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Wireless Microphones for Hearing Aids

In my  last blog post, I wrote about using an FM system in a yoga class.  Although it can be very effective in some limited situations (and certainly was for me!) in general, it is too cumbersome to use in an exercise class.  So, now I want to share with you some information about wireless microphones that send the sound to your hearing aids or streaming device.  As far as I know, GN Resound and Starkey are the only brands that send sound directly into the hearing aids.  If you know of others, please leave a comment!
All the other wireless microphones need an intermediary device such as a neckloop or FM boot.  I recommend buying these devices from an audiologist, as most of them need to be programmed to work with your hearing aids, but I have listed prices I saw online, just to get an idea of the cost.

Phonak Wireless Accessories

Phonak is the “King” of wireless!  They have developed a new technology called “Roger.”  See this website for more information about the Roger technology. http://www.fmhearingsystems.co.uk/phonak-roger-vs-phonak-fm/

Roger uses digital modulation (DM).  DM is a type of FM system and according to one company, using DM they “…. can get a much larger dynamic range, which makes the sound quality much better and improves intelligibility.”  Phonak claims a 54% improvement in listening in noise with the Roger Pen compared with traditional FM systems.

The Roger Pen is expensive! $1,500 on Amazon but it is both an FM system and a Bluetooth Streamer…and more.  This video explains more about the Roger Pen.

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In addition to the Roger Pen, Phonak has 2 other wireless microphones:  the Roger Clip-on Mic. (≈$420), and the Phonak Remote Mic. (≈$200).  Phonak also has a whole line of Roger for Education devices.
The Roger Pen and Roger Clip-on Mic must be used with either small Phonak Roger receivers that attach to the hearing aids or cochlear implants (CI’s) or the Roger MyLink neckloop.  Some Roger receivers are designed specifically for Phonak hearing aids, but the Roger X is a universal receiver that will work with most hearing aids and CI’s.  The Roger MyLink neckloop is a universal Roger receiver compatible with all hearing aids with t-coils.  The Phonak Remote Mic works with the ComPilot (neckloop).

GN Resound Unite Mini Microphone ($260 on E-Bay)

The Unite Mini Microphone is a wireless mic that sends the sound directly into the Resound hearing aids. No neckloop or receiver needed.  The Unite Mini Microphone is small and can easily be clipped onto the user’s shirt.

Starkey Surflink Mobile ($550 on Amazon) ($650 on ebay)

The Surflink Mobile is a cell phone transmitter, wireless microphone, media streamer, and hearing aid remote all rolled into one.  It has built-in directional and omni-directional microphones that send the sound directly into Starkey hearing aids.  The Surflink Mobile can be worn around user’s the neck with a lanyard.

Oticon ConnectLine Microphone ($279.99 on Amazon)

The Oticon ConnectLine Microphone does not send sound directly into the hearing aids.  The Streamer Pro (neckloop) must be worn with it.  The ConnectLine Microphone is small and can easily be clipped onto the user’s shirt.

Siemens VoiceLink Microphone ($175 – $199 online)

The VoiceLink Microphone does not send sound directly into the hearing aids.  The MiniTek Streamer must be worn with it.  The VoiceLink Lapel Microphone can be clipped onto the user’s shirt, but the attached transmitter would also need to be clipped to a shirt or belt.

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Now, the real question is………..how well do these devices work?  I tried the Oticon ConnectLine Microphone about 2 years ago.  I was terribly disappointed and ended up returning it as the sound quality was so poor!  I recently decided to order it again and give it another try.  Maybe mine was defective…or the technology has improved.

Although I became interested in learning more about these microphones to find a good solution for a yoga class (without having a neckloop flopping around during “Downward Facing Dog”!) my real need (and the need for all hard-of-hearing folks) is to find a good solution for noisy restaurants.  So, if you have experience with any of these or other wireless microphones, I would LOVE to hear from you.  Please write a comment and share your experience!  Thank you!

 

Yoga for the Hard-of-Hearing

4-corpse-pose-savasana

In practicing Yoga, Savasana (or Corpse Pose) is supposed to be a time to fully relax and rejuvenate.  For a hard-of-hearing person, it can be very stressful while straining to hear the instructor’s guided imagery.

Relax. Let go. Imagine a _______ moving up __________ and slowly __________. Breathe deeply. Release any tension from ______. Start at ____________ and imagine a warm __________ radiating……..

