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Hear Gear is Retiring!

When I wrote my last blog post, “Last but not Least,” I was referring to the last of 4 posts about the HLAA 2016 convention.  Little did I know at the time, it would also be my last post on this blog!  I have decided I am ready to move on to new adventures and will be selling or closing Hear Gear.  My website will still be open for several more months but I will no longer be posting on my blog.  I will keep my blog up for at least a year so you can look up any information you might want (use the search box).

Thank you to all who have been my faithful readers and commenters.  I appreciate it and I hope my information has been helpful.  I will still keep my Hear Gear Facebook Page, so please follow me for articles about hearing loss and the latest news about hearing aids.

If you, or someone you know, would be interested in starting a business selling assisted listening devices, please refer them to this link:  https://tinyurl.com/hynf4o3

I am basically selling my website which has thousands of products and is ready to go.  If you are interested in working from home, setting your own hours, and helping people with hearing loss, this may be the business for you!

Here I am with my favorite assisted listening device, the Pocketalker 2.0.  I’m using it with my Oticon Streamer.  Great sound!  You can still get yours here:  http://www.heargear.net/Williams-Sound-Pocketalker-2.0-Personal-Amplifier


Hope to see you on the Hear Gear Facebook page!  So long for now and Thank you!




HLAA 2016 Convention – Last but not Least

In my last 3 posts, I wrote about the HLAA 2016 Convention.  If you have never attended a convention, I hope I have motivated you to go.  There is so much great information and so many interesting people to meet.  Here are some final comments about what I learned.


Audio Everywhere (www.audioeverywhere.com)
I am surprised I had never heard of this type of assisted listening device!  Audio Everywhere works by sending the audio signal digitally over standard Wi-Fi to Android and Apple smart phones and tables.  It can be used in any venue from small to large and because it uses the existing WiFi, there are no wires to install, as with a hearing loop.  No need to carry any extra devices since we all have phones.  No need to check out a receiver.  You can use your own earbuds, inductive neckloop, or Bluetooth neckloop. It is being used in churches, sports bars, restaurants, fitness centers, casinos, health care settings, houses of worship, entertainment venues, and waiting rooms.  You can down load the free Audio Everywhere app, enable the Demo Mode, go to the Demo Venue and see a sample of how the app can be personalized for your place of business.


Neil Bauman
Neil Bauman, from the Center of Hearing Loss Help, talked about his book, Take Control of your Tinnitus – Here’s HowIf you suffer from tinnitus, I highly recommend reading his book.  I can’t begin to explain his techniques but one concept I took away with me is:  Ignore your tinnitus by focusing on the “loves of your life.”  At first I thought, “Oh, yeah, easier said than done!”  But the more I thought about it, it is true that when you are involved in something you are passionate about, it is easy to forget about your worries, pains, etc.  Another interesting fact:  51 million Americans have tinnitus.  75% of them do not “suffer” from it!  Why?  Learn more about this and other strategies in Neil’s book!



OTOjOY (www.otojoy.com)
“OTOjOY – if ears could smile”!  I love the name of this company!  They started by making custom earplugs and now have become experts at hearing loop installation.  They also have created a product called “LoopBuds” – for people who do not have t-coils or do not wear hearing aids.  LoopBuds can be used to listen to sound coming from a hearing loop.  They are small, light-weight, easy to carry in your pocket, and more comfortable than using a traditional loop receiver.  And now Otojoy has started a program called  “Five Buck Chuck.” (www.5buckchuck.club)  A man named “Chuck” is selling the Otojoy hearing aid batteries (Power One brand) for $5.00 for 12 batteries (2 packs of 6 batteries).  They are mailed to your home and if you sign up for a year, the shipping is free.  Definitely a company to keep an eye on!  Wonder what they will develop next?


Hearing Loss Revolution
Pat Dobbs led a workshop called, “Building a Strong Chapter One Step at a Time.”  She had a lot of good ideas for chapter building and she also shared information about an organization she started called “Hearing Loss Revolution.”  I really liked the 9 guiding principles of the Hearing Loss Revolution.

