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Captions! Captions! Captions!

I have met several people lately who said they can’t go to movies anymore because they can’t hear well enough.  Also, many people I meet do not talk on the phone as it is too hard to hear.  So, I want to write about captions, captions, and more captions!

TV Captions – most people know about TV captions, however some do not know how to turn them on.  Turn them on!  They are great!  Some remote controls make it easy with a “CC” button, but usually you have to click on “Menu” and “Language” or “Audio” or “Accessibility”.  It isn’t that difficult.  Do it!

Movie Captions – almost all movie theaters now have a captioning device.  All AMC theaters have a system called CaptiView.  It is a device that fits into your cup holder with a bendable support arm and a small digital screen that displays the captions.  You can adjust it so it sits right under your line of sight to the screen and it is easy to read.  I love them and try to never to go to a movie without captions.  All Regal theaters have a different captioning system called Sony Entertainment Access Glasses.  The glasses project the captioning onto the lenses.  They work well, but I think they are uncomfortable to wear, so prefer the other type.  Another system similar to CaptiView is the USL Closed Captioned System (CCS) which is also excellent.  Some older theaters might have the Rear Window Captioning.  With this system, the captions are projected from the rear of the theater onto a plastic screen in front of you.  To use these captioning devices, just go to the customer service desk and ask to check it out.  I don’t know why more people don’t know about this.  Maybe the theater doesn’t advertise it as they are afraid they will have to purchase more devices.  Most theaters currently only have a few, so arrive early to be sure you get one.  And, of course, foreign films will be captioned with subtitles so you don’t need to check out a device.

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CaptionFish  Caption Fish is a fabulous search engine for captioned movies.  It will find all the captioned movies in your area and tell you where they are playing.  You just put in your zip code and “Go Fish”!  You can download an app for your phone or tablet or go to http://www.captionfish.com on your computer.

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Live Theater Open Captioning - Many theaters are now starting to have one open captioned performance for each show.  It is usually on a Saturday or Sunday matinee.  In San Diego, the Civic Theater and the La Jolla Playhouse have open captioning.  Just check their websites under “Plan Your Visit” – “Special Needs” or “Patron Services.”  Best to call for tickets to be sure you get seats near the captioning screen.

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Captioned Telephones - There are several types of captioned telephones on the market.  Many of these are free for people with hearing loss.  See the “Specialized Phones” section of this page on my website.

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Captioned Cellphones - There are also several services for captioning cell phone calls, such as Hamilton Mobile CapTel, Sprint CapTel, InnoCaptions, CaptionCall, and ClearCaptions.  These services are also available for your computer or tablet.

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CaptionCall iPad App – CaptionCall has recently come out with a CaptionCall app for the iPad.  You need to contact CaptionCall to have a technician come to your home and set it up.   I have it and love it!  It looks just like the land line screen and the captions are quick and very accurate.  It also captions your voice messages.  This app is so new, they are not advertising it yet and it is not available in all states, but you can call 877 557-2227 for information.

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Live and Remote Captioning - Captioning is an accommodation for Deaf and hard-of-hearing and can be provided live or even remotely.  With live captioning, the captioner is present and sends the captions to a laptop, tablet or screen.  In remote captioning, the captioner is not present, but has an audio feed and sends the captions via the internet.  Captioning can be used at schools, business meetings and conferences.  There are many companies that provide these services such as eCaptions and Quick Caption.

So, please don’t stop enjoying live theater, movies and talking on the phone!  Share this information with your friends and if you have more information to add, please leave a comment.  I  would love to hear about your experiences with captioning.

Advanced Tips for Using a Pocketalker

If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I LOVE the Williams Sound Pocketalker!  If you have recently purchased one, I encourage you to read my list of basic tips on how to use the Pocketalker

Once you are familiar with the Pocketaker, these “Advanced Tips for Using a Pocketalker” will help you learn ways to adapt your Pocketalker to your listening needs. With a little creativity, you’ll find the Pocketalker can help you hear better in many challenging situations.

