The SHHH Conference exhibit hall was packed with vendors offering the latest in hearing loss technology. Cheryl Heppner of NVRC wrote up her visit in four detailed articles, which appear below.
SHHH Exhibit Hall – Part 1
I spent five hours today in the Exhibit Hall at the SHHH conference, learning about equipment, programs, and materials that are new, different, and sometimes very cool. Here’s my first report, with exhibitors in order of which materials and notes came up first when I dumped the contents of my two canvas bags.
- Advanced Bionics, one of three cochlear implant manufacturers, is plugging “Cecilia’s Story,” a documentary about a cochlear implant recipient named Cecilia which chronicles her life from infancy to age 8. Bad news: there’s a premiere screening tonight here in Seattle. Good news: you don’t have to be here to get a copy.
- Ultratec is giving free calls through its “captoned telephone”, the CapTel. This amplified phone gives written, word-for-word captions of everything being said by the person you call. The phone also has tone control and can be used as a traditional telephone by people who do not want the captions.
- Hearing Components, Inc. is showing off its “Snap Tips”, designed to replace custom earmolds and used in high-power behind-the-ear (BTE) aids. They’re meant to give a good earmold seal to raise the gain and prevent feedback. The Tips come in a package and each can be worn about 10 days to 3 weeks before needing replacement, depending on how waxy or moist your ear canal is.
- I asked the folks at Dyn-Aura Engineering Labs, maker of the Elite Headphones, why so many hard of hearing people like their product, while people with normal hearing complain about humming sounds they hear. Short answer: they weren’t designed for hearing people; they’re designed for hard of hearing people. These earphones are completely self-contained with no wires or transmitters or anything to connect.
- AVR Communications Ltd. had Impact BTEs in lovely shades of red, lavender, peacock blue, green, and clear plastic. These programmable hearing aids offer 2-4 programs. AVR’s Logicom Ci is a miniature FM receiver for cochlear implants that comes with a microphone. The small size makes it less cumbersome than the body-worn FM receivers and eliminates the hassle of trying to connect body FM receivers as well as the feedback problems from sound field systems.
- Motorola is conducting a hearing aid-wireless phone user experience study here at the conference. I talked with Scott Kelley and looked at the numerous cell phones. Their T720 and V60 will work with a TTY, and the T720 has lots of features including web access. What caught my attention at their exhibit was a small orb-like device that looked straight out of Star Trek. It turned out to be a Speaker Phone (SPN5627) that can be plugged into their other phones. They say it’s surprisingly effective.
SHHH Exhibit Hall – Part 2
- I had a chance to chat briefly and get a hug from Leon Curtis, Director of the Washington Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, one of the sponsors of the SHHH conference. Washington State continues to be a leader in telecommunications. It now offers Video Relay Services through a relay partnership with Sprint, making Washington the only one of three states in the U.S. that use an Internet-based platform for this service that allows the two industry- standard call types to come into the same computer video camera station.
The state’s equipment program now offers Ameriphone RC200 Remote Control Speaker Phones for people with restricted mobility in addition to being speech impaired or hard of hearing; and Philips ToUCamPro cameras for those preferring to communicate visually with sign language.
- At the AT&T Wireless exhibit, Linda Day was giving demonstrations of phones to Flo Innes from Florida. The Motorola phone had its new Hands-Free Neckloop for use with all Motorola headset-compatible phones. It features a hands-free microphone with a built-in mute button. (Part #SYN 7875). Panasonic Wireless and AT&T Wireless are offering a special promotion that will draw two winners to receive a Panasonic Allure cellular phone, hearing aid compatible headset (Panasonic model EB-EM3100 and $50 prepaid AT&T Wireless service card. The phone also has TTY compatibility and the exhibit had TTYs that could be tested with its phones. AT&T Wireless has a new brochure on Wireless Technology Services for Customers with Disabilities.
