Assistive Listening Devices

Timothy C. Hain, MD• Page last modified: March 5, 2021

Assistive devices are electrical devices that are usually used by people who are hard of hearing, but don't have enough of a problem that they feel it is worth while to get a regular hearing aid.

In essence, they are are non-customized generic "hearing aids", that are self-selected and also often used for a single purpose -- such as telephone or TV lisltening.

A large variety of assistive listening devicesdevices are available at much lower cost than hearing aids. Some are free. Telephone companies provide free amplifiers and ringers if patients present a physician or audiologist release. Hotels provide telephone amplifiers in 10 percent of rooms. Examples are devices that flash lights when the telephone rings, vibration devices when the doorbell sounds, flashing smoke alarms, television amplifiers, etc.

The "TV Ears" product

We were sent a "review set" of TV Ears and Sennheiser Set 820 RF systems, by "cordlessworkz". These are devices designed to make the television louder for a single listener -- they are especially appropriate if one is in a household where there are some people with better hearing than others. Without this kind of device, there is always a fight between the person who can't hear the TV and turns it up, and those who hear very well, and turn it down. These are simple amplified devices, having both electrical connections and a microphone. Their technology resembles the far higher cost "FM" systems for hearing aids. The main difference is that they are larger and the connection to the ear is via the earphones that you can see rather than a hearing aid.


TV ears Sennheiser 820 RF

Both systems were easy to set up, and very simple to use. The TV ears is the less expensive device (about $100). The Sennheiser is more expensive ($250).

We preferred the Sennheiser Set 820 RF over the TV Ears due to its superior sound quality. When listening to the television through the TV Ears we could hear an interference that was not present with the Sennheiser device. Also, with the TV ear device, the sound quality varied when we turned our head from side to side. We also liked the feature that the Sennheiser device automatically turns off when the headset is removed.

Pocket Talker

Pocket Talker

Another device that we have had good experiences with is the "Pocket Talker". It is a small clunky device that nevertheless can be useful for things like one-on-one communication. This device is usually priced around $130. We use this device in the office for people who can't hear us very well. It is not uncommon for someone to want to buy one before they leave.

We have had one patent pair a Pocket talker with an // , "aftershokz" bone conduction headset, with very good results for unilateral deafness due to a conductive hearing loss.

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Radio Shack Amplified Listener

The Radio Shack "amplified Listener" is a very low cost device which is similar to the pocket talker. It is a much cruder device without much control over the volume and also without headphones or a microphone. Although it only costs $25, we think you should definitely try before buying. We are not sure if this device is still for sale, but there are sure to be similar devices.