April 4, 2023, by Helen Henshaw
Roger and out? Further reflections on wireless microphones
Roger happens to be the name of a series of wireless microphones designed to augment the effects of hearing aids. As I mentioned in an earlier blog (Hearing aids and beyond… – Hearing Matters (nottingham.ac.uk), these devices come in different shapes and sizes according to the intended purpose. This blog is to present a personal account of my experience with one of the Roger products over a period of a few months.
The Roger Select is a small circular device about 5.5cm in diameter and less than 1cm in height, weighing just a few grams. It is readily portable in the little bag supplied in the box. I was curious about what the experience of using it would be like and especially whether it would improve my ability to hear conversations in meetings or in social settings. However, curiosity comes at a price, these things aren’t cheap, so it’s a bit of a gamble paying for it when you don’t know if there will be any benefit. I imagine though that the supplier would take it back within a certain period if it was not giving satisfaction.
Operating the device is very simple. You charge it up from the mains, switch it on and then connect it to your hearing aids. This requires that the aids are ‘discoverable’, i.e. newly switched on, and close to the Roger. There is a Connect button on the underside of the device that you press and, hey ho, there is a satisfying little connecting noise and you are away. Once connected, it remains so. I’m told that several people can connect to one Roger device, but I haven’t been able to test this yet. I need a hearing aid partner to try this out.
Now connected, I have tried Roger in every setting that I can think of. It has been great fun and new opportunities come along most weeks. Most often, I use it in small meetings, one-to-ones or supervisions where there may be 3 or 4 people. Without hearing aids, these were becoming a struggle, so hearing aids have been fantastic for this core part of my work. I’d probably hear the conversation well enough with just the aids but using the wireless mics does make a difference in clarity and sharpness of people’s voices. I just put the device in the middle of the table. I don’t bother much with the direction settings that Roger has, since the mics respond in any case to the direction from which the speaker is talking.
I haven’t been to as many large meetings as I used to, since many still take place online. However, Roger is potentially very helpful in these. The challenge is to put the mic in the right place to get the best results. This should be as far away from you as possible, maybe close to whoever is likely to speak most or else anyone who may have a soft voice. Getting this right is still work in progress, but there is definitely enhancement of other people’s speech. Where Roger has been brilliant, though, is in seminars or talks where there is a lectern or a table at the front near the speaker. So long as you are in clear eyeline of the front, you can sit wherever you like in the room and you get the same clarity and volume. The Roger booklet suggests that you can ask the speaker to wear the device (either clipped on or else as a pendant) but I haven’t done that. Just getting it on the lectern is ample. I suppose if the speaker moved around a lot, that would be a challenge, but most people remain close to the lectern in order to operate their slides. Don’t forget to turn it off at the tea break though, otherwise you may hear the next speaker cursing as they set up their PowerPoint.
Therefore, definitely worthwhile at work. It is an entirely reasonable adjustment for my disability. I carry Roger around most of the day and use whenever possible. Most people don’t notice or pass no comment, though some are interested.
What about social life? I use Roger when I have a car passenger as it adds clarity to speech above road and traffic noise. It might be really useful if there were people in the rear seats, but this is another experiment yet to try. Going to the pub or a restaurant can be challenging as the effects depend on the level of ambient noise. More than once I have been able to hear the conversation more clearly but at the cost of a lot of background sound, which makes it an effortful experience. However, Roger can be adjusted for surrounding noise levels, and I have recently had the threshold to suppress noise turned up, so this may help. Positioning yourself carefully, e.g. back to a wall, is also recommended. Using Roger when eating meals at home with guests works very well. I look forward to a time like Christmas where we have a very full table with me at one end and Rog at the other.
Roger can also function as an audio listening device, e.g. for TV or audio players. You do this either plugging Roger into the audio port of the other device, though this may mute the audio for everyone else, or simply put Roger by the TV speaker. This works quite well, as I can then have the TV at my chosen volume and anyone else can select theirs.
Any limitations? I have mentioned one, which is picking up too much noise in crowded rooms. But this sort of situation can be tricky for people with normal hearing too, which is why everyone ends up shouting. There are a few others. Using Roger is heavy on the batteries of my hearing aids, so I often find they are getting very low when I get home in the evening. And the Roger battery indicator is just green, orange and then red, and there isn’t it again. Finally, there are quite frequent dips in signal. Often these are due to irritating notifications arriving on my mobile phone, sometimes they are unexplained. Mercifully, they are very brief, and actually the sudden drop in acoustic quality reminds me that I am benefiting from the extra contribution of the Roger mics. So, yes, I’d recommend these devices though it is a shame they may not be more widely available (yet?) on account of the cost.
Disclaimer: these views are entirely my own, the product was purchased personally by me, and I have received no remuneration or other incentives from the manufacturer.
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