Tagged: FM system

Using a Personal FM System to Hear More Clearly

June 6, 2016

Hearing aid technology keeps getting better, but hearing aids alone do not make listening easier in all situations. Many things can interfere with listening, such as: background noise, a far distance from the sound source, and sound reverberation. Most hearing aids perform best in quiet environments or when sitting close to your conversation partner. Using a Personal FM system (with or without hearing aids) makes it easier to hear in noisy environments or when conversing at a distance. They are also very helpful for watching TV or listening to other audio devices.

What are Personal FM Systems?
Personal FM Systems are devices that can help those with hearing loss function more normally in day-to-day conversation. An FM system is often an accessory to hearing aids bu can be used without hearing aids as well. FM systems work like small radio stations. There is a small radio transmitter attached to a microphone, and a small radio receiver worn by the listener. For hearing aid users, the most convenient receivers are at ear level. The microphone is placed on or near the person or device the listener wants to hear. The transmitter can also be connected directly to an audio device by using a stereo cord. This means the transmitter is plugged in to the TV’s audio output jack, or into an MP3 player or iPod for easy ear-level hearing, without removing the hearing aids. The transmitter sends the radio signal to the receiver and essentially decreases the listening distance to merely inches instead of several feet.

Where Would I Use an FM System?
Large distance between listener and sound source: The further away you are from a speaker, the harder it is to hear the conversation, because the loudness of a sound decreases rapidly as it travels over a long distance. So, while you may have no difficulty hearing someone close by, you may have considerable difficulty hearing the same person from across the room.

Noise in the environment: Most rooms have background noise that competes with the sound of interest. Background noise can make hearing very challenging. For optimal hearing, speech should be louder than the noise. This isn’t possible in some situations, such as at a large cocktail party or in a busy restaurant. Background noise can also make hearing in the car more difficult. Television program producers often include background noise to create a dramatic effect. For those with hearing loss, the noise often means a missed punch line or that the volume is so loud the conversation is drowned out.

Poor room acoustics and reverberation:
Sound waves bounce off hard surfaces such as windows, walls without coverings and hard floors. This creates a reverberation that the ear experiences as an echo. The result of excessive reverberation is a mixed message in the brain, followed by miscommunication.

Any one of these conditions can create communication problems. Add them together and the effects can be debilitating. Personal FM systems are a great way to overcome these issues.

What is the expected cost of a Personal FM system?
Buying an FM system for personal use is an additional expense beyond personal hearing aids. An FM package, including the transmitter/microphone and ear-level receivers may cost from $2,500 to $3500. For use without hearing aids, a Personal FM system can be as little as $200 up to $1000, depending on the complexity of the system. New hearing aid systems, such as the ReSound Alera allow for a “companion” microphone accessory that transmits sound from a microphone worn by the communication partner directly to the hearing aids. This accessory can be added to the hearing aid purchase for as little as $400.

The new technology in hearing aids is phenomenal. Advancements allow for better control of noise in the background and for better speech enhancement. Still, there will be times when an environment is too noisy or a hearing loss is too great to overcome the difficult listening environment. Personal FM systems are a great way to combat this issue and are a great companion accessory to a hearing system. If you think you might benefit from an FM System, call our office for a free demonstration and see what an FM system can do for you.

A T-coil Can Improve Hearing In Noise

April 4, 2016

 
Hearing aids can seem complicated. Do you understand or even know about all of the features your hearing aids include? Do they have directional microphones? What about a volume control or wireless connectivity? If you are unsure, you’re not alone. I’m amazed at how many times patients aren’t even sure if their hearing aids have multiple programs. If they do, they’re often unsure of what those programs are or what they do. Many times, easily accessed features that are meant to improve hearing for the listener go unused. One of the more under-utilized features in most hearing aids is the telecoil or “t-coil.”

A t-coil consists of a tiny coil of wire wrapped around a metal core. The core will generate an electric current in the coil when it is in the presence of a magnetic field. It can act as an alternate or supplemental source for sound coming into a hearing aid. Normally, a hearing aid gathers sound through its microphone or microphones. It then amplifies that sound and sends it into the ear canal of the listener. When a telecoil is used as the input source instead, the hearing aid bypasses the microphone and picks up the electro-magnetic signal produced by a telephone or an assistive listening device, such as an FM system. Then, the hearing aid will amplify that signal and convert it to an audio signal. The result is a clear signal with less interference from background noise.

The t-coil was originally designed only for use with a regular land-line telephone, which has a speaker that is driven by magnets. When someone wearing a hearing aid that has a t-coil switches the t-coil on, the sound heard through the phone is often much stronger. Now, there are many other systems that can be accessed with a t-coil in order to improve sound quality.

