Ask anyone with a hearing loss what the number one problem they face is and the majority will say ‘understanding speech when there is background noise’.
It’s a situation a little like those Where’s Wally? books except you’re trying to isolate a single conversation amongst a jumbled sea of gibberish.
Many hearing aids today are designed to try reduce the effect of background noise and enhance speech comprehension.
But in some situations that’s just not enough.
At previous jobs, I found team meetings to be a struggle. I would to try to position myself close to whoever was running the meeting or else somewhere in the middle of the table — basically anything to try to be able to understand what was being discussed.
Sometimes I was lucky, which basically meant:
- I was in a good position
- There wasn’t any background noise
- The person speaking had a strong voice, enunciated well and didn’t speak too fast
- I able to see the person speaking well enough to be able to lipread
- I didn’t have a cold at the time
There are more things working against you than for you when you’re in this situation so more often than not I would miss things that were discussed. As a result, if I ever tried to participate in team discussions I would often find that something I had said was either already discussed or irrelevant to the topic.
Needless to say it was safer to just sit there quietly.
I tried various remote microphones but, while they were good in some situations, they really didn’t work that well in a group environment.
Enter the Roger Pen
Phonak’s Roger Pen is kind of like the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ for hearing aid users. Not an actual pen but rather a ‘cutting-edge wireless microphone that enables people with hearing loss to hear and understand more speech in loud noise and over distance.’
- understand several people speaking in noise and over distance; such as meetings, conferences, lunches or the family Christmas get together.
- understand a single person speaking softly and over distance
- understand a single person in noise and over distance; such as discussions in a car or a cafe
- listen to multimedia; whether it be a TV program, movie or music
- make and receive mobile phone calls via Bluetooth
The Roger Pen acts as a standalone microphone which can be used in different ways to help you hear better
Held or worn vertically, the microphone goes into a narrow beam mode to focus on a source close by
- You can hold it in front of you like a microphone and point it at the sound you want to hear. As the Roger Pen is transmitting this sound directly to your hearing aids you will experience a much better signal to noise ratio than the hearing aids alone.
- The Roger Pen can be worn around the neck of someone giving a presentation or your dining partner in a noisy restaurant (it can even be placed in a shirt pocket), which will allow you to pick up their voice much clearer. This would be a perfect solution for a hearing impaired student who struggles to understand their teacher in a classroom.
The Roger Pen also has a “conference mode” which can be automatically activated by placing the Pen on the table in the middle of the group of people.
It can be used by by people who have In-the-canal or Behind-the-ear hearing aids and also those with Cochlear Implants.
“All that hype sounds fantastic but does it actually work?” you ask
Let me answer that question by telling you about the difference it has made for me.
Team meetings are now a breeze. I place the Roger Pen down on our boardroom table and can confidently sit anywhere and be able to hear the details of the meeting as if the speaker was speaking to me privately. Because I don’t have to rely on lipreading I can now concentrate on the presentation and taking notes.
The Roger Pen is able to zero in on who is speaking, so if there is conversation amongst several people I can hear them all equally. I have the confidence to participate in discussions now, and feel like a valued team member.
It’s not all about meetings at work though. I think back on how much easier the Roger Pen would have made life for me if I’d had it during high school, university, job interviews or even just enjoying drinks at the bar with friends.
Are you having trouble understanding the TV?
The charging stand of the Roger Pen can connect into the audio output of your TV sending the sound from the TV directly to you.
Are you unable to enjoy music while exercising or commuting via train?
Connect the Roger Pen to your mobile phone or ipod via the supplied cable and the music can be wirelessly delivered to you. Or you can enjoy hands-free mobile phone calls via the Roger Pen by pairing it to your mobile phone via bluetooth.
You probably want to know if it will work with your hearing aids
If you’re wearing a compatible Phonak hearing aid, you might need to purchase a Roger Receiver to enable the Roger Pen to wirelessly send directly to your hearing aids.
Non-Phonak users might need to purchase a Roger-X receiver which fits to your hearing aid via a specialised attachment.
The alternative is the Roger MyLink which is a neckloop receiver that transmits the signal received to a hearing aid via telecoil; making it a universal option.
Now for the cost…
A complete setup of Roger Pen and a compatible receiver will cost well over $1,000 which means it may be outside the budget of some. However, if you frequently find yourself in situations where not even your hearing aids can help, it will likely be an invaluable tool.
Check with your hearing care professional to see if they can arrange a demonstration.
Blamey Saunders hears stocks the Roger Pen.
Come and see me at the East Melbourne clinic and I’ll demonstrate how the Roger Pen can transform the way you participate in group listening situations.