Public spaces, such as auditoriums, one-on-one conversations, watching television and listening to phone calls or music can all present listening challenges.
That’s where hearing aid accessories come in. Hearing aid accessories and devices can bridge the gap between you and the sound source by eliminating the effects of distance, background noise, and reverberation, bypassing challenging acoustics—sending sound directly to your ears.
Three popular accessories include a remote mic, or spouse mic, that streams your conversation partner’s voice directly to your hearing aids; a television listening device that streams program sound directly to your hearing aids; and a device that streams calls or media directly to your hearing aids. Each of these is sold separately but can improve listening enjoyment and hearing aid performance significantly.
- Spouse mic/Remote mic–The conversation partner simply clips a discreet remote mic onto their clothing or places it on a table. The individual with hearing loss may or may not need to wear a wireless Bluetooth accessory around their neck, depending upon their hearing aid model. The mic has a 20 to 30-foot range and the mic and receiver work best when they are within sight of one another. In some cases, this device can also be used to stream calls and music. It is especially helpful in one-on-one conversations in difficult listening environments.
- Television listening device—This wireless assistive listening device is specifically designed for enjoying TV/audio and streams program sound directly to your hearing aids. The main advantage is the real-time, high-quality stereo sound it provides. Plus, the sound is delivered directly to your ears and programmed exactly for your individual hearing loss needs to be processed through the digital hearing aids.
- Call listening system—These systems can stream calls directly from your mobile phone to your hearing aids using an ultra-compact device designed specifically for this purpose. The device simply inserts into the sound jack of your phone. You are then free to use your mobile phone normally. No neck loop is necessary, and it is compatible with most mobile phones.
There are many other hearing aid accessories and hearing assistive technologies that can improve your hearing aids’ performance and your listening enjoyment. These include:
A personal amplifier is basically a small box with a mic and a listening cord attached to it. Newer versions are all worn at ear-level (such as the Bose HearPhones™). These are most useful for one-on-one, in-person conversations. The corded devices allow the person you are speaking with to attach the mic to their clothing so you can plug it into your personal amplifier and hear more clearly, which can reduce some background noise. The newer ear-level worn personal amplifiers may work with smartphone applications. One advantage of personal amplifiers is that they are relatively inexpensive. Personal amplifiers are not as useful for situations that require you to move around a lot. In addition, they are not as “aesthetic” because of their larger size and lack flexibility in customizing physical and acoustic settings.
Today’s hearing aid technology does an excellent job of improving speech understanding. However, even the most powerful hearing aids have limitations, especially in noisy places or at a distance. In these cases, state-of-the-art wireless microphones can help boost performance and bridge the understanding gap. One example is the Roger FM wireless technology.
Frequency modulation, or FM systems, use radio waves to transmit sound from the sound source to a receiver worn by a person who has a hearing loss. The FM system can be used with behind-the-ear hearing aids with special accessories and receivers that pick up sound directly from a microphone. The microphone can be set up in front of the person speaking or worn around the speaker’s neck.
FM systems are useful in many places, including:
- Nursing homes
- Small groups
- Community or retirement centers
They are also used in theaters, places of worship, museums, public meeting places, corporate conference rooms, and convention centers. This portfolio of microphones and receivers features multibeam technology. They are able to pick up the voice of a speaker, then wirelessly transmit it to the listener’s hearing aids, all while limiting the amplification of background noise.
By utilizing multiple microphones in six directions, speech from a 360° radius is calculated and compared. The direction with the best clarity is automatically selected. The result: speech understanding improves up to 61% in a group conversation in 75 dBA of noise compared to using hearing aids alone.
One of the most versatile mics is Roger Select. It’s ideal for stationary situations where background noise is present, such as restaurants. It can be clipped onto your clothing, be worn around your neck or set on a tabletop. Roger Select also features wideband Bluetooth® for phone calls, and it can stream sound from TVs, music players, computers and more.
There are also table-top mics for the workplace, clip-on and pen mics available, depending on your listening needs.
If you’re concerned about being able to hear friends and family this holiday season, ask your audiologist if this wireless FM technology could give your hearing aids a boost. In many cases, this specialized technology can be fitted with specific accessories and adaptors to work with your existing hearing aid technology.
A high-tech option that affords maximum privacy, infrared systems are like FM systems except that instead of radio waves, they transmit sounds using light waves. Since the light waves do not pass through walls, they are useful for situations in which privacy is needed, such as doctors’ offices and court proceedings, etc. Though they are often used for watching TV or in theaters, they have one major disadvantage: any object or person that comes between the listener and the emitter causes the signal to be blocked. Sunlight can also interfere with the signal, making these systems useful for specific situations.
Induction loop systems
Those with t-coils in their hearing aids have another option: an induction loop system, which uses an electromagnetic field to carry the sound to the user’s ears. In this system a loop of insulated wire, which can range from a small loop worn around the neck to a loop that encircles an entire room, is connected to a power source, an amplifier and a microphone. Loop systems are inexpensive as well as versatile, useful for a single t-coil hearing aid user or a group. Mobility is not an issue, as the user is not physically connected to the system; even non-hearing aid users can use the loop system with headphones or a receiver system.
Hearing aid accessories can also make great gift ideas for hearing aid wearers. Talk with Associated Audiologists to see if one of these systems might help you hear better this holiday season, or would make a good gift for the person in your life who wears hearing aids. Schedule an appointment.