There are a number of hearing systems in the market that are designed to interact with various technologies (including mobile phones). This enables the user to diminish background noise and concentrate on speech when out of doors or in meeting situations. The key technology aspects are the microphone, the noise reduction technology and the link that makes it possible to integrate the item with a phone or in-car speaker system.
The Phonak Smartlink is not the only hearing system on the market, nor yet are Phonak the only quality manufacturers of such equipment. However, by looking in detail at the kinds of things the Smartlink does, and how it does them, it is easier to understand the general requirements of devices of this nature.
The Smartlink uses a microphone that can be set to pick up different kinds of sound. This enables the listener to zoom in on a specific speaker or sound source, or to pick up sounds from the wider ambient environment. Phonak calls these three settings “super zoom”, “zoom”, and “omni”. One thing you have to bear in mind is that comparable hearing systems may use different words or phrases to describe the same capabilities.
The “super zoom” setting on the Phonak Smartlink allows the user to direct the microphone at a specified sound source some distance away from the receiver. In this mode, the device (and similar devices) is able to ignore the ambient sounds in a room or outside environment. This is actually cutting out the “white noise” that can confuse someone with hearing loss when trying to concentrate on what someone else is saying.
For meeting settings, the “zoom” function enables the user to concentrate on a band of sound within a specified distance from the microphone. The reception area the mike concentrates on, with this setting, is roughly elliptical (and is therefore the ideal “shape” to encompass a meeting table or a boardroom table).
The “omni” setting on the Smartlink receives sound from a much wider area, and may therefore be useful in more general surroundings, for example, in a room at a party. Settings can be skipped between at the touch of a button, allowing the user to isolate a particular speaker or group of people as he or she moves into a conversation.
The modern world is dominated by various communication devices. Most of us carry some form of device or the other that enables us to transmit and receive speech, a mobile phone being the most common example. Such a device can present significant trouble for a person with a hearing problem, in terms of the person not even being aware that a call is being made in the first place.
Specifically, though, the problems encountered by a hearing-impaired person using a mobile phone, are to do with an inability to cut out the surrounding noise so the hearing can be focused on the person on the other end of the line. Where a hearing device is able to connect directly with the phone being used, it acts like hands free kit used in the car, but for a single person rather than his or her surrounding environment.