by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady explained:
I have severe hearing loss and am looking for an assistive device that might help me in meetings and conferences, especially when I am the presenter. I’ve really cut back on doing these things because I can’t hear the speaker, or when I’m presenting—those in the audience who want to ask me a question.
I’ve seen your directional microphone and wonder about its effectiveness in these situations. Also, how does it transmit sound? I have hearing aids which have t-coils. Is the mic wireless? Do I need to use a neck loop and my PockeTalker? Thanks for any information you can give me.
I understand your situation well. I’m in the same boat—I have a severe hearing loss, can’t hear in meetings, nor hear the questions from the audience when I am the speaker.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to help yourself hear better in these situations.
1. You Are in the Audience
When you are in the audience and there is one main speaker, I’d use an FM system. Give the FM microphone/transmitter to the speaker. I usually ask him ahead of time and actually clip the lapel mic where I want it on him and tell him to put the transmitter on his belt or in a pocket. Then you will hear the speaker wonderfully well.
Alternately, you could tape the FM transmitter’s lapel mic to the lectern microphone (not to the lectern itself) and let the transmitter hang down in front of the lectern. Don’t put microphones and transmitters on the lectern itself. If you do this, you are being inconsiderate of the speaker’s needs. The speaker needs space for his papers and props, and lectern space is typically at a premium.
If you are sitting in the front row or two, and the speaker isn’t on a big platform (and thus quite a ways from you), use your PockeTalker and the super directional microphone. You have to be careful to aim this microphone at the speaker’s face. Because it is so directional, if you get sloppy in your aim, the sound quality and volume will rapidly drop off.
To use the directional microphone with your PockeTalker, you just plug it into the PockeTalker’s microphone jack, plug your neckloop in the earphone jack and turn on your t-coils if you are wearing your hearing aids. If you are not wearing hearing aids, or don’t have t-coils in your hearing aids, plug in a set of earbuds instead of the neckloop.
2. You Are the Speaker
When you are the speaker and you want to hear questions/comments from your audience, if the person is not too far from you, you can use your PockeTalker with the directional microphone plugged in and aim it at whomever is asking a question. I’ve found I really have to crank up the volume on the PockeTalker if the person is at any distance from me. The directional microphone works well for people within 20 feet or so of you.
Note: The PockeTalker’s microphone sensitivity is related to the volume setting. Thus, if you have the volume turned down, the microphone sensitivity is also down. As a result the microphone won’t pick up from as far away as it will when the volume is turned up.
In addition to amplification, there are many other techniques you can (and should) use when you are the speaker and can’t hear a person asking you a question. Here are some of the strategies I employ, depending on the situation.
- If there is real-time captioning, I just turn around and read the question off the screen. (If I am really lucky, the organizers will have placed a monitor on the lectern so I can read the questions directly from it.)
- I might walk down the aisle to get closer to the person. (This works well in smaller audiences and when you are not standing on a platform.)
- I might ask people to write their questions down and pass them up so I can read them. (This way I don’t have to strain to hear—I just have to strain to read people’s writing!)
- I might ask someone in the front row, whom I already know I can hear, to repeat any questions I can’t hear for me, or maybe just the key words I am missing.
- I might ask the person to come up to the lectern and talk face to face with me where I can hear and/or speechread him better.
- I might have a hearing person stand beside me during question period to repeat the questions so I can hear them.
- And of course, I am always speechreading people so often I can “get” the question even when I don’t hear much of it.
Notice I didn’t mention having a roving microphone and someone handing it to the person asking the question. The reason I don’t do this is because I find that I still can’t hear. (I seldom can even tell if the PA system is on or not, let alone hear and understand what a person is saying.) The rest of the audience may hear the question better with a roving microphone, but typically not me—unless there is a room loop system installed and the roving microphone is connected to it in some way. Then I can flip my t-coils on and hear quite well.
Another thing I could do, but haven’t done so to this point, is to use my FM microphone/transmitter as the roving microphone for people to speak into. That way, using the FM receiver and neckloop, I’d have their voices piped directly into my hearing aids. I should try this sometime when the conditions warrant it.
As you can see, there are ever so many things you can do in order to help yourself hear/understand the questions. If one thing doesn’t work for you, there are lots more things to try. You just need to be comfortable with your hearing loss so you are not embarrassed by it and thus are willing to do what you need to do in order to hear.
The FM system I use is the Comfort Contego FM System. Note: If you get this particular Contego FM System, the receiver then doubles as a PockeTalker so you don’t need to purchase a separate PockeTalker.
P.S. The PockeTalkers seem to last forever. Mine are about 10 years old and still going strong.