Telecoils are especially helpful when there is a lot of background noise. If you happen to have access to an assistive listening device, such as an FM system, you may find that you can hear much better through your t-coil with the FM system than with just the hearing aid microphones. This is because the hearing aid microphones are often turned off when the t-coil is in use. The sound that is being amplified comes directly from a microphone in the assistive listening device, which is often much closer to the sound source. This decreases the amount of background noise that is amplified. Many public places such as movie theaters, auditoriums and sports stadiums provide assistive listening devices to their patrons at no charge. Many of these systems are hearing aid compatible. So, if your hearing aid has a t-coil, you can easily improve your hearing in the situations that are often most difficult.

A telecoil can provide the extra help you need to hear in situations that otherwise might seem impossible. Ask your hearing healthcare provider about telecoils and whether your hearing aid has one. The more you know, the better you’ll hear.

Infrared sheds some light on hearing better in noise

December 21, 2015

Once you’ve made a large investment in better hearing, it can be frustrating to find that the hearing aids do not solve all of your hearing difficulties. New technology is amazing! Hearing aids are fantastic in most situations! They aren’t human, however, and they can’t solve all of the problems a hearing loss can cause in different environments. It becomes necessary, at times, to augment the hearing aid’s function with accessories. Infrared systems are one type of accessory and are most commonly used in the home with TV sets and other audio equipment. They help make speech more intelligible by decreasing interference from background noise. They’re also a great asset at the theater, in large meeting rooms or in concert venues.

What is an Infrared system?
Infrared (IR) listening systems transmit sound by invisible light beams. An IR system converts an auditory signal into infrared light and carries it by light emitting diodes to the infrared receiver. The receiver converts the information back into an auditory signal and delivers it directly to the hearing aid or to the ear. Infrared systems improve hearing by decreasing the distance between the sound source and the ear. This alleviates such things as reverberation off furniture, bare walls and hard floors. This system also improves the signal-to-noise ratio, making speech more easily heard over background noise.

What are the negatives of an Infrared system?
The infrared signal is limited to line of sight transmission. This means that if you aren’t sitting within a 160° angle of the transmitting light emitting diodes (LEDs), you won’t pick up a signal or that the signal will be degraded. The line of sight transmission also means that if someone walks in front of the LEDs, you may lose the signal momentarily. Line of sight transmission can be a positive, as well. Because the diodes must “see” the receiver, there is no spill over from room to room. This makes it a secure form of sound transmission in conference rooms and courtrooms where confidentiality is a concern.

Another negative is the infrared’s poor flexibility. Because of the use of light for transmission, IR systems can’t be used outdoors. Sunlight affects the transmission and the large open area allows the light to disperse too quickly, degrading the signal.

An additional pitfall is that infrared systems are not compatible with one another. Different systems will operate on different frequencies and only systems working on the same frequency are compatible. This means that if you would like to take your infrared system to the movies, for example, you would have to verify which system or which “carrier frequency” the theater’s infrared system works on. The nice thing is that many theaters now have infrared systems installed and theatergoers can borrow a headset at no extra cost.

What do Infrared systems cost?
One of the benefits of Infrared systems is they are relatively inexpensive. For a system with excellent sound quality and premium transmission technology, you’ll pay $300 to $400. If you’d like to have more than one headset, plan to add another $100 or so. Other less expensive options are available but the quality of sound is sometimes poor and longevity of the product is also a common complaint with some cheaper models.

Hearing better is a great thing. Don’t be frustrated by the fact that hearing aids may not solve all of your hearing needs. Accessories are available to help improve the listening environment when your hearing aid investment falls short. Infrared systems, especially for home TV watching, can be a great asset and will improve your enjoyment of listening to the sounds you’ve been missing.

Stop the TV Wars – How to improve your hearing at home

March 2, 2015

 
Most people who have hearing loss can attest to the fact that it affects how well they hear in a restaurant, or surrounded by the background noise of a crowd. What spouses and family members often mention are the more annoying side effects of hearing loss…the things they notice at home. One common complaint is “the TV is turned up SO LOUD!”