I’ve never asked a yoga teacher to wear an FM transmitter.  It would be too cumbersome and if the teacher is demonstrating postures, it would get in the way.  Also, I didn’t want to have a neckloop dangling from me while doing the Downward Facing Dog pose and other yoga poses.

HC-CONVERSORPRO

However, last week, I decided to give it a try using the smallest FM system I have, the Conversor Pro Personal FM System.  (I wrote about the Conversor Pro in my last blog post.)  I asked the teacher to just put it on at the end of class during Savasana as she would be sitting up and not moving.  I placed the receiver/neckloop around my neck and settled comfortably on my mat. Suddenly I heard the teacher’s voice, loud and clear, sent directly into my hearing aids!  My reaction was startling!  Tears began to flow from my eyes!!  I’m not a person who cries easily, so this really surprised me!  The joy of hearing so clearly was overwhelming!

The next class I attended was taught by a man who sat in a chair while directing the class.  I thought this would be a good opportunity to try out the system during the entire class, but since he played the guitar during part of the class, it would be impossible to wear the microphone around his neck.  I set the microphone/transmitter on a small table close by.  I wore my neckloop for the entire class without too much inconvenience.  Once again I was so moved by being able to hear clearly.  For once, I could do yoga with my eyes shut, rather than looking all around to see what we were supposed to be doing!  So nice!!

As effective as this solution was, it is NOT an ideal solution.  The ideal yoga solution would be completely wireless such as:
#1. Hearing loop installed in the yoga room.
Wireless microphone that could be placed near the teacher or worn in a body pack.
Hearing aid wearers all knowing to get a t-coil in their hearing aids!

#2. For those wearing hearing aids that have a wireless microphone available (Resound, Phonak, Oticon…) it would be simple to clip the microphone onto the teacher’s shirt.  At least one of these microphones sends sound directly into the hearing aids.  Others require the listener to wear a neckloop, FM boot, or other intermediary device.  More on wireless microphones in my next blog.  OM…….

omsymbolthumb6708295

Pros and Cons of Three FM Systems

In my previous post, The Magic of Personal FM Systems, I discussed personal FM systems. Here I want to describe three of these systems in more detail:

Williams Sound Motiva PFM 360
Comfort Audio Comfort Contego
Conversor Pro

All three of these devices are very good, but my favorite is the Williams Sound Motiva PFM 360. I will describe this one in detail and briefly compare the other two to the Motiva.

PMF360

ADVANTAGES of the Motiva PFM 360

1. It has a microphone on both the transmitter and the receiver. This means you can listen to a speaker up to 150 ft. away, then turn down that microphone and turn up the microphone on the receiver. That allows you to amplify the voices close to you for small group discussion or to talk to the person next to you. You can also have both microphones on at the same time which is helpful in group discussions.

2. It is easy to use. The receiver has two knobs – one is the on/off switch and controls the volume on the transmitter. The other knob controls the volume of the microphone on the receiver.  Simple!

3. The transmitter comes with a removable lapel microphone. With any FM system, the closer the microphone is to the speaker, the better the sound.   Clipping the lapel microphone on the speaker’s shirt reduces background noise and clarifies speech. The speaker can hook the transmitter on his belt or put it in a pocket. He is hands free and doesn’t need to do anything. You control the device from the receiver.

You can also remove the lapel mic and add a headset microphone which will bring the microphone even closer to the speaker’s mouth. Or you can use a conference microphone and set it on a table to pick up voices around the table.

4. The receiver has a 3.5mm stereo jack so you can use headphones, earbuds or a neckloop.

5. The transmitter has a 2.5mm auxiliary input jack so you could connect it to another sound source such as an iPod, television, or the sound board of your church PA system.

6. It can be purchased with a charger and rechargeable batteries or purchased without the charger to be used with regular batteries. The same device can work with either rechargeable batteries or regular alkaline (non-rechargeable) batteries, so if you are traveling and don’t want to bring the charger, you can change the battery selection switch.

7. The sound quality is excellent!

8. The receiver can be used alone, without the transmitter, as a personal listening device, similar to a Pocketalker.

9. It has a 5-year warranty.

DISADVANTAGES of the Motiva PFM 360

1. It is bigger than the other two systems.

2. It doesn’t come with a cable to connect to the TV (but a cable can be purchased).

3. The lapel microphone wire is an antenna. You can’t use a plug microphone in the transmitter as it has no wire. You can, however, use a conference microphone.

