The Choice to Ignore

Finally, a device that enables hard of hearing computer users to choose who they want to ignore in cyberspace.

Most hard of hearing people are used to being tethered to portable devices like their mobile or cordless phone. People without hearing difficulties never worry about missing a text, call, or email should they wander a few feet away or into another room from their computer or other technology. While vacuuming I wear my iPhone on arm-strap meant for jogging, and it must be switched on to vibrate otherwise I won’t hear calls or texts even if it’s in my pocket.

The world of assistive devices was something I only explored for my 90-year-old grandmother. I knew about walkers and shower stabilizer bars; but, while her eyesight betrayed her with macular degeneration, her hearing was perfect.

I knew nothing about how to help my own hard of hearing needs beyond wearing my hearing aids, and hoping no one would notice.

This worked fine until one afternoon my husband came charging into our upstairs bedroom shouting, “Didn’t you hear the fire alarm?”. He was referring to the (what most people would consider) deafening shrieks—accompanied by blinding flashing lights—coming from the hallway in our apartment complex. Hearing aids in, a couple of hundred feet away, on another floor. I heard nothing. I thought, “what if I had been alone?”.

My question was answered by the dozen when I attended the Hearing Loss Association of America’s (HLAA)  Conference in Portland, OR last June.

I happened upon the Sonic Alert booth and discovered a device that resembled a computer mouse. It was distributing blaring shrieks and flashing lights. At the time I found it annoying; but, what struck me was how distinguishable it was in a ballroom filled with at least a hundred people, salespeople pitching from booths, and attendees talking loudly (hey, we’re hard of hearing!).

This simple device was alerting attendees to an incoming email, then a Skype call came in and it buzzed and jumped around the table while continuing to flash and ring. This mouse lookalike was not to be ignored! I took one home in hope of it improving my freelance writer life—allowing me to wander into the kitchen without missing an instant message (IM) from my client.

Geek Talk

Model:  Sonic Alert Sonic-connectTM 2

What it is: Portable, USB device that provides alerts through tones, vibration, and/or lights for common messaging methods (email, IM) as well as incoming Skype calls.

Cost: $49.95

Updates: Free from manufacturer website.

How To Use it:

  1. Connect to your USB using the cable
  2. Go to www.sonicalert.com/sec
  3. Click Download Driver Here button
  4. Run the “.exe” file that downloaded
  5. Once the device drivers are installed properly, a small “Sonic Connect Message Center” window is displayed. (The icon for this message center remains in your Windows toolbar as well, and you can click it any time to open the window.)

The Test-Drive

As someone who documents computers and technology for a living, I expect most things to be complex because I think like a user while developers think like…Sheldon (go watch “Big Bang Theory”).

I was pleased to find Sonic Connect was simple to configure. Sonic Connect lets you choose to configure who you want to get email and Skype Alerts from, and which types of notifications you want to hear and see, and how often. It will not

There are three setting choices on the Sonic Connect Message Center Window: General, Email, or Skype. If the window is not displayed, click it from your Windows toolbar at the bottom (there is also a Help option from the Settings… menu).

General settings let you choose what types of Notifications you want to receive when the Sonic-connectTM 2 device alerts you. I played around at first to see if I really wanted it all– Lights, Buzzer, and Vibrate, or something less jarring. With all three turned on, you cannot ignore the Sonic Connect. It’s a bit like a 1960’s sci-fi robot—jumping, glowing, flailing. As someone who doesn’t hear police sirens until they’re outside her home, I like this. However, I found that when I am sitting at my computer, I just turn on the lights to alert me to emails as the other indicators were annoying.

You do not have to be the savviest technology person to use Sonic Sonic-connectTM 2. Skype is easily set up by entering your user name and password (a brief restart occurs). Technical details for Email settings are automatically completed once you enter your email and choose your provider.

The best feature of the Sonic-connectTM 2 device lies that it enables you to choose which emails you want to be alerted to. This is a wonderful alert addition for even for those who can hear a computer alert from across the room. Don’t care to know about that email from LinkedIn alerting you to whose job anniversary came that week, but definitely want that spreadsheet from your boss? Input your boss’ email and you will only receive alerts from that email address (and any other “VIP” whose email you enter. Leave the VIP LIST blank and you will be alerted to every incoming email.

Now I can choose to ignore whomever I choose and not merely because I didn’t see their email!

The settings window also allow you to clear emails from alert list (if you don’t they pile up until you review them). It’s a simple click to remove one or all of the emails listed. Until you clear them, the red lights remain lit on the Sonic-connectTM 2 device.

Survey Says…

I am pretty pleased with the Sonic-connectTM 2 though I only use it if I am going to be in a more remote part of my home and/or am waiting for important emails.

Pros:

  • It truly works: loud ringtone, flashing lights are very bright—easy to see even in a very sunlight room, and vibrate is strong (bounces the device around the table)
  • Easy to set up: don’t have to be computer save; just download the driver from the website, run the .exe file, and follow the on-screen instructions
  • Customizable (to some degree): can choose any or a combination of lights, buzzer, and vibrate; and select only a list of people you want to be notified by (have to manually enter their emails to a list box)
  • Small and portable: fits in a purse or laptop bag (keep it next to your mouse and make it wonder!); and I can’t see it drawing attention at airports because it looks innocuous

Cons:

  • It only works with a PC. I happen to live in dual-computing world (don’t tell my Mac that I do corporate work on my PC laptop!). However, if you are an Apple user, you won’t be using Sonic-connectTM 2.
  • Until you Clear the message from the Message Center (See below) the light remains red on the device. This could be annoying if you don’t like to see red lights (or if you have a cat that thinks anything lit up is interesting and should be batted around like a mouse).
  • No way to adjust sound or force or light (full-blast all the time)—I can’t imagine how this would not disturb someone else (in your office, at home, at a meeting) as the company advertises in their uTube video on their site (maybe if you have your own office; but, then you might also have your own secretary who can ignore emails and phone calls on your behalf.

But don’t take my word for it (my unendorsed, solely my own opinion-type word). Visit the Sonic Alert website for more information:

http://www.sonicalert.com/Sonic-connect-p/sec.htm

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