Without realizing it, the person with hearing loss will try to make speech more clear by turning up the volume on the TV. The problem with this is that it doesn’t resolve the problem. The majority of hearing losses are high frequency in nature, which is perfect for men: their hearing loss is right in the range of their wife’s voice! The high frequencies are responsible for the majority of the clarity in speech. So, when he says, “Honey, you’re mumbling,” he’s right. To his ears, if the high frequencies are missing or degraded, it does sound like speech is garbled or unclear. The low frequencies, on the other hand, carry the power of speech. They are responsible for the feeling of volume. So, when someone is trying to improve clarity by increasing the volume, they are   inadvertently increasing the noise as well. So begins the nasty cycle of turning up the volume to improve clarity, but the volume then becomes so great that it overpowers the nuances of speech. Thus begins the TV War. It goes something like this:

Henry: “I can’t hear the announcer. Did you hear what the score was?”
Mary: “It’s tied 2-2.”
Henry: “What? It’s not clear. Are they mumbling?”
Mary: “I can hear them just fine.”
Henry: “I’m going to turn it up a bit. Do you mind?”
Mary rolls her eyes and shrugs. After two innings and putting up with the commercials, which are loud enough to wake the dead, Mary has had enough.
Mary: “Henry, could you please turn the TV down a bit? It’s a little on the loud side.”
Henry: “What? I couldn’t hear you, the TV is so loud.”

So, what’s the solution?

Stay tuned! In the next several posts you’ll discover several different solutions for stopping the TV wars, including:

•    TV listening accessories that connect to hearing aids
•    FM and Infrared systems
•    Loop systems

Let’s Get Loopy – Loop Systems for Hearing Aids Improve Hearing

January 12, 2015

 
Recently, the 2nd Annual International Hearing Loops conference was held in Washington D.C. in conjunction with the Hearing Loss Association of America conference. 250 attendees, all members of the “Get In The Loop” campaign, gathered to discuss loop systems, the benefit of telecoils and how to get the message out to the public about the benefits of loop systems and the communication access they provide.

Even though they offer improved sound quality, are easy to install and are cost effective, hearing aid loop systems are not well known to hearing aid users. When hearing aids fall short of providing better hearing on the TV, when listening in the presence of background noise or while talking on the phone, a loop system can easily close the gap toward better hearing.

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What is a Loop System?
Loop systems are a type of assistive listening device that work in conjunction with a hearing aid’s t-coil to help hard of hearing people hear speech better, especially in background noise. Other types of assistive listening devices include such things as FM systems and Infrared systems. Unlike with FM and Infrared, there is no external accessory needed in order to connect to and use a loop system. The only requirement is that the hearing aid is equipped with a Telecoil, also known as a T-coil or T switch.

What does a Loop System Do?
Imagine being able to hear sound from the TV or stereo system from anywhere in the house. If you’d like to wash dishes in the kitchen and listen to the TV in the family room at the same time, you can. If you don’t want to miss the score of the big game but want to get a snack from the fridge, you don’t have to worry. With a Loop system, the sound is delivered directly to the hearing aids and stays exactly the same as you move from room to room, as long as you stay within the loop. It improves sound quality by allowing the hearing aids to adjust the incoming sound for your specific hearing loss and then delivering the sound to both ears simultaneously. You can also set up the system to deliver sound from the phone directly into the hearing aids, allowing for binaural sound and improved sound quality. Loop systems can also be used in meeting rooms and theaters, churches and even in the car or RV!

How does a Loop System Work?
Loop systems consist of three basic parts: an input device, a loop amplifier and loop wiring. Lastly, you’ll need hearing aids with Tcoils in order to pick up the signal from the loop wiring. The input device is the device you want to listen to such as the TV, a stereo or MP3 player, a microphone or almost any other audio device. The loop amplifier plugs directly into any wall socket while the input device plugs into the amplifier. The loop wire is placed around the perimeter of any room or listening area and the two ends of the wire then connect to the amplifier. Once turned on, the loop is active. To pick up sound, simply turn your hearing aids to the Tcoil mode while you are inside the looped area and sound will be instantly directed to both ears.

What does a Loop System Cost?
Loop systems are probably the most inexpensive of all assistive listening devices. A good system will only cost several hundred dollars, unlike some integrated FM systems, which can cost thousands. The issue is that you may have to have several loop systems for different areas. There are small “pad” loop systems that you can place under your favorite La-Z-Boy recliner that are very inexpensive. With the new focus on looping public areas such as at churches, theaters, grocery stores and public meeting halls, groups like Hearing Loss Association of America are making it more likely that you will have the opportunity to use a loop system at no charge when you are in a public venue. Be sure to ask if a loop system is available next time you visit a noisy place. You might be surprised.

If you are having difficulty hearing clearly, even with your hearing aids, ask your audiologist if a loop system is right for you. A loop system can make communication and listening more enjoyable for everyone.