4. It is slightly less convenient than the other devices for setting on a table (unless you are using a conference mic).  In a restaurant, I usually find a glass or small menu to clip the lapel microphone to.

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The Comfort Audio Comfort Contego is also an excellent system.

HC-CONTEGO1_ear

ADVANTAGES of the Comfort Contego

1.  The biggest advantage of this system is that it is small and light-weight (smaller than the Motiva).

2.  Another plus is that it has both an omni-directional microphone and a directional microphone.

3.  It works well on a table with the transmitter in “omni-directional” mode to pick up voices around the table.

4.  It has a built-in microphone on both the transmitter and the receiver.

5.  it is rechargeable and the charger is small and easy to pack.

6.  The sound quality is excellent!

7.  It comes with a sound kit to connect to the TV.

DISADVANTAGES of the Comfort Contego

1. The main disadvantage of this system is it is rather complicated. The controls are all digital. There is one button to control the volume of the transmitter and another to control the volume of the receiver (and I always forget which is which). There is a menu button with options (that I’ve never used) and an LED screen with a variety of display symbols (that could be confusing). I would not recommend this to someone that is not comfortable with technology or someone with mild cognitive impairment.

2. It doesn’t have a removable microphone so you can’t use a lapel or conference microphone.

3. When the battery is depleted (in about 5 years) you have to send it back to the Comfort Audio service center. Cost is $75 to refurbish the device and replace the battery.

4. It has a 2-year warranty. (Motiva has a 5 year warranty.)

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And last, but not least, the Conversor Pro, which has one very nice advantage.

HC-CONVERSORPRO

ADVANTAGES of the Conversor Pro

1. The Conversor Pro is the only FM system I’ve seen that has a “pendant receiver” – the receiver is part of the neckloop, so it is very small, light weight and convenient. With other systems you have to plug a neckloop into the receiver. With the Conversor, the receiver and neckloop are all-in-one. If you don’t have t-coils in your hearing aids, you would need to attach a headphone or earbuds.

2. The small size and pendant receiver make it more convenient to use when “on the go.”

3. The transmitter has a directional and an omni-directional mode. It also has a “boost” button.

4. It works well on a table with the transmitter in “omni-directional” mode to pick up voices around the table.

5. It can be purchased with the Conversor TV Amplifier to be used for watching TV.

6. The transmitter is small and light enough to hang around someone’s neck without being cumbersome.

DISADVANTAGES of the Conversor Pro

1. It is not as powerful as the other two systems. Although the user’s manual says it will work up to 150ft away, I found it the distance it works without static is shorter and the volume is not as strong.

2. The controls for “zoom” and “boost” are on the transmitter, not the receiver. So if you leave it on a podium, you can’t really adjust them during the talk. I never use them as it seems to distort the sound.

3. It doesn’t have a removable microphone so you can’t use a lapel or conference microphone.

4.  The sound quality is inferior to the other two systems.

5.  It has a 2-year warranty. (Motiva has a 5 year warranty.)

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In sum, I like all three of these devices. The sound quality is better with the Motiva and the Comfort Contego, but I sometimes use the Conversor Pro as it is so easy to take with me. For lectures, classes, or meetings, I prefer the Motiva.

Do you use an FM device? If so, please let us know what you use and how you like it.

The Magic of Personal FM Systems

Do you ever go to a lecture and it sounds like “mumble-jumble”?  Do you get frustrated when you attend a workshop and there is no microphone?  When there is a microphone, does it make you crazy when the presenter’s voice gets louder and softer as he turns away from the microphone?  Do you try to get a front-row seat in a classroom and still strain to hear?

These are all problems experienced by people with hearing loss.  Even with the best hearing aids, it is difficult to hear in noisy environments, large auditoriums and any time you are far from the speaker. That is when personal FM assisted listening systems work their magic.

