“Hyperlisten” to Hear Better

Listen Up!

Listen Up!

A recent Time magazine cover article about “mindfulness” made me pause for mindful reflection. “Can mindfulness improve how much we can hear,” I wondered. And soon I concluded, “yes, but only if you keep the right attitudes in mind.”

I once trained myself to become an expert listener. That practice gave me good reason to see that the right mindset can open doors to new and more subtle perceptions. My experiences in designing and improving my Earglasses® Sound Magnifiers invention reinforced that conclusion.

I formed my first company to market my product using the corporate name “The Listening Institute.” The name reflected the inspiration for the product. The idea for ear-focused acoustic lenses came to me because I was a serious audiophile. I even wrote for a small audio review magazine for a while. I worked hard to be able to discriminate between the sounds produced by one audio component versus another. Attentive listening for subtle audible details was critical, as was the need to develop descriptions for the differences I noted.

Basically, my experience reminded me that “listening” is very different than “hearing.” Hearing is latent, a sensory capability. But for that sensory apparatus to work, one must listen. What’s the difference? Listening is a product of combining hearing with concentrated attention — or “mindfulness,” as Time puts it.

It’s just like our mothers’ told us: “listen to me! Pay attention!

I’d like to add a few further observations about how to make that process work at its best.

Whenever I have trouble hearing something that interests me these days, the first things I experience are: (1) anxiety about what I may be missing; (2) a temptation to deny my interest in the sounds that confuse me, so that I don’t have to work at increasing my attention; and (3) fear that my senses are declining with age, and that I may look foolish or weak as a result.

All of these negative feelings result in even more confusion and annoyance until I either turn my attention elsewhere or my brain somehow figures out how to better hear what I had been missing. Let’s focus on this second outcome and see if there are ways we can increase the odds of arriving at such a result.

How does our consciousness puzzle out the solution to mysteries contained in sounds at the outer limits of perception? I have no idea. But I do know from experience that if I maintain a calm, empty but attentive mindfulness while listening to sounds that at first cause me confusion, I will be able understand them sooner than if I panic and start to indulge in a fearful interior retreat.

I call the process “hyperlistening.” Hyperlistening calls for keeping an open, uncluttered mind. It requires one to stay confident of the mind’s ability to solve problems when calm, patient attention is paid to the source of one’s former confusion.

As my own hyperlistening skills advanced, I became capable of doing things that sound engineers considered impossible. I became able to reliably identify the differences in the sound envelopes produced by audio amplifiers with identical electrical profiles. When listening to well-engineered recordings, I became able to identify the location of individual members of a performing ensemble. I could pin down not only their position on my stereo’s auditory stage on a left-to-right basis, but could even determine whether their position was toward the front or rear of the recording venue. The size of the venue, even the qualities of its furnishings (“wet” or “dry,” depending on the degree of reverberation) became matters I learned to hear, and to reliably articulate.

If you too experience the kinds of hearing anxieties I noted above, try sharpening your own hyperlistening skills. You can do that by using your own audio system. Even the sound system in your automobile can provide you with challenges that can help you to sharpen your senses. Practice may not make perfect, but it can help, to a surprising degree.

Fan Mail

As the inventor of Earglasses® Sound Magnifiers, I was gratified to recently read a message posted by a fan of my humble device, a man apparently named Roy Clark. His comment appeared on the amazon.com page that sells our product. It was posted as a reply to a snarky comment posted by a third party regarding a previously posted favorable review of the product. The snarker, a “MacBobT,” commented that our fan, the reviewer, was “…Not an Amazon Verified Purchase!”

Here’s how our fan’s response to BobMacT‘s snark went:

“Thank you, Oh Guardian of Amazon Purchase Verification. The inventor of these Earglasses sells them through Amazon, has for years. How is verification logged in? Is there a link to see a list of accredited purchasers? If so, believe you me. my name’s proudly on the list.

“My liking Earglasses isn’t cronyism or nepotism nor capital gain, just that I bought my set at Amazon and think Amazonians deserve to know Earglasses simply work so well, providing an effective and versatile alternative to ear horns (clumsy), hands cupped behind ears (dangerous when driving or distracting when making a move on a potential romantic target), hearing aids’ power surges, electrical hearing amplification units (hair raising) which also cost many $$$’s more.

“And radiate Heaven know what. (Have you read of the Russian experiment with cell phones? Two cell phones with a plate between them on which sat a pair of raw eggs. All it took was just 19 hours of the phones being on before the eggs were were fried) Look it up! It’s true. For electronic hearing devices too; why do so many octogenarians lose their hair? Obvious connection, scary scientific proof!