1.  Use a lapel microphone. You can remove the plug microphone and insert a lapel microphone. Clip it to the collar of the person you are talking to and background noise will be reduced while the speaker’s voice is amplified. This is very effective in the car and in a restaurant. For more about this see my blog post:  Noisy Restaurant – Recipe for Success Lapel Mics                  omni-directional mic on left (my favorite) and directional mic on right

2.  Use a conference microphone. A conference microphone such as the Centrum Sound Single Conference Microphone or the Centrum Sound Dual Conference Microphone can be placed on a table at a meeting. It will pick up sound from people sitting around the table. This is excellent in a meeting where one person speaks at a time. I do not recommend it for a noisy room or a restaurant.

3.  Use an extension cord. The Pocketalker comes with a 12-foot extension cord for watching TV. This is too long to use to talk people around a table or sitting in the living room. At Radio Shack you can buy a 3-foot or a 6-foot audio cord. This will extend the reach of the Pocketalker and let you pass it around a table or hand it to someone sitting too far away to hear.

Headphone with microphone extendedextension cord to headphone

IMG_7244extension cord for microphone

There are two ways to do this. You can use the extension cord between the headphone jack on the Pocketalker and your headphones (or neckloop) or you can remove the plug microphone from the Pocketalker, plug it into one end of the extension cord and plug the other end of the extension cord into the microphone jack of the Pocketalker.

4.  Create a “microphone stand.” Using a 3-foot cord between the microphone and the Pocketalker and the stick-on clip that is included for listening to TV, you can place the microphone in a vertical position to better pick up talk around the table.Plastic cup mic standI always carry a tote bag for my listening devices so I just added this plastic cup to my collection. I put my car keys in the cup to stabilize it…………and so I don’t accidentally leave my fancy microphone stand.

5.  More tips.  The Pocketalker is a mono device.  The Williams Sound headphones and earbuds have a mono plug.  If you want to use your own stereo headphones or earbuds, you need a stereo to mono adapter (available at Radio Shack – Part # 274-882 or 274-368.)

Mono and stereo jacks Mono plug has one black line.
Stereo plug has two black lines.

adapterStereo to mono adapter

Here is a close-up of the type of extension cord (audio cord) you can use for expanding your reach.

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The microphone and headphone jacks have tiny pictures that are difficult to see, but just remember that the microphone jack has a raised base.

Pocketalker Pulgs

It may be helpful to draw an arrow pointing to the on/off and volume control. The knob on the other side is for tone and can usually be set once and left alone.

Label the Volume Control

Now you are a Pocketalker expert!  If you have other creative techniques for using the Pocketalker, please share your ideas below!

Farewell Motiva!

I am sad to say that Williams Sound is discontinuing the Motiva Personal FM System.  This is my favorite FM system!

PMF360with mic

In fact, a recent experience reminded me of how helpful it can be in a classroom or workshop.  I am currently taking an American Sign Language (ASL) class at a local junior college.  Besides loving ASL, I enjoy the fact that I usually don’t have to worry about hearing in the classroom!  However, the teacher isn’t deaf and sometimes we have class discussions about Deaf culture.  Whenever we do, I bring some sort of listening device.

Last week I was so frustrated that I did NOT bring my Motiva system!  The device I brought allowed me to hear the teacher perfectly!  But……..I couldn’t hear any of the questions or comments from the students!  One of the things I like about the Motiva is that it has a microphone on the receiver.  So, I can hear the teacher wearing the transmitter (who could be over 100 feet away!) AND I can also listen to the students sitting relatively nearby by using the microphone on the receiver.  In a quiet room with only one person speaking, the microphone on the receiver will amplify voices of people sitting 12 – 15 feet away.

For more information about the Motiva 360, please see my previous blog post:  The Pros and Cons of Three FM Systems.
If you would like to purchase the Motiva, I suggest doing it ASAP!  It will be available for a few months so buy yourself or a loved one a very useful holiday gift!  You can buy it with a charger or without the charger.

If you would like to buy one, I am offering a 15% discount. Use the coupon code M360
Click here for the Motiva Personal FM System with Charger.
Click here for the Motiva Personal FM System (no charger).

So glad I have mine!

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

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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.

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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…….

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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.

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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! 

 

 

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