The Nine Guiding Principles of the Hearing Loss Revolution
1. Our lives define us, not our hearing loss.
2. We’re intelligent, engaged, and valued in spite of our hearing loss.
3. We’re the heroes of our hearing loss, not its victims.
4. We advise people what we need them to do so we can hear them better.
5. We’re honest with ourselves and others; we don’t pretend to hear what we don’t hear.
6. We use assistive listening technologies proudly, and advocate for installing them in   public places.
7. We see the humor when we misunderstand what people say, and we are able to laugh at it.
8. We accept with grace the hearing challenges that we cannot change.
9. We are grateful for our courage and strength in living these Principles.
© 2014, Pat Dobbs, All Rights Reserved
| (973) 479-8083

Here is a link to a flyer of the 9 Guiding Principles that you can print and distribute to your HLAA group:  http://www.hearinglossrevolution.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/HearingLossNinePrinciples-flier.pdf

Hope I have given you a good “taste” of the HLAA 2016 convention.  Ready to go next year?  The HLAA 2017 Convention will be in Salt Lake City, June 22-25.  For more info: http://www.hearingloss.org/content/convention

If you would like to share your experience at the convention, please leave a comment.  Thanks!


HLAA 2016 Convention – Part 3

In my last two posts, HLAA 2016 Convention – Part I and HLAA 2016 Convention – Part 2
I discussed new products I learned about at the HLAA 2016 Convention.  Now I would like to share some amazing new apps!

ava (www.ava.me)
I was most impressed with a new voice-to-text app called ava (often written as &ava).  The free app was created by Transcense and a team of developers including one man who is deaf and one Coda (Child of Deaf Adults).  Everyone you want to communicate with must download the app.  When  you speak into your phone, you and the other person will see very fast accurate text that appears in easy to read color coded blocks.  The other person can reply by speaking or typing.  You can attach a lapel microphone to make it even easier to use.  Excellent app to communicate with the Deaf and hard-of-hearing!  Also a great way to communicate in a noisy restaurant or talk to a friend on the other end of a long table.  Ava stands for “Audio Visual Accessibility” and it will work with iPhones and Androids.  Ava is free for 5 hours/month and $29/month for unlimited use. 

The video below will give you more information on how to use ava.

Ava will be released Sept. 5th for public download.  For now you need to be invited by someone who has the app or go to bit.ly/getava to download it.


Petralex (www.petralex.pro)
Petralex Hear It Clear
Petralex is a free app that turns your phone into a personal amplifier.  It can be used with earbuds or a neckloop and the microphone in your cell phone amplifies nearby sounds.  The Petralex app works with iPhones and Android phones.  It includes a hearing test and adjusts the amplification to your hearing loss.

Petralex is made by “IT for you,” and they also make Petralex Music which adjusts your music to your hearing loss, Petralex Radio, and Petralex Windows.  I walked around the exhibit hall and used it to talk to vendors and it worked quite well!

Jacoti Listen App (www.jacoti.com)
Jacoti 3
Jacoti Listen App is similar to the Petralex App as it converts your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch (not available for Android phones) into a personal amplifier.  Like Petralex, the app includes a hearing test and it uses the built-in microphone to pick up sounds nearby.  It can be used with ear buds or a neckloop and also incudes Jacoti Music Player for listening to music.  the Jacoti Hearing App is the the world’s first CE approved and USA FDA registered medical device standalone software hearing aid.
Jacoti 2

Ava and Petralex are brand new apps.  Jacoti has been around for a few years and has more applications.  The Jacoti Listen App is part of the Jacoti Hearing Suite which include Jacoti Lola Classroom.  Lola Classroom is a WiFi based app that sends the sound of the teacher’s voice to the students using Lola.

Tina Childress (http://tina-childress.com)


Another workshop I attended at the Convention was “C-APP-italizing on Technology” presented by Tina Childress.  Tina is an audiologist, professional speaker, and hearing loss advocate.  She is late deafened with bilateral cochlear implants.  Tina is an amazing resource!  She has compiled  an exhaustive list of apps for hard-of-hearing children and adults:  http://bit.ly/Apps4HL  and has a blog at:  http://del.icio.us/hlpuears.  You can also find her on Facebook.

InnoCaption (www.innocaptions.com)

InnoCaptions Logo
InnoCaptions is a free service that captions your cell phone calls.  It works on Android and iPhones.  There are several cell phone captioning services now:  Hamilton Captel, Clear Captions, Caption Call (for iPads), and now Innocaptions.  I haven’t used any of these services regularly, so can’t really evaluate which is best.  Several presenters at the convention recommended InnoCaptions, so I think it would be worth a try.


Hope you try some of these apps and find them helpful.  If you have used other apps that you would recommend, please leave a comment.  Thanks!