“My hearing problem’s slight, but my 13-year-younger wife’s hearing is fading (rock n’ roll, rap, surround sound, loud people, advertising). Curled cozily enjoying Breaking Bad with me it’s nice she can hear with- without being plugged into a distracting electronic gizmo which would’ve cost me a bundle. Sans wires or strap-ons thanks to Earglasses!

“I call them my EG’s. Sounds cool, huh? H’mmm, sounds like ‘ergonomics’; after all, they obviously are ergonomic. Hope Earglasses management hear that. Maybe I should copyright the name?

“I bought this new version of Earglasses for about ten bucks a year+ ago. At Amazon, of course. I price check everything. The wife and I trade off my Earglasses; I can use my prior set, the still-fine original Earglasses. No fixing or fussing, the new model’s sound sounds even better, sharpest from where you point your head. Background noise diminishes. The new Earglasses are a fine furthering of hearing comfort, stability. They work even better than my original set, which still works fine (still uses as a spare). I keep them handy for traveling in our SUV. I pick ’em up and take them to sporting, musical events, rallies, riots; crowd chatter fades just enough and the initial, natural sound comes cleaner.

“Oh, and Earglasses are waterproof too. Walk in the rain wearing EG’s, you’ll hear the pitter-patter splatter better. They’re even zany conversation starters at ball games, bars, wrestling matches, bingo games and on and on. They’re even much better than big ears. They keep your ears dry too.

“The new Earglasses design looks better, works better. I carefully tested, compared before and after versions. Checked them on me in a mirror, cool. Okay, somewhat odd, but soon you’ll become accustomed to their complementing your head. I even tried different sound levels, hard/soft surface sound reflections and high/low frequencies from my stereo system – the new version is audibly, noticeably, blessedly better.

“Okay, okay… I’m a Virgo, somewhat compulsive; I bet the Earglasses genius creator is like that too, desperately seeking simple sonic perfection. Heaven help me, I can’t stop myself vis-a-vis detail digging and alliterating.

“So, how do you find Earglasses on The Mighty Amazon? This link, go for it: http://www.amazon.com/Earglasses%C2%AE-Sound-Magnifiers-adult-sized-lenses/dp/B00B3LRKVM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1360260626&sr=8-1&keywords=earglasses

“To be fair, Amazon has a category called “Personal Sound Amplifiers.” Check those products; compare and consider versus Earglasses, particularly durability/style/savings/uniqueness/convenience/cost/use ease/lower prices/fidget-less-ness/economy and a real senior concern nowadays, maintenance costs.

“Earglasses have more reasons to buy: Put Earglasses on backwards to better hear what’s being said behind your back/turn head left, right, up, down, to target specific amplification directional sensitivity/as ear ‘shells’ are made of hard yet very workable plastic, you can etch any designs or slogans over your ears without interfering with sound catching characteristics. Think translucent tattoos, gang or club mottoes, open or closed attitudes to attract or ward off desired or grisly types, action…

Stickers and decals can turn Earglasses® lenses into a personalized fashion statement.

“Do you jog? Put an LED light inside each Earglasses shell, to glow through a translucent or transparent shell surface. Maybe aroma pods inside to attract new friends of chase flies away? Ultimately, Earglasses can have mini phone elements call or be called from around the world. Mini radar antenna. Someday a miniature laser device can immolate threatening perverts; maybe voice or muscle-flinch/twitch/blink activated; maybe a mini radar module to detect sudden movement behind or above you. Or a smoke/noxious gas detector, emergency help summoner. Or… well, possibilities are legion.

“Back to your immediate buying decision; Earglasses are just platforms for exciting, extraordinary additions in so many dimensions, attributes, operations. So go see Earglasses’ competition at Amazon. Earglasses are just starting; those others have nowhere to go. They’re done inventing, even improving and expanding their capabilities. Check out the competition, back there in the dust of the 20th Century: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=hearing+aids&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Ahearing+aids

“Okay, MacBobT: I’d be glad to hear any comments on my comments re your comments. I’ll hear them clearly because I’ll wear my Earglasses; eventually there’ll be telephoto video augmentation for visual (broad spectrum, infrared, units for audio and video transcription. Think micro transistorized Robot Cop enhancement; I see cyborgs just around the corner!.. Manbots!

“(But first, Bob… Verify you’re not some shill for a Hearing-Aid Association. Or the infamous PLBMM – the Pricy Lithium Battery Marketeering Mafia). As Christmas 2014 is almost here, put some Earglasses on your shopping list for grampy, grammy or your favorite, Uncle Ernie.”

Wow. All I can say is “thanks, Roy Clark, whoever you are.”

