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What is a Neckloop?

First the short version:  If you wear hearing aids, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to wear headphones or earbuds.  Neckloops are the “headphones” for hearing aids…..hearing aids with t-coils, that is!  A neckloop wirelessly sends sound into your hearing aids.  The t-coils in your hearing aids act like little speakers in your ears.

Want to know more?  Here’s the long version!

I’m going to use the word “neckloop” here, although really there are other devices such as silhouettes and accessories made by hearing aid manufacturers such as the Widex Dex or the Siemen’s miniTek that function like a neckloop but are not worn around the neck.

If you are not familiar with t-coils please see the t-coil page on my website:  http://www.heargear.net/t-coils

One of the reasons I stress the importance of getting a t-coil in your hearing aids is this allows you to use a neckloop.  The t-coil must be “manual,” not automatic.  You must be able to turn it on yourself using a switch or program button.  All cochlear implants have a manual t-coil, so they are equipped to work with a neckloop.

There are basically two types of neckloops:  Bluetooth and Inductive

  1.  Bluetooth

A Bluetooth neckloop, such as the ClearSounds Quattro Bluetooth Neckloop, can be paired with your cell phone or other Bluetooth capable device.  Most cell phones are Bluetooth capable, so you can pair the neckloop with your cell phone for hands-free conversations.

Quattro

The neckloop has a built-in microphone.  You speak into this microphone and do not need to speak into the phone.   Your cell phone can be in your purse or your pocket while you are speaking.   As when using a headphone, you will be able to hear the speaker in both ears.

The ClearSounds Bluetooth Transmitter can be used with the Bluetooth neckloop.  It can transmit sound from other devices such as a computer, TV, MP3 player, or other sound source.

QLink

  1.  Inductive Neckloops

These come in amplified and non-amplified.  I think the amplified are much better.  They have a battery, a volume control, and create a louder signal.  One example is the ClearSounds CLA7v2 Amplified Neckloop.

HC-CLA7V2

This looks similar to the Bluetooth neckloop, but it has a cord and must be physically connected to the audio source.  This particular neckloop comes with 4 cables to fit 2.5mm and 3.5mm stereo and mono jacks.  It is available for free at the California Telephone Access Program (CTAP) and probably other state telecommunications programs.

Inductive neckloops can plug into any device that has a headphone jack.  It wirelessly sends the sound into both your hearing aids.  They can be used with a personal amplifier, a cell phone, a landline phone, computer, MP3 player, audio books, and more.  Neckloops do not produce sound or amplify sound by themselves.  They must be plugged into an audio source.

The inductive neckloop above is a “generic” neckloop that will work with any model of hearing aids (that have t-coils).  Some hearing aid manufacturers make their own “proprietary” neckloops that only work with their hearing aids.  For more information about these, see my blog post, “Shopping for a Hearing Aid.”

Shopping for a New Hearing Aid – An Update

I have previously posted information about shopping for a hearing aid which I divided into several consecutive posts.  I have had so many people ask my advice on what hearing aid to buy that I am re-posting this information in one long post.  I have updated and modified the original. 

Please note:  I am not an audiologist.  These are my opinions based on my experience, my preferences and my research.  Always check with a qualified audiologist or hearing aid specialist to find the best hearing aid for your hearing loss and your needs.

Shopping for a New Hearing Aid

 We are bombarded with ads for hearing aids that say, “our smallest hearing aid,” “completely invisible,”  “tiny,” “discrete,” “inconspicuous,” “no one will know you are wearing hearing aids,” etc. etc.  These ads infuriate me!   They are reinforcing the idea that wearing a hearing aid is something to be ashamed of, something to keep hidden and private.  What these ads are NOT telling you is that “small” is not going to give you the most benefit out of your hearing aids.  When shopping for a hearing aid, know what features you are looking for.  Many features are not available in those “tiny” hearing aids!

Important features to look for:

1.  t-coil – with manual switch, not automatic
2.  volume control – on the hearing aid, not just on a remote
3.  program buttons – also on the hearing aid
4.  wireless connectivity – between hearing aids and with other devices
5.  Bluetooth compatible – especially if you use a cell phone
6.  directional microphones – to help in noisy environments
7.  DAI – direct audio input

You may not need all these features, but should know your options.  There are other features in the inner workings of the hearing aid (feedback reduction, noise suppression, frequency shifting, wind block, etc.) but I am only describing the features the user can control and interact with.