HLAA 2016 Convention – Part 2

In my last blog post, HLAA 2016 Convention – Part 1, I discussed the new Oticon Opn hearing aids.  Now I’d like to discuss another new hearing aid, a new device from Phonak, and a new gadget to alert you to cell phone calls and texts.

earVenture  (www.earVenture.net)

EarVenture is a high-quality, low-cost hearing aid that is only sold through hearing health care professionals.  It is not a PSAP!  It is a programmable hearing aid and FDA registered.  According to their website, “As many patients consider unregulated, over-the-counter or online alternatives, we feel that earVenture devices, combined with professional diagnosis, verification and fitting protocol supplied by an audiologist, will offer a better patient outcome.”

EVH5001-1EVH5002-1   EVH5021-1
EarVenture makes 3 styles:  the reVeI, the faVor, and the saVvy.  The BTE hearing aids have a t-coil.  The price varies, depending on where you buy it, but I was told it costs in the “hundreds” not in the “thousands.”  I think this is a great business model and I hope more companies start to offer similar low-cost hearing aids.  They can keep the price down as they do no marketing directly to consumers and I like that unlike the over-the-counter and online hearing aids, this one must be fitted by a hearing health professional.  Sounds great – better than a PSAP, cheaper than most hearing aids, and fitted by a professional!

Phonak Table Microphone

Don’t tell my husband, but I am in love…………..with Roger.  I wrote about “Roger” in a previous post:  Wireless Microphones for Hearing Aids

I have tried the Roger Pen, the Roger Easy Pen, and the Roger Clip-on Mic and the sound quality is amazing!  You don’t have to wear Phonak hearing aids to use these devices.  Now Phonak has added another tool for listening in meetings, the Roger Table Mic

Roger Table Mic

The Roger Table Mic is a wireless microphone specifically designed to transmit clear sound to your hearing aids during meetings.  As with the other Roger devices, you must have a receiver such as the Roger My Link neckloop or the Roger X receiver attached to your hearing aids, cochlear implant processor, or Bluetooth streamer.  The Table Mic has a greater range than the Roger Pen (up to 100 feet) and for larger meetings, it´s possible to use several Roger Table Mics across the table.  If you already have a Roger Pen, you can use that along with the Table Mic to extend the range.

Ditto  (www.simplematters.com)


Ditto is a tiny (but mighty!) device you can put in your pocket, clip on your shirt, or wear on a wristband.  It vibrates to alert you to cell phone notifications. With the free Wear Ditto app, you can select the notifications you want to receive – calls, texts, e-mails, calendar, and third party apps.  No more constantly checking your phone and no more missed calls!  It never has to be charged and the battery lasts for months.  It even has a built-in wireless tether. When you’re about to leave your phone behind, Ditto will vibrate to warn you!

This is a handy “wearable” for anyone, not just those with hearing loss.  And….Hear Gear is selling the Ditto at a 10% discount!  Use coupon code “DITTOTEN” at check-out.

Watch this video to see the many uses of the Ditto and how it can free you from worrying about your smartphone and be more present in life.


So many new products!  If any of you have tried earVentures, the Phonak Table Mic, or the Ditto, we’d love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment.  Thanks!


HLAA 2016 Convention – Part 1

I attended the HLAA Convention last month and learned about so many new devices and new technologies, I don’t know where to begin!  I’ll break it up into 3 or 4 posts, as I have so much to share!  I’ll start with some amazing new hearing aids.

Oticon Opn Hearing Aid  (www.oticon.com/solutions/opn/)

Oticon Opn 2

Oticon’s newest hearing aid is the world’s first internet-connected hearing aid!  It is really amazing what they can do with the internet using the Oticon On app and a program called “If This Then That” (IFTTT),  part of the “Internet of Things”(IoT). The concept of  “If This Then  That” and “Internet of Things” are new to me, so I’ll let Oticon explain it.  Here are some quotes from the Oticon website.

“The Velox™ platform’s TwinLink™ technologies enable advanced connections to a whole world of wireless devices and solutions. Stream your TV’s audio directly to your hearing aids, or adjust the volume discreetly with a tiny Remote Control. With the Oticon ON app, you can control your new Oticon Opn™ hearing aids right from your mobile phone and interact with other internet-connected devices and services.”

“The Oticon ON app unlocks the power of the internet of things. IFTTT (If This Then That) is an ever expanding internet-based service, which enables you to integrate your hearing solution with a vast range of online products and solutions such as your home lighting, doorbell, alarm system, and mobile phone.

Get help finding your hearing aids if they go missing. Trigger your lights, home alarm system, or smart thermostat when you turn your hearing aids on or off. Have your hearing aids send a notification when the battery is low or someone’s at the door. With Oticon ON, it’s all up to you.”