- Ameriphone had two new products. Sharyl Pyrdol showed me the new, loaded Alertmaster AM 7000, an all-in-one home notification system. It can alert for telephone ring, doorbell, alarm clock, paging, sound such as baby cry, motion sensor, and audio alarm. It’s housed in a digital alarm clock with a very bright strobe. Remote receivers (RX7) can be used to customize it. The package includes a water resistant wireless doorbell and bed shaker. The Ameriphone JV35 phone has jumbo buttons for the numbers you dial, in high contrast color, with Braille on the buttons as well. The phone can amplify to 35 dB. It allows adjustments for tone and has an electronic voice that repeats each number as you dial. There’s an audio output jack for connection to a cochlear implant and 10 memory buttons for 1-touch speed dialing.
- Donna Sorkin, a previous Executive Director of SHHH, was at the Cochlear Corporation booth. They’re having a presentation tonight on their Nucleus 3 system, which includes the ESPrit 3G, their third generation of BTE speech processors. This cochlear implant speech processor offers a choice of their three speech coding strategies, batteries (three 675 high power zinc) that last through the day, built-in telecoil and whisper settings, and an assortment of colors for the piece that fits behind the ear, including yellow, aqua, and hot pink.
- Listen and Talk, a center serving families who want their children with hearing loss to listen and speak, had wonderful canvas bags full of goodies. They are located in Bothell, WA. Included in the bag was a kit for parents and a copy of the videotape “Dreams Spoken Hear” which were funded by the Okerkotter Foundation.
SHHH Exhibit Hall – Part 3
- I talked with Robert B. Dowling, M.A., a field representative for Siemens who serves NC, SC, VA, and WV. The company has a new hearing aid, Triano, which advertises a Speech Comfort System. This system claims to automatically detect your listening situation, minimize your listening effort, and maximize your understanding of speech with its automtic directional microphone. There are two microphones.
Also new is the Crescendo amplified phone, with normal features like redial, mute, hold, and speed dial. You can use the phone with a neckloop for binaural phone use. Included with the phone is an accessory called the Magic Cone which prevents feedback and interference. Siemens has retooled its DirectEar 810 infrared listening system. An on/off compression switch attenuates sudden, sharp noises that disturb some people. The volume can be adjusted with a large, easy-to-read volume control at the base of the headset that holds its setting once you adjust it. The headset automatically turns off when you are not using it to save battery life. Unlike earlier models, the headset can easily be adjusted for various head sizes.
- I took advantage of the free material on display at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association booth. Particularly welcome are some of the materials ASHA has translated into Spanish, most of it for parents and teachers of children. Some of the topics: Ear Infections and Language development; Hearing, Noise and School-Aged Chidldren; Asking Your Audiologist About Vertigo; Asking Your Audiologist About Hearing Assistive Technology and Audiologic Rehabilitation; Hearing Loss and Its Implications for Learning and Communication. ASHA staffer Tina R. Mullins, M.A., CCC-A and I have bonded after surviving the same 5-hour flight from Dulles, with a baby wailing the entire time. I now feel the need for an anti-baby cry program for my cochlear implant.
3.John McCelland was staffing the exhibit for Cochlear Implant Association, Inc. He has been swamped with people wanting more information. People have scooped up all the materials faster than he can put it out. There are five fact sheets: Reimbursement and Financial Support for Cochlear Implants; Educating a Child Who Has a Cochlear Implant; Selecting a Cochlear Implant Center for Children; After the Surgery: Learning to Hear With a Cochlear Implant; and What Is a Cochlear Implant?
4.Dogs for the Deaf, which is located in Central Point, Oregon, had at least eight hearing dog teams at the conference in their bright orange vests. Copies of their newsletter are full of stories from owners of the dogs, including Jodi (human) and Chewie (canine). Jodi had surgery recently and stayed in a private room with a long leash on Chewie’s collar. He’s a smart dog. Twice he alerted her when the IV alarm went off to signal that her IV had gone dry. Dogs for the Deaf also has a new fact sheet with information about becoming a candidate for a hearing dog, good tips on what is expected of you, how to decide if a hearing dog is for you.