New Book: Good News for Governments

Front cover smallGovernment officials facing a crisis in municipal finances may find a fresh set of answers in a new book. Titled “$ave Your City – How to Get Businesses to Help Pay Your Taxes,” the text details a comprehensive collection of business sponsorship strategies.

The book’s author, Michael D. Riley, M.S., maintains that these strategies can generate up to two percent of local governments’ General Revenue requirements. Riley was one of the founders and President of Public Enterprise Group, Inc. This innovative California-based agency was the leader in providing comprehensive municipal marketing consulting services to a wide variety of institutions – hospital networks like New York City’s HHC, school systems such as the Los Angeles Unified School District, counties and cities of all sizes, even the Department of Parks and Recreation for the State of California. The firm’s accomplishments for its clients generated enthusiastic coverage from NBC-TV Nightly News, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times.

Riley says his new book provides a tried and true collection of more than three dozen entrepreneurial recipes for tapping new sources of government revenue. He notes that conventional sources of government funding, such as raising tax rates, increasing borrowing, reducing staff costs or the sale of public assets all face increasing resistance, from voters as well as beneficiary constituencies. In contrast, Riley points out that private sector businesses are quite happy to guarantee public funding in exchange for access to public sector assets.

“’$ave Your City’ is designed as a workbook,” Riley explains. “Its large, letter-sized page format provides enough space for careful readers to make their own notes. The prose is designed for engaging reading rather than being as dry as the typical textbook. But the contents are also comprehensively indexed. I’ve also included extensive reference appendices, such as an RFP template.”

“$ave Your City” is published by Books of Destiny, and includes over 200 pages of text plus index. It is now available on order in paperback, Kindle, and e-Pub editions at booksellers everywhere. The book is also a featured offering of the Alliance for Innovation (“Transforming Local Governments” – see http://transformgov.org).

Reinventing Inventions


My friend, the talented artist Brenda Bates Clark, kindly models my product.

The clichéd inspirational motto of the day seems to be: “reinvent yourself.” But how about a more difficult challenge? Try reinventing one of your own inventions. That calls for more than just slapping a fresh coat of paint on the face you present to the world. It calls for honest and thoughtful entrepreneurial self-criticism. And emotional detachment followed by the creation of new emotional bonds.

Like most inventors, at first I was charmed by a new product idea that came to me in 1988. When I decided to develop the original Earglasses® Sound Magnifiers, it was in part an act of rebellion against my skeptical friends. Most of them thought the very idea was just plain goofy.

Guess I showed ’em. Sold a million dollars worth of the things, without spending a dime of my own on ads.

But by the turn of the Millennium, my first product model began to run out of catalog-distributor customers. So for a few years I just threw in the towel. The Earglasses® idea had always been just a hobby business for me. Newer and seemingly more promising ventures captured my fancy.

But a funny thing happened. The old Earglasses® website kept on generating inquiries from folks who still wanted the product. Meanwhile, after my wife and I relocated home base a few times, I lost the expensive injection molds from which the products were made, The company that held them quietly went out of business.

One of the reasons I had walked away from the original product was simple: the thrill was just gone. After having lived with the old product design for nearly fifteen years, I was acutely aware of its several shortcomings. I had fallen out of love with my own creation. But the continued consumer demand for the product caused me to re-examine my feelings. Could a new and improved product concept revive my lost love?

Short answer: yes, it did. I really do feel a deeper affection for my new product’s design. Where the old model looked vaguely vulpine, the new one is cute and cuddly. Teddy bears instead of Mickey Mouse ears come to my mind whenever I see people wear them. Having obsoleted the need for a headband, now you can carry the lenses in your pocket or purse. And wear just one “on my bad ear.’ And because the device is even simpler than before, now it can be sold at an even lower price. It’s almost certainly the least expensive hearing booster sold anywhere in the world.

Will the new model sell as well as the old? I don’t know. But this time around, I will take my own idea more seriously. Why? Because I long ago learned about the importance of “new and improved” product ideas. They power the cycle of “creative destruction” that makes economic growth possible. Marx was, as usual, both right and wrong in his introduction of this catch-phrase. Capitalism does use destruction to make way for innovation. But this cycle is usually all to the good.

And on the personal level, the business of being an entrepreneur doesn’t arise off of a spreadsheet. It spreads from the heart as ideas cause us to fall in love with a concept. Even when we have to fall in love more than once, in order to turn the old and an ending into a new beginning … all over again.

As Elliott Wave Theorist Robert Prechter teaches, the most important changes in business are predicated less on numbers than on human emotions at work. And in the case of just plain goofy ideas, emotions at play, too.