To learn more about IFTTT see Oticon Support and IFTTT


Other new features of the Oticon Opn hearing aid:

  • 50 times faster than the latest Oticon platform for quicker, more accurate sound processing;
  • 64 frequency channels ensure clear, precise sound reproduction for better speech understanding;
  • Scans the environment more than 100 times per second, analyzing and balancing sounds for richer, more realistic 360° sound picture;
  • Bluetooth is built into the hearing aid – no neckloop is needed to connect with your cell phone, music player, TV, and more.

That’s the good news!  The bad news is that the Oticon Opn hearing aid has no t-coil!  Bummer!  I was told that the next model, which should come out in 2017, will have a t-coil.

The other bad news is that the older Oticon Connectline accessories will not work with the new Oticon Opn.  So if you have Oticon hearing aids now (that would be me!) and you have purchased their accessories (that would be me!)  your Connectline TV adapter, Connectline telephone adapter, Connectline Microphone, and the Streamer Pro cannot be used.  Another Bummer!

However…..it is  GREAT that you can now talk on your cell phone with no neckloop and have the sound streamed directly into your hearing aids!!  I’ve been waiting for that!  BUT…… I use my streamer for so many things such as plugging into my Pocketalker, plugging into the headphone jack at the gym to hear the TV on the treadmill, plugging into an FM receiver, etc.  And although you can hear your iPhone, there is no steamer to talk into, so you have to hold the phone near your mouth to talk.  Not exactly hands free.  Not sure how these functions will be replaced. Hopefully they will come up with something.

More good news:  You can use your iPhone as a remote microphone!  This means you can use the Oticon On app and your iPhone microphone to work like an assisted listening device.

The reviews I have read about the Opn have been very positive about the sound quality, hearing better, and hearing better in noise.  That’s what we all want, right?  But, personally, I’ll wait for the next model with a t-coil. If any of you have tried the Oticon Opn, we would love to hear what you think about them.  Please leave a comment.  Thanks!


Cochlear Implants

In my last post, “I don’t need hearing aids!”, I wrote about hearing aids and how much they can improve your quality of life.  I shared a story from a friend that described her experience so well. Now I would like to share information about Cochlear Implants.

When I first started attending HLAA meetings in 2006, I had never met anyone with a Cochlear Implant (CI).  I imagined that anyone with a CI would be very hard of hearing and difficult to understand.  Boy, was I wrong!  We had so many members with CI’s who could hear and speak almost as well as a hearing person.  The technology of cochlear implants has improved so much and the many CI wearers I have met feel that getting a cochlear implant turned their lives around.

I would like to clarify that the people I know with CI’s are late deafened adults.  They grew up hearing and later lost their hearing.  I know there is a lot of controversy about children getting CI’s and about trying to “fix” a deaf child rather than raising the child in the Deaf community using sign language.  That is a completely different topic than late deafened adults.

I would also like to emphasis that you no longer lose all your residual hearing when getting a CI.  Cochlear Americas has developed a hybrid CI that is a combination hearing aid and cochlear implant that allows you to keep your hearing in the lower frequencies. I don’t doubt that the other CI manufacturer’s will soon have something similar.  Click here for more information about the Cochlear Nucleus Hybrid Implant.

So, if you find your hearing aids no longer help you and you are struggling to communicate, I recommend you at least get evaluated for a CI and learn your options.  Most private insurance companies and Medicare will cover the cost of a cochlear implant.

Here are CI stories shared by three friends.

From Char S.

Over seven years ago, a cochlear implant allowed me to be me again. A progressive hearing loss starting at the tender age of 15 had made me concentrate on hiding my inability to hear. I found it more and more difficult to be myself and fit in. I was ashamed that I couldn’t measure up. Simply unable to admit hearing loss, I mourned each drop in hearing, which was progressing predictably over the years while responding somewhat to advancing technology in hearing aids.  Finding a support group did wonders for my self confidence and I was thriving at work, but when the telephone became increasingly problematic, I tested and qualified for a CI.  However, it took almost four years after that to finally schedule the operation.  I don’t regret not getting one sooner.  The right time is different for each person.  After the CI I was able to hear birdsong again, something I had been missing for several years.  I could listen to talk shows and music on the radio while driving to work. I was back to using the telephone in the office, although conference calls were still tricky.  I could participate in conversations in a relaxed manner and actually enjoy social and work interactions again.  The CI didn’t just give me the world of sound, it opened me up to the world around me.