- Definitely off the beaten track is a new product from Hearing Resources called AudiSee, a “Visual-FM system”. Melanie Gudgeon was demonstrating the contraption, which looked like a normal headset but had an additional camera on near the microphone that is adjusted to give a view of a person’s lips. It’s designed for oral hearing impaired students, giving them a system where they can see the teacher’s face on a wireless monitor-receiver as he or she moves about. It’s a clever idea that could use a bit of tweaking, as Melanie’s lips had that fun house look that comes from a wide-angle lens used close up.
SHHH Exhibit Hall – Part 4
- Richard Uzanis of HITEC gave me a grand tour of some exciting new products and services. He gave me a quick demonstration of the TextLink 9100 mobile digital TTY which operates on the international V.18 and CTM standards. It’s speedier than the other current TTYs, and it can still communicate with the old Baudot machines as well as ASCII. It can be used anywhere in the world. Small and lightweight, it’s easy to carry. It was first introduced in England, where it was tested by British Telecom and Royal National Institute of the Deaf. With an integrated PC modem capability and optional PC Link software, you can connect to a PC and turn the PC into a TTY. Features include direct connect with two built in telephone jacks, Caller ID, call progress to tell you if the phone is ringing or busy, auto answer to take messages. There’s 1000K of memory that can be used to save phone numbers, memos, auto answer messages. List price is $459.
HITEC also has several amplified cordless phones with features ranging from Caller ID in the handset to digital answering machines. Amplification is up to 30 dB. But what caught my attention was the WorldView TTY 2200. A compact computer workstation, the HT-WV400DT is priced at $899, it currently includes a TTY/Fax modem, Windows 98, 15″ LCD flat panel monitor, 3.2 GB hard disk storage, 32 MB video RAM, USB prot, 56K v.90 Internet access, voice & fax modem, CD-ROM drive, 3.5″ floppy drive, keyboard, mouse. There are also laptop and portable hand-held versions. HITEC upgrades the system as processors and memory chips advance.
I tested the HT-WV400DT with another HITEC offering, the Worldview NTS Networked TTY services. HITEC’s basic WV-NTS system has TTY application software, TTY connectivity hardware, network conectivity hardware, high performance application server, port license, client-user licenses for one port, five-user system. The system can be expanded to any size and starts at $4,999. It offers TTY access to voice menu systems because any PC on the LAN or WAN can function as a TTY. Uzanis told me that the state of Illinois is putting this in many offices through a contract by the Illinois central agency for contracting, Central Management Services in Springfield, because the state recognized that this is one way for it to become compliant with federal access laws such as Section 504, 508, and 255 of various acts. The system I tested for TTY-type conversations had flexibility for those with visual impairments, with choice of font size, color of font and background. Note: the system is not yet Mac compatible.
- Ultratec’s booth was very popular, with its free calls on the new CapTel phone. Many people love the ease of use. Unlike current voice carry over calls, for which you must first dial the relay number, on a CapTel phone you simply dial the number you are calling. The phone itself connects you to the person you are calling and another person who uses advanced voice recognition technology to re-voice the callers words, which then appear on the CapTel phone as captions. Users are saying it’s as good or better than 2-line voice carry over, but you only need one telephone line.
- Lightspeed Technologies was exhibiting a number of amplification systems and accessories, mostly focusing on those for use in classrooms. Their LES-700 is an infrared system with a pendant-style microphone, amplifier/mixer, infrared sensor, speakers, and optional mic for team teaching. Educational discount cost is $850. The LES- 390A ($795) is a desktop personal sound field system that can be carried from room to room and is Phonak MicroLink compatible, rechargeable. It consists of a receiver/amplifier, belt pack transmitter, and headset mic. The LES-360 ($395) personal FM system is also Phonak Microlink compatible, has a locking volume control, recharging system. It consists of a belt-pack transmitter, belt-pack receiver and adjustable headphone for smaller children. Their fact sheet for in-service training has such information as: Maximum noise level recommended for a good learning environment is 35-40 dB but average ambient noise levels in grades K-6 are over 60 dB. Every doubling of distance from the teacher drops the voice level 75%.
