What is a remote microphone? Do they actually help in noise?

John Coverstone, AuD

Board Certified in Audiology

27 May 2020 - 67 Views

Let me begin with a question of my own: If you are in a noisy environment and the person you want to hear was constantly 6 inches from your ear, would you hear them better? This is essentially the purpose of a remote microphone. A remote mic is a small wireless microphone that is connected to your hearing aid(s). Anything the mic picks up is sent to the hearing aid(s). This means you have the ability to hear someone as if they were constantly a few inches from your ear (even better, a few inches from both of them, when using 2 hearing aids). We usually describe this in terms of a signal-to-noise ration ("s/n"), which is the ratio of someone's voice to the surrounding noise. The s/n improves dramatically withe a remote microphone and makes it much easier to understand another person.

Unfortunately, it does not work quite as well when there are more than 2 people (including you), as you would need to pass around the microphone or lay it on a table/surface in the middle of everyone. This doesn't work quite as well in really noisy environments. In certain circumstances, however, a remote mic is a fantastic tool. I have patients who use them routinely. I even have a couple patients with severe hearing loss who have their spouse wear the microphone throughout the day because they hear the spouse better.

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Meg Cates, AuD

Clinical Audiologist

27 May 2020 - 65 Views

That's a great question! I LOVE remote mics. Research shows over and over that the best way to hear better in noise is to improve the signal-to-noise ratio which remote mics are made for. That being said, they are not a silver bullet.

Remote microphones are an umbrella term to describe bluetooth devices that pair to hearing aids in order to bring a sound from another person's mouth straight into the hearing aids.

How effective they are depends on a lot of things including:

1. Physical placement of the microphone relative to the person's mouth. The ones that clip on to people's shirts need to be clipped so that they do not get interfered with by someone's hair rubbing the microphone or scarf, etc. The best placement for those is as close to the mouth as the person can clip it. The remote microphones that sit on a table (some manufacturers call them table mics) are best placed just like you would a conference call phone where multiple parties are to be picked up.

2. Direction of the microphone. If the microphone is physically located on the bottom of the remote mic, point that part up toward the person's mouth. User guides will show you where everything is located.

3. Your knowledge of the specific device. Once you purchase a remote microphone, read the manual. Maybe read it twice.

4. The exact acoustic situation you are using it for. This I would say to talk to your provider about.

Downsides:

Remote microphones are not perfect. If it is super loud and noisy, it can still be super loud and noisy. If you have poor word clarity (ask your hearing provider if you do not know if that is the case for you), it will still be less clear than anyone would like.

Examples:

1. I have a family member who put off getting hearing aids for many years and has issues with word clarity. He found the remote microphone to be clumsy and not helpful in the loud Italian restaurant I took him to on a Friday night when it was busy. His comment was that he did not like "messing with" additional equipment and it was not clear enough for him to want to do it.

2. I have a patient who cannot live without her remote microphone. Her husband has trouble speaking up, and they love to go on road trips. She drives, but has had a hard time hearing him. Now, she clips on the remote mic and they have pleasant conversation the whole trip.

3. I have another patient who also cannot live without her remote mic. She has her friends put it on when they come over so that she can participate in crafting with them and hear them over all the noise they make.

Generally speaking, as a provider, I like to lend patients accessories for them to try out for a week before they purchase so we can see if they want them.

Good luck!

Cheers,

Dr. Meg @ Hearing Solutions

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Charles Darby PhD, MA, BC-HIS, BC-HIS

Hearing Healthcare Provider

27 May 2020 - 67 Views

An excellent product by the way!  A remote mic is a 3rd component that communicates with your hearing aids via a Bluetooth connection.  The user controls how this device works.  For example, in a seminar, the remote mic can be placed on the speaker’s lapel or set close to the mic used by the presenter.  When activated, the remote mic takes over the hearing aids, bringIng the sounds at the remote mic directly to the aids being worn by the user.  Typically the aids are set to attenuate sounds coming from around the listener, allowing the presenter’s voice to be heard loud and clear without hearing competing sounds in the room.  Similar usage in a noisy restaurant is common by placing the remote mic on or directly in front of the person across the table.  Background sounds are reduced and the speaker’s voice is transmitted directly to the hearing aids.  The only caution would be to keep the remote mic within about 30 feet of the hearing aids as this is the normal range of the transmitted Bluetooth signal. 

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Aaron Brody

HIS-Hearing Instrument Specialist

27 May 2020 - 70 Views

Yes, it gives directionality and you can better target speech signals.

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Erin Burns, AuD

Hearing Healthcare Provider

27 May 2020 - 70 Views

Remote microphones are basically wireless microphones that transmit to your hearing aids.

The sensitivity of your hearing aid microphones is set to pick up sound from several feet away, so you also get all the noise that's between you and what you're trying to hear.

A remote microphone is built to pick up sound from very close, and you place the microphone close to what you want to hear. In theory it skips all the noise between you and what you want to hear.

It's kind of like the difference between someone using a floor microphone and not maintaining their mouth position closer to it vs a boom mic that stays right in front of their mouth no matter how they move. Very different sound qualities can be achieved.

BUT, the question of whether they help and by how much is dependant on how well the hearing aids are programmed for your loss. If the aids haven't been verified for output via real ear you could be significantly over or under amplified and not receive optimum results.

Additionally, we can program the aids to only receive input from the remote mic, or a balance between the remote mic and the hearing aid microphones. That makes a big difference too. Now, some manufacturers have apps that let you adjust this parameter, which is helpful, but it's still dependant on the hearing aids being programmed correctly in the first place.

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Jennifer Arndt

Audiologist

27 May 2020 - 70 Views

A remote microphone is a Bluetooth device that can make a huge difference in background noise or drive you absolutely crazy by making the noise worse or by letting you hear rustling clothing on the person who’s wearing it.Operator error is the biggest issue. If you learn how to use it properly it certainly can be beneficial.

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