What is a Personal FM Assisted Listening System?
An FM system is an assisted listening device that consists of two parts: a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter can be worn by the speaker with a lapel microphone, headset microphone, hung around the neck, or placed on a podium. It can be also used with a conference microphone and placed on a table. The receiver is worn by the listener with headphones, a neckloop, or an FM boot on the hearing aid. When the speaker talks it sounds like he is sitting right next to you!  You can be sitting in the back of the room (up to 100 feet away) and it you will hear everything loud and clear!  FM systems can also be used for one-on-one conversations, small group meetings, family get-togethers, and more.

Listen to this simulation of using an FM system in a classroom.

This video is very effective in demonstrating the advantage of using an FM system; however, the speaker’s voice would have been much clearer in noise if he were wearing a headset microphone such as this:  William Sound Heavy Duty Headset Microphone.  The closer the microphone is to the speaker’s voice, the louder and clearer the sound.  A headset microphone also solves the problem of speakers walking away from the podium microphone or turning their backs to the audience.

There are several good FM systems on the market, each with its advantages and disadvantages. I will discuss my 3 favorites in my next post.
Williams Sound Motiva PFM 360
Comfort Audio Comfort Contego
Conversor Pro

Stay tuned! 

 

 

FAQ about TV Listening Systems

Set-830-S1-455x279

Do you have trouble hearing the TV? Does your family tell you to “turn it down!”? Do you want to get a TV listening system, but you are overwhelmed with all the choices? This information will help you select the best system for your needs.

  1. What is a TV listening system?
    A TV listening system (or TV amplifying system) connects to the back of the TV and wirelessly sends sound to some type of receiver, such as headphones, earbuds, or a neckloop. The most common two types are radio frequency (RF) and infrared (IR).  Click here to see more details about the different types of devices.
  1. If my husband wears the TV listening system headphones, how will I hear the TV?
    The beauty of a TV listening system is that the person using it can adjust the volume to his liking, while the other person can use the remote control to adjust the volume to her liking. The remote control will not affect the volume of the TV listening device. The TV can even be put on “mute” and the person using the TV listening device will still hear it! That is why it is often called the “marriage saver”! Imagine reading peacefully on the couch while your husband watches the football game. Ahhh!  Life is good!
  1. I have a new TV. What type of TV listening system should I buy?
    It is very important to look at the back of your TV before selecting a TV listening system. Most new TV’s only have a digital audio-out jack. Many TV listening systems only connect to analog audio-out jacks. So, with a new TV, it is best to purchase a TV listening system that can connect to a digital audio-out jack.
    Click here to read more about how different devices connect to the TV.
  1. I wear hearing aids with t-coils. What system would work with my t-coils?
    If you have a manual t-coil (which means you can turn it on and off) then you can use a neckloop receiver.  Simply turn on your t-coils and the neckloop will send the TV sound directly into your hearing aids – no need for a headphone or earbuds!
    Click here to see an example.
    You could also install a home hearing loop which will also send the sound directly into your hearing aids and no neckloop is needed.
  1. I wear hearing aids but do not have t-coils. What do you recommend?
    This is really a matter of personal preference. Some people can wear the padded headphones over their hearing aids with no problem, but some people will get feedback or find them uncomfortable with behind-the-ear hearing aids. Depending on the level of hearing loss you have, you may be able to take your hearing aids out to watch TV. Another choice is described below in #6.
  1. I hate putting things in my ears and don’t want to wear those big “ear muff” type of headphones. Is there another choice?
    Yes! You can get a wireless speaker such as the Serene Innovations TV SoundBox. You can place the speaker near where you are sitting and since it is so close, you don’t need the volume very high. It also has a headphone jack if you decide you would like to use it with headphones. You can even carry into the kitchen to get a snack and hear every word!
  1. I already have a TV listening system. I just bought a new TV and it only has a digital audio-out jack. Do I need to buy another TV listening system?
    No! You can buy a digital to analog (DAC) converter.