From Corinne B.

After I was diagnosed as a cochlear implant candidate, I made the first appointment available.  Right before Christmas in 2012.  When I was finally activated, I was in love!  I could hear voices.  They sounded like Mickey Mouse, but I heard them!  The Micky Mouse quality soon changed as my brain learned to hear a different way.  My world opened up.  I went to social situations.  HLAA meetings were a joy! I was elected to the board of the San Diego Chapter and soon as the Vice President.  In 2015, I received my second implant.  I have been blessed to have had very good progress with both of my implants – but I work at it too. I spent over three hours a day using rehabilitation software on my computer.  I make use of the telephone with confidence that my CI manufacturer offers.   I wear my implants from the time I wake up until my head hits the pillow at night. And I know that I am blessed to live in the days of the technology we have.  Had I been born fifty years earlier or even twenty, life would be infinitely more difficult.

From Susan A.

My CI has been a life changing experience.  It has helped my personal relationships immensely by making hearing more effortless.  My CI is an Advanced Bionics Naida and it is fab.  The company’s technology and customer service is amazing.  I now have a Roger pen that I can use on my travel tours and I do not miss a word.  Also use the Roger that streams into my CI to hear my colleagues at meetings and in the workplace.  Watch out everyone “Susie is listening”, and does not feel so left out of conversations!!

The technology continues to improve! Now there are many accessories available to use with your CI such as TV streamers, wireless microphones, Bluetooth phone clips, etc.  The three companies that manufacture cochlear implants are:  Cochlear Americas, Advanced Bionics, and MED-EL.  Cochlear Americas products are compatible with Resound accessories;  Advanced Bionics CI’s are compatible with Phonak accessories;  MED-EL implants work with all generic assisted listening devices (as opposed to only working with one brand).

This 2 minute video explains how a cochlear implant works.

Many thanks to Char, Corinne and Susan for sharing their stories.  If you would like to share your personal experience with cochlear implants, please leave a comment.  THANKS!

I don’t need hearing aids!

I have heard so many people tell me their spouse needs hearing aids but refuses to get them.  It is hard for some people to motivate to take the plunge, so I would like to share with you something my cousin, Susan, wrote to me in an email.  It is such a great description how hearing loss can creep up on you and how hearing aids can improve the quality of your life.  I hope her experience will motivate some of you who are undecided.

Dear Marilyn,
I know this is your specialty! My comments are probably just like those of many other people with whom you’ve spoken over the years….the loss was gradual, so I didn’t realize what was happening. I thought my husband had started to mumble, I kept asking him to repeat—I couldn’t understand him when his back was turned, or he was too far away, or he leaned on his hand so it covered his mouth (and I couldn’t read his lips–but I didn’t realize what I was doing)….then it seemed like EVERYONE was mumbling! I could always hear the volume, but I couldn’t distinguish the words—–especially women’s voices, children’s voices, radio, TV, telephone….. I started to avoid conversation and contact because I just couldn’t follow clearly….wrapped myself in a cloak of quiet solitude…. And
when I taught my folk dance classes, I couldn’t hear the beat of the music very well… Most bird songs disappeared. No crickets! None at all! Whew–finally I had a good diagnostic test (after driving my husband crazy with my requests to repeat—what? what? what did you say?) and found I had lost most of the upper frequencies, in particular those that define the consonants, so I couldn’t distinguish back, track, pack, sack, stack, lack, etc—all sounded the same–some low tones too, but seems those high frequencies were the worst. The test also explained why so many sounds were impossible to distinguish:  rain on windows vs. refrigerator motor vs. car passing on the road vs. washing machine vs. TV or live conversation in the next room vs. all sorts of other ordinary things all were to me the same ambiguous rumbling with no special clue for identification…because the special defining tones (similar to the consonants that distinguish one word from another) were gone.

Anyway, I actually bought my hearing aids at Costco, because the price was so reasonable. The brand is “ReSound,” a wireless receiver-in-the-ear type of instrument, tuned specifically to correct my loss. (The receiver is tiny, connected by a thin tube to the behind-the-ear case that holds the battery & multi-function switch.) They let me try a set in the store before making my decision—–for 20 minutes I walked around with the programmed aids in place, and to my delight I could distinguish separate conversations around me, determine the directional source, understand the words–instead of just hearing an ambiguous wall of noise all around me….what a revelation! So—- I bought these, and I have them checked and adjusted every 6 months, have my hearing retested each year— They work very well for me. I wore them full time from the first day on, and when we went back to Italy for the second time, I was thrilled to have recovered the ability to hear, comprehend, and reproduce the sounds of the language correctly. Another sort-of funny affirmation occurred when we were camping one time in south central Washington during the summer. With the hearing aids I was so happy to be hearing a monumental chorus of crickets—-then when I was ready to go to sleep and took my aids off—-ABSOLUTE SILENCE. Aids back in—the full cricket concert magically resumed!!!!

