found out about her room’s wifi access point not having Internet access either and the same for the access point in my shop plus a TV android appliance that we use to watch Netflix and other things.  What was the common element?  They all worked except their ethernet ports were blown.  The little converter units said they were connected but no signal came through and even directly connecting new wire did not solve the problem.  In the cases of the TV and android appliance, I switched them to wifi and they worked fine.  For the access points, I could log into them but I could not get anything from the ethernet ports.  I am convinced a power surge went through these devices and blew the ports in the attached devices.  All other ethernet devices in our home were fine.  The powerline repeater is in the trash too as I am done with this stuff.  I don’t think it is a coincidence – the surge must have gone through the adapters.

So you can see, the next two photos are of the Netgear powerline stuff that is going in the trash along with the two fried network access points (the third photo) that are also history.

  

In short, I have tossed the four power line adapters and installed much better hard lines going to decent TP-Link 450 access points.  We have excellent coverage again but I will never use the powerline stuff again. I’m very happy with these TP units – they get great reviews, were easy to install and have great reception.  I’ll link to these access points at the end of the post.

  

By the way, in digging I found a great Android WiFi signal strength utility that is great and, surprisingly, free.  Check out Wifi Analyser by Keuwlsoft.  It’s very useful to help you see the signal strength and understand the best place to put an access point.

While I was at it, I also replaced two old 10/100 ethernet hubs with Gigabit switches.  We’re definitely seeing a lot better speeds now.

So, I’m not thrilled with Powerline networking but am very, very impressed with the price and performance of the new TP-Link equipment.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something from one of the Amazon links, or use one of the links to go to Amazon and buy something completely different — as long as you use one our links to go and buy something from Amazon, it helps us out.  For each item you purchase, we get a small bit of ad revenue from Amazon to fund the blog.  The same is true for eBay as well.


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TP-Link TL-WA901ND Wireless N450 3TER Access Point, 2.4Ghz 450Mbps, 802.11b/g/n, AP/Client/Bridge/Repeater, 3x 5dBi, Passive POE  (TL-WA901ND)


Features: 450Mbps wireless transmission rate, brings smooth wireless N experience, Supports multiple operating modes: Access Point, Client, Universal/ WDS Repeater, Wireless Bridge, Easily setup a WPA encrypted secure connection at a push of the QSS button, Up to 30 meters (100 feet) Power over Ethernet capability for flexible deployment

The TP-LINK Wireless N Access Point TL-WA901ND is designed to establish or expand a scalable high-speed wireless N network or to connect multiple Ethernet enabled devices such as game consoles, digital media adapters, printers, or network attached storage devices to a wireless network. The AP supports a host of different functions that makes your wireless networking experience more flexible than ever before. Now, you can enjoy a better Internet experience when downloading, gaming, video streaming or with any other application that you may wish to use.
List Price: $38.93 USD
New From: $36.73 USD In Stock