Personal listeners are portable listening devices that can help you to hear with or without hearing aids.
The Sonido personal listener is one such device available from Action On Hearing Loss. This is the description of it on their website:
“The Sonido portable amplifier is designed to help you hear conversations and other sounds (like the TV) more clearly. Simply point the Sonido in the direction you want to listen and it will amplify the sound you want to hear and reduce the background noise from everywhere else.
“The tone control function allows you to adjust the bass and treble of the sound. This is useful because you can tailor it to suit your particular hearing loss.”
Another Sense member and myself have used this listener for the first time, and this is what we thought of it.
Mark is a keen musician and actively participates in music events. His hearing aids alone are not enough to help him hear all the sounds he wants and needs to when listening to music so he has just started to use the Sonido.
Design and usability: The Sonido is simple to use and the buttons can be located easily, identifiable by their size, shape and surface. Mark suggests that changing the on/off button to a sliding switch or button with better tactile feedback would help to know it is definitely on or off, rather than relying on the sound to come through via your chosen headset. While the rectangular shaped listener sits nicely in the hand, a squarer unit may sit better when using the device with the clip that comes with it that attaches it to clothing.
The sound: While Mark has two hearing aids that he wears all the time he does not want to use the neck loop option with the Sonido because he finds that using any loop system reduces the quality of the music he is listening to. Mark uses the headphones over his hearing aids. The headphones available for the Sonido did not fit well when using them in this way because they are designed to sit on your ears rather than over the hearing aids so Mark purchased the Sennheiser PMX 95 On Ear Neckband headphones which work well with the listener and allow him to comfortably use the headphones over his aids.
Each Sonido comes with an additional microphone that connects into a socket at the top of the listener and can be placed in front of an object that you need to hear more clearly (Action On Hearing Loss suggests that it can be used with the TV but be aware that it is a wired connection).
While travelling on a train, Mark struggled to hear his communicator guide due to the general train noise even though they were sitting next to each other and Mark was using his hearing aids and the Sonido. Mark had the extra microphone attachment with him and after connecting it up and giving it to his guide to wear he was able to hear clearly for the rest of the journey home without disturbing anyone else sitting close by.
Overall: Mark thinks that the Sonido listener is very suitable for those with sight and hearing loss. The addition of a directional microphone (either built in or as an add-on) would be extremely beneficial for meeting situations given how user friendly this unit is for those with visual impairment.
For many years now I have been a “Volunteer Involved Resident” for our housing association. In 2002 I became a board member and as the table in the board room at Lugley House in Newport on the Isle of Wight is rather long, it was decide to by me a pocket listener so I could hear what the directors were saying at the other end of the table more easily.
After nine years on the board, I am now in a number of other groups and, as my pocket listener was now about over ten years old and well past its best, the housing association have agreed to by me a new one.
At this year’s Sense members day, held in Reading at the Wakefield Park complex, Donna Corrigan (Sense’s Technology Co-ordinator) arranged for me to try out a couple of new devices from Action On Hearing Loss, who had a table at the event.
Design and usability: I decided to buy the Sonido Digital Listener. It’s compact and fits nicely in my hand and its versatility gives me more uses than my old one.
The sound: I chose the Sonido because it has a good clean and clear sound and does not suffer from mobile phone interference like my old one. It has the usual volume control as well as the means to adjust the pitch. This is very useful as some of the meetings I attend often have speakers whose voices are not easily heard, so being able to adjust the pitch (bass/treble) enables me to hear better.
I have now used it in an all day training meeting and it served me very well, being able to adjust the pitch meant I could control some of the background noise coming from installations such as a very noisy projector. I choose not to use hearing aids at all so I opted to buy the headphones which are very comfortable and have a good size adjustment capability.
Overall: I think this is a well designed device but feel a little more control over background noise would be a good thing for the manufacturer to consider.