Well, that’s my story, you’ve probably heard it many times before. (No, I have never heard it described so eloquently, Susan!)

Many thanks to Susan for letting me share her story!  Not everyone adjusts to hearing aids so quickly, but with persistence you should be able to find a pair that  works for you.  Be sure your audiologist or hearing aid dispenser gives you at least a 30-day trial and is willing to fit you with other hearing aids if you are not satisfied with the first pair.  Soon you’ll be hearing those crickets and birds again!



Cell Phone Accessories

Do you have trouble hearing your cell phone ring?
Do you use your cell phone as an alarm clock?
Do you have trouble hearing on your cell phone?

Well, now there are several accessories available to help with all of these problems!.

Ring Alerting Devices
Serene Innovations has several cell phone signalers.

Serene Innovations smaller

The RF 200 Cell Phone Signaler is a desktop signaling device for landline and mobile phones, notifying you when you have incoming calls with a loud ringer and bright flasher.


The CentralAlert CA-CX Phone Signaler does all of the above and can also transmit a signal to the Serene Innovations CA360 Clock/Receiver in another room.

Alarm Signalers

Do you use your cell phone as an alarm?  Is it under your pillow or right next to your head?  Or worse, on your chest?!  Now you can use a Bluetooth TCL Pulse Alarm.  It will wake you with vibration or sound or both.  It works with iPhones and iPads (and the free TCL Pulse App) and once it is programmed, the phone can be turned off or in another room. Keeping your cell phone at a distance, eliminates any worries concerning cell phone radiation that is emitted.

Cell Phone Amplifiers

SI Hear All Cell Phone

Serene Innovations HearAll Cell Phone Amplifier SA-40 is a Bluetooth cell phone amplifier that will pair with your cell phone. It amplifies up to 40dB, has tone control and t-coil mode, and can be used with our without hearing aids.

Other devices to help you hear better on the phone:

I hope some of these devices can help you with your cell phone.  If you have other techniques to help, please share in a comment below.  Thanks!


Assisted Listening Devices 201

In my last blog post, Assisted Listening Devices 101, I gave an overview of Assisted Listening Devices (ALD’s) with a focus on personal amplifiers.  A quick review before we move on:

Personal amplifiers are small portable microphones that can help you hear better in many different situations.  There are 2 types:

1.  Wired – these are attached to you with a wire from the headphone or necklooop.  These are best for listening to someone close by.

2.  Wireless (FM/Digital) – these have two parts:  the transmitter (microphone) and the receiver.  The receiver is attached to you with headphones or a neckloop, but the transmitter can be 4 feet away or 150 feet away, near the person speaking.  These can be used to listen to someone close by or far away.

Now I would like to go into more detail about the types of personal amplifiers available and how they can be used.

Important Facts about ALD’s

1.  Check with your audiologist or hearing aid provider to see what wireless accessories are available from your hearing aid manufacturer.  Most hearing aid companies make ALD’s such as Bluetooth phone clips or neckloops, wireless clip-on microphones, TV streamers, and more.  I described these in a previous post, “Hearing Aids with Wireless Connectivity.”  The advantage of these devices is that they work seamlessly with your hearing aids – you do not need to turn on your t-coil.  If you order one, be sure you get a trial period.  Some have excellent sound quality and some do not!

2.  Other ALD’s that are “generic” and will work with any brand of hearing aid, work best if you have t-coils in your hearing aids.  With t-coils you do not need to wear headphones or earbuds, you can wear a neckloop that will send sound into your hearing aids.  So, find out if you have t-coils and get them turned on!  You can read more about t-coils and neckloops here:  “T-coil? What’s a t-coil?” and “What is a Neckloop.”

You can still use a personal amplifier without t-coils, but you may need to remove your hearing aids to use them.  The advantage of the generic ALD’s is that they are less expensive than the devices from hearing aid manufacturers and if you change to a different brand of hearing aid in the future, they will still work with them.