- Audex has some of the best sales of the conference, and I stocked up on several of their products at last year’s conference. I love their wireless infrared system for TV watching and the clever design that incorporates a neckloop that doubles as a neckstrap. They also have a cost-effective “Rattler” portable infrared emitter that produces a broad pattern suitable for meetig rooms, courtrooms, etc. I picked up more information about their “Texas Pyramid” infrared emitter, which I’ve heard several tech types mention as a good option for listening around a conference table.
I also spent a lot of my time trying to find information for our Loudoun Outreach specialist Joan Cassidy, who knew that Audex had been working with cruise lines. Bill Shepard confirmed that they are putting assistive listening systems on three Carnival shops, but was not able to get the names of the ships. He did, however, give me the contact person. It is Kay Strauderman, who is based in Carnival’s Miami office.
- Sharon Judlowitz of Widex was talking up its new Senso Diva, a 100% digital hearing aid. Features include enhanced speech intensification system, feedback cancellation, noise reduction, extended battery life, and a locator. You can select a special music program for listening to music in the in-the-ear model or behind-the- ear model, but not the tiny completely in-the canal model.
- New with Hal-Hen Company is the Conversor from sense-sonic, a compact wireless personal FM system for use in noisy situations such as parties, restaurants and cars as well as lectures, tv watching and houses of worship. The receiver can be worn above or beneath clothing. It can be used with telecoil-equipped hearing aids or a standard binaural headset.
- Phonak’s new product is the Aero BTE available in a full range of sizes and configurations. Those using the behind-the-ear models can take advantage of the Aero FM system which has a receiver that boots onto the bottom of the BTE. There are three choices for FM transmitters to make it flexible for many settings. Phonak offers several high-end FM packages ranging from adult starter packages to the complete FM package for adults who want to upgrade their BTEs to MicroLink for improved hearing performance. Phonak also is playing up its PowerZoom and AudioZoom technology to aid that old bugaboo that all the manufacturers try to beat, understanding in noise.
- Williams Sound’s Andy Olson was back with the full complement of FM and infrared listening systems. They have two models of personal infrared system (WIR 950 and WIR 125) for TV watching. Two personal FM systems (PFM 300 and PFM 350) recently have an upgrade to improve the battery system and can be used in all kinds of settings. Their Pocketalker Pro with its numerous accessories still remains popular. The Williams Sound Consumer Price list with all the options for its products now runs 2 3/4 pages of small print!
- Oticon’s Randi Pogash, MS, CCC-A, told me a bit about their new Super Power technology for the Digi Focus hearing aids. The aids are FM and direct audio input compatible and are 100% digital. There’s a built-in microphone/telecoil function. Oticon also distributes a report with research documentation, and the current one focuses on their approach to developing hearing aids for those with profound hearing loss.
- Steven Coston of Sony Ericsson gave me a tour of their numerous cell phones with access features. The T612 uses GSM and is hearing aid compatible (HAC). The T61C uses CDMA, is HAC and has a telecoil built in; it can also be used for wireless/TTY calling. The T 61Z using TDMA also has built-in VCO capability. Steve is Technical Manager of Regulatory Services.
- CSD now offers pager answering service. You can page your requests to a live agent who will place a call to a person without text paging capability and then provide a response back to you. Text interpreting is also provided both in person and from a remote location for such situations and classrooms, presentations to groups, etc. CSD’s new fact sheet, Technical FAQs for USAVRS is a great tool for those who want to use their Video Relay Service.