Tagged: personal listening device

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.

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.