3.  If you  don’t wear hearing aids, you can still use a personal amplifier with headphones or earbuds.

4.  ALD’s are not for sissies!  ALD’s are for people who have a hearing loss and are brave enough to say, “I have a hearing loss and I am using a device to help me hear.”  These devices are mostly visible.  No more pretending you hear just fine.  No more denial or bluffing!  ALD’s are for someone who wants to take control of their hearing challenges and keep actively involved in life!

Why Do I Need a Personal Amplifier?

You may have just spent $3,000 – $6,000 for a pair of hearing aids.  Why isn’t that enough?!   Hearing aids are great and I strongly recommend getting hearing aids as the first step in treating your hearing loss.  But even the best hearing aids will not make your hearing “normal” again.  It isn’t like getting glasses which give you normal sight.  It can still be a challenge to hear in these situations:
1.  Rooms with poor acoustics – sound reverberates off the walls and ceilings.
2.  Distance from the speaker – volume and clarity will be reduced with distance.
3.  Inability to see the speaker – we all lip read whether we know it or not – it helps to see the speaker’s face.
4.  BACKGROUND NOISE – the biggie!

So personal amplifiers will help with all of these situations by getting the microphone closer to the speaker, reducing background noise, and amplifying what you want to hear.

Where Do I Begin?

If you have never used a personal amplifier, I recommend starting with a wired device.  My first choice is the “Pocketalker” by Williams Sound.  The new Pocketalker 2.0 is small, light, powerful and easy to use.  You can read more about it here:  Introducing the New Pocketalker 2.0
At $189 it is the most affordable and versatile personal amplifier I own (and I own a lot of them!)images

For a wireless device, I recommend the Comfort Contego by Comfort Audio.  I previously described the Comfort Contego in “The Pros and Cons of FM Systems.”  One of the FM systems I reviewed, the Motiva PFM 360 by Williams Sound, has been discontinued, so I have recently been trying out the Comfort Contego and am very happy with it. It is small and has a microphone in both the receiver and the transmitter, so you can choose to listen to the person with the transmitter, or to people close by, or both.  If you will only be listening to someone close by, you can use the receiver by itself, just like a wired device.  When the speaker is farther away, you can hang the transmitter around the speaker’s neck or put it on the speaker’s podium.There is an excellent 6 minute video simulation that demonstrates listening with and without an FM system in “The Magic of Personal FM Systems.”  Be sure to watch the entire video as it is in the 2nd half that he demonstrates what his voice sounds like when using an FM system.

Where Can Personal Amplifiers Help Me?

RESTAURANTS – Let’s start with noisy restaurants.  This is the MOST difficult situation for people who are hard of hearing.  I have a great solution when talking with one other person at a  restaurant.  I wrote about it here, “Noisy Restaurant – Recipe for Success!” and it is still my favorite set-up – using the Pocketalker and a lapel microphone.  It is very effective and makes dining out so much more enjoyable.  You could also use the Comfort Contego with your partner wearing the transmitter around his/her neck.
Unfortunately, I have not found a good solution for easily communicating with 3 or 4 people around a table at a noisy restaurant.  All the ALD’s I’ve tried pick up too much background noise.  If I ever find such a device, I will let you know!Restaurants cook up ways to muffle noise

MEETINGS, CLASSES, and LECTURES – Wireless devices are best in meetings, classes, and lectures because they can be worn by the speaker or placed on a conference table to pick up voices around the table.  Many hearing aid companies have developed a wireless microphone that will send the sound directly into your hearing aids.  This is the BEST – but be sure to try it out.  Some have excellent sound quality and others are distorted and/or have a tinny sound.  The Pocketalker is also very helpful at meetings.  I often use this and try to sit near the front of the room.  It works very well in a quiet room.  If several people are talking at once, it won’t work as well.  Book Club meetings can be particularly challenging.  Try to get 10 women to talk one at a time!

GAMES – I recommend the Pocketalker for games such as bridge, Mahjong, etc.  You can just lay it on the table next to you and it will help hearing bids in bridge, discards in Mahjong, and the conversation.  You could also use a wireless device, just place the transmitter on the table and clip the receiver to your belt or put it in your pocket.

IN THE CAR – Hearing in the car is so difficult!  You have the wind, the engine noise, and the inability to see the person’s face.  Both a wireless device and the Pocketalker are  great for this.  With the Pocketalker, just clip the lapel microphone on the person’s collar and you will hear great.  If you are in the back seat, clip it to one of the front seats to hear what’s going on.  You can do the same with a wireless system in the car – with no wires hanging between you.

in a car

TELEVISION – There are many good TV Listening Systems, but a personal amplifier may also be used to listen to TV.  I prefer the wireless devices as you can simply place the transmitter near the TV speaker as you listen with the receiver.  A Pocketalker can also be used.  It comes with a 12 foot extension cord and Velcro clips so you can plug the external microphone into the extension cord and place it or clip near the TV.