1.  T-coils
I’ve already covered the importance of getting a t-coil in previous blog posts.  Of all these features, this is the most important to me.  Don’t buy a hearing aid without a t-coil!
See my website for more on this topic.  http://www.heargear.net/t-coils.

The t-coil must be manual, not automatic, which means you can turn it on and off yourself using a switch or program button.  You must have a manual t-coil in order to use your t-coil in a room with a hearing loop or to use a neckloop.

T-coil Installed

Some hearing aids give you a choice of
T = t-coil only
or
T + M = t-coil and microphone

T-coil only means you can completely turn off the microphone (muting the background noise) and just hear what is being transmitted to the t-coil.

T-coil and microphone means you can keep your microphone on while using the t-coil.  I like having both the “T” and the “T+M” settings.

THLswitch

2.   Volume Control

It is nice to have a remote control, but I also want my volume control on my hearing aid.  This is a very important feature for me.  When in a group situation, one person’s voice may be softer than another’s and I can quickly adjust my hearing aid.  If I had to rummage around in my purse for my remote control, I would miss half of the conversation.  If you have difficulty with handling small buttons and controls, then a remote control is great.

3.  Program Buttons

Just like the volume control, I want the program buttons to be quickly available.  The program control button lets you switch to different programs set up by your audiologist.  Typically “program 1” is your regular program that you use most of time.  This is the program that is on when you first put on your hearing aids.  The number of programs available varies, but I recommend getting at least 4 programs.  You might have a program for noisy environments (which controls the directional microphones), a program for your t-coil and/or a program for listening to music.  There may be other types of programs available. When shopping for a hearing aid, find out how many programs the hearing aid is able to store and discuss the options with your audiologist.

   Hearing Aids buttons

4.  Wireless Connectivity – This term refers to two different types of connectivity

a.  The hearing aids should communicate with each other.  My volume control is on the left.  When I adjust it, it automatically adjusts the right hearing aid, too.  My program control button is on the right.  I only have to use this one button to change the program in both hearing aids.

b.  Some hearing aid manufacturers have created devices to help you “stream” sound directly into your hearing aids from audio sources such a cell phone, a land  line, television, computers and personal amplifiers.  I think these are VERY nice options to have.  Here is a list of the brands I am currently aware of that come with some kind of streaming accessory.

Phonak – SmartLink (FM) & ComPilot (Bluetooth)
Oticon – Streamer & ConnectLine
Siemans – Tek & miniTek
Resound – Unite accessories
Rexton – Mini Blu RCU & SoundGate
Unitron – uDirect & uTV
Widex – Dex & Scola FM
Starkey – SurfLink Mobile & SurfLink Media

connectline-solution

5. Bluetooth Compatible

Bluetooth allows you to talk hands-free on a cell phone and listen to music, podcasts, or audio books from a smart phone.  You can purchase a Bluetooth transmitter to send sound from your computer, TV or land line phone into your hearing aids.  No hearing aids have Bluetooth built in to them as they would require too much battery power, so a neckloop or other intermediary device is needed to use Bluetooth.

6.  Directional Microphones

Directional microphones can help you hear better in noise as it amplifies the sounds in front of you (the person you are speaking to) while lowering the volume of other sounds. You activate the directional microphone by changing the program button on your hearing aids.

7.  DAI – Direct Auditory Input

DAI allows the hearing aid to be directly connected to an external audio source.  This may be done with a 3-prong cord and a “sleeve” or a “boot” that fits onto the bottom of a BTE (behind-the-ear) hearing aid.  Phonak makes an FM receiver that is compatible with all hearing instrument brands and models (and can be used with Phonak FM transmitters).

images     DAI boot smaller          DAI cable smaller

For more information about hearing aids see:
“Common Styles of Hearing Aids”

“Introduction to Hearing Aids”

Flinstones with Hearing Loss

What does it sound like to have a hearing loss?  Turn up the volume and watch this video.  You might be a little more patient next time your friend or family member with a hearing loss says, “What?”