Dear Savvy Senior,
What types of products can you recommend to help people with hearing problems? My 65-year-old husband has some hearing issues, but doesn’t think he needs a hearing aid, so I’m looking for some alternative devices that can help.
If your husband feels he’s not ready for a hearing aid but needs some hearing help, there are dozens of