There are many other excellent personal amplifiers.  I have just used the Pocketalker and Comfort Contego as examples to illustrate how ALD’s can can be used (and because I’ve found these two devices to provide excellent sound quality).   The choices can be overwhelming, so feel free to contact me for help finding the best device to fit your needs.  I can be reached by email at marilyn@heargear.net

Do you have a favorite ALD?  What has helped you hear better in challenging situations?  I would love to hear from you!  Please leave a comment.










Assisted Listening Devices 101

If you are thinking, “What is an assisted listening device?” this is the blog post for you!  I am writing this for those who have no idea there is anything beyond hearing aids to help you hear.  Eight short years ago, I had never heard of assisted listening devices (ALD’s).  I was a teacher, I wore hearing aids, but I was still having trouble hearing my students.  To make a long story short, my school district purchased an ALD for me and it was so helpful, I decided when I retired from teaching, I would purchase demonstration devices, teach people how to use them, and create a website to sell them.  Thus Hear Gear was born!

So, what is an assisted listening device?  The simple explanation is that ALD’s are devices that help you hear.  Hearing aids and cochlear implants may be considered assisted listening devices, but this term usually refers to devices used in addition to hearing aids and cochlear implants.  There are many categories of ALD’s such as:  TV listening devices, telephone products, alerting devices, personal amplifiers, and large area systems for auditoriums and theaters such as FM, infrared and induction hearing loops. I will be focusing here on personal amplifiers because I think they are so important to help keep hard-of-hearing people active and busy with activities they might otherwise avoid.


Personal Amplifiers

A personal amplifier helps you hear better in noisy environments and when the speaker is far away from you.  The speaker talks into a microphone and the sound is sent into your hearing aids or can be heard through headphones or earbuds.

There are two types of personal amplifiers:  wired and wireless.

Wired:  for hearing better in one-on-one conversations, small group discussions and meetings.  These devices are small, light weight, hand-held microphones that amplify speakers near you and in a quiet room can even amplify speakers farther away, classroom teachers, the television, and other sound sources.  They are limited by being physically attached to you with a wire.  The advantage of the wired personal amplifiers is they are less expensive than wireless, ranging from $130 – $200.

Wireless:  FM/Digital – for hearing better when you are far away from the speaker.  These systems consist of two parts – the transmitter (microphone) and receiver.  The speaker’s voice is sent wirelessly from the transmitter to the receiver.  You are attached to the receiver, but the system can work at a distance up to 150 feet!  If you have never tried an FM or digital personal amplifier, you will be amazed.  Suddenly the speaker on the stage 30 rows ahead of you sounds like he is sitting next to you!  Wireless systems can also be used in small group settings and often the receiver can be used alone for this purpose.  Prices range from $750 – $900 or those made by hearing aid manufacturers – $1,000 – $2,000.

You can use a personal amplifier with or without hearing aids.  If you wear hearing aids, you must find out if you have t-coils in your hearing aids in order to get the most benefit from a personal amplifier.

The Miracle
The miracle of using a personal amplifier is that suddenly background noise is diminished and the speaker’s voice comes directly into your ears, loud and clear!  Hearing aids and cochlear implants are wonderful, but the microphone is on your ear.  With a personal amplifier, you can get the microphone closer to the speaker, so hearing is greatly enhanced.  Below are some resources to help you learn more about all the amazing technology available to help you hear.  Read on!

1.  My previous blog posts:
“T-coil? What’s a T-coil?”
“Get Looped”
“Get Looped – Part II”
“What is a Neckloop?”
“Wireless Microphones for Hearing Aids”

2.  The Hearing Loss Association brochure “Get in the Hearing Loop”

3.  National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) web site “Assisted Listening Devices for People with Hearing, Voice, Speech, or Language Disorders”

4. Article in the 2011 Nov/Dec issue of Hearing Loss Magazine by Brad Ingrao, “21st Century Connectivity in Hearing Devices”

Did you skip the resources above?  Uh-oh!  Go back and read them!  (I told you I was a teacher!)  This is your homework to prepare you for the advanced level of “Assisted Listening Devices 201” – my next blog post that will give you more information about how to use personal amplifiers.