Comfort Audio Listener

This system has been developed for schools to enable children with hearing loss to hear in a classroom setting. It is available either with the neck loop (telecoil needed) or with an ear level receiver. A teacher or lecturer can then be heard by all students who wear the receivers. It also has the potential to be used as a personal listening device which why I decided to try one out. Be warned. It is expensive.

I needed/wanted to keep up with lectures, committee meetings restaurant/pub talk, and group meetings like coffee mornings etc.

I tested the three units of the system. The DH10 (receiver and T setting neck loop), the DC20 (microphone), along with the DM10 additional microphone for simultaneous listening with the DC20. The system can be set up with an ear level receiver. One should enquire from the audiologist as to the details of this and the cost. Obviously if is an advantage not to have to use a neck loop.

Instructions

These were given on a memory stick for unloading onto the computer. They were succinct and clear, but I did not look at all the options as I had no Bluetooth to connect.

Component parts

A receiver (DH10) with neck loop, a transmitting microphone (DM10) and a conference microphone (DC20). There is an audio lead and a charger. It all comes in a nice case closed by zip.

Ease of use

There was a useful stand for the DC20 mike so that it can be placed in front of a sound source. Typically this might be a radio or TV. There was a useful cord so that it could be worn round the neck of the speaker. This was removable. The switching on buttons are readily located and though a bit fiddly to operate as they have to be held down for 2 seconds to allow the instrument to boot up. A similar technique is needed for shutting down. The display panel goes dark when not in use and this is a slight disadvantage as one needs sometimes to check the volume display, battery symbol etc. Otherwise the display view is good with the necessary symbols all shown.

Power supply

Rechargeable batteries There is a low battery symbol in the display panel. Recharge time is either 2 hours or 5 hours depending on which unit is low. Operating time is 10 hours.

Quality of sound

Television

With the DM10 there was some intermittent interference when listening at some distance from the sound source.

The sound quality through both DM10 and DC20 was good when listening to the TV using the audio jack and when the microphone is placed close to the speaker. The stand supplied for the DC20 was useful for this.

Use in the car

Using either the DM10 clipped to a single person or using it hand held was useful. The conference microphone (DC20) could also be used.

In a restaurant

In a restaurant if one is speaking to a single person the DM10 can be used or if there is a group the DC20 is more appropriate. This has the advantage of a directional facility to pick up sound from a more distant source, though like the other microphones I have tried the sound from the source to which it is directed is by no means specific. It is not able to focus accurately.

In a conference

In a conferenceĀ the conference microphone (DC20) is very useful and use is made of the four settings of the microphone to limit unwanted noise and focus on the relevant sound source at any one time. I found that when I was using the DC20 and the DM10 simultaneously there was a marked reduction in sound volume through the neck loop. This was a nuisance as it was necessary, to optimise the sound signal, to arrange to turn one of them off if they were not needed simultaneously.

Restaurant

The conference mike (DC20) is very helpful with use of the different settings for the microphone. If the restaurant is very noisy, the room is large and unfurnished there sound reception is effected and background noise remains a problem but this is inevitable. Those with normal hearing will have difficulty in this situation.

Warranty

Two years.

How does it perform in the situations for which it is recommended?

As with many things in life you pay for what you get. The Comfort Audio is at the top of the range. It is light, easy to handle, convenient and more adaptable to different situations than any other device I have tried. For those who attend conferences or meetings regularly it would be a valuable addition to improve the quality of communication. One would need to operate the various controls to get the best out of the system so it is perhaps not for the faint-hearted as a social facilitater.

Bluetooth connectivity

The DC20 can be connected to two phones for conference work. This facility was not tested.

Value for money

For those whose lifestyle depends on good group communication the instrument could provide, despite the cost, good value for money. I personally found a real drawback was the inability to control the microphones from the receiver (DH10). Technically you can do this with the Contego. For those requiring a Bluetooth phone connection it could prove invaluable. It is strongly recommended that potential purchasers try it out in practice before making a commitment.

In summary

There is absolutely no point in paying for a device that is over the top for the purpose for which it is required. All the time the manufacturers are making modifications and improvements and with patience a better model may be available later. In any case it would be advisable to look at the specification beforehand.

I found that even with the very expensive devices the ability to hear better sound in the very noisy restaurant or large group social gatherings (cocktail parties) the device could not cope and the sound signal was overwhelmed. The best one can hope for is a slight improvement.