I hope this information was helpful. Once you decide to purchase a TV listening system, you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!  If you still are not sure, we would be glad to help you.  Contact us
 

 

 

Made for iPhone Hearing Aids

The “Made for iPhone” (MFi) trend is growing!  Hearing aid companies are making hearing aids that connect to the iPhone via an app.  With these hearing aids, you can stream phone calls, music, videos, FaceTime, and Skype directly into your hearing aids without needing a neckloop, phone clip or other intermediary device.  They connect easily to your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.  The app allows you to use the phone to change programs and volume.  It can also save a setting you like in a certain environment so when you return, you can go directly to that setting.  In fact, your GPS will know when you return and automatically adjust the sound to your preferred settings!  It even includes a program to help you find your hearing aids. 
TruLink 1
However, I think the best feature is that they can turn your iPhone into an assisted listening device by using the microphone to pick up someone’s voice and stream it directly into your hearing aids!  The “Live Microphone” (Starkey) or “Live Listen” (ReSound) turns the iPhone mic into a wireless, remote microphone.  The big question, though, is how well does it work?  As with similar devices, I imagine you must hold the phone very close to the speaker’s mouth to get good sound quality.
The LiNX hearing aid by GN ReSound was the first MFi hearing aid, released in February.  This was followed quickly in March by the Halo hearing aid by Starkey.  The Apple website lists 7 hearing aids that are MFi, but on closer examination, they are all owned by either GN ReSound or Starkey.
Audibel with TruLink App (Starkey)
888 771-8606
Audigy AGX with TruLink App (Starkey)
800 432-7464
Beltone First with HearPlus App (GN ReSound)
800 235-8663
MicroTech Kinnect  with TruLink App  (Starkey)
800 745-4327
NuEar iSDS with TruLink App (Starkey)
800 626-8327
ReSound LiNX with ReSound Smart App (GN ReSound)
952 769-8000
Starkey Halo with TruLink App (Starkey)
888 481-5512
joined Apple’s Made for iPhone (MFi) program
joined Apple’s Made for iPhone (MFi) programjoin
joined Apple’s Made for iPhone (MFi) program

Oticon claims to have joined Apple’s Made for iPhone program……but not really.  It does not stream directly into the hearing aids, but has just come out with an updated Streamer,  the Streamer Pro 1.2, that can be paired with the iPhone via the ConnectLine App.  It seems to me that the ConnectLine App is nothing more than a remote control, as it lacks the features of the truly Made for iPhone hearing aids.  It does allow you to save settings for different environments, but the real advantage of the MFi hearing aids is that you no longer need a neckloop/streamer!

If you have tried any of these MFi hearing aids, please leave a comment.  I would love to hear how you like them!

Why didn’t you answer the door!?!?

One morning I woke up, put on my hearing aids, shut the bedroom door so I wouldn’t disturb my husband, and began doing yoga in front of the TV while watching the news.  About 15 minutes later my cell phone rang and my husband shouted, “Why didn’t you answer the door!?!?”   He had accidentally locked himself out without his phone or keys.  He knocked (“pounded”) on the door, rang the doorbell many times and finally walked to a nearby business to use their phone!  This is when I realized I needed an alerting device for my doorbell!

Well, since I sell alerting devices, this should be no problem.  But…….there are so many choices!  Sonic Alert, Clarity, Silent Call, Bellman & Symfon, Serene Innovations, and more!   Well, I decided to try the Serene Innovations CentralAlert Signaling System.  I chose Serene Innovations (SI) partly because the price is equal to or less than the other systems, partly because I have used other SI products and like them, and partly because I like the way it looks!

HC-CA360

I am very happy with the CA-360 Clock/Receiver.  It comes with a doorbell, bed shaker, and can also be used for phone notification.  The clock/receiver is small (6.5″ x 4.5″ x 2.25″), sturdy, and it is easy to set the time and alarm.  When the doorbell rings it flashes a VERY bright light,  and can be set to ring at a low setting or high setting.  It also has an off switch so only the light and bed shaker will alert you.  This is a nice feature if you like to wake up a bit more gently.

As with all alerting systems, SI makes various transmitters such as a baby monitor, a door knock/chime transmitter, a motion detector, an SOS Button to get someone’s attention in the house, and an audio alarm for smoke/fire or carbon monoxide.  You can also purchase a portable remote receiver.  I plan to get the portable CA-RX remote receiver (below) to keep in my office which is too far from my bedroom to hear the alert.  The remote receivers are handy to have in any room that is far from the clock/receiver and will operate up to 200ft. from the transmitters.

HC-CA-RX

There are several ways to purchase the SI products depending on what you need.  Some of the transmitters are packaged with the receivers and others are sold separately.  To make it easier to find, I created a separate link on my website to see all the Serene Innovations CentralAlert products.   I know it can be confusing when using these systems for the first time.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.  And hopefully, my poor husband will no longer have to worry about getting locked out when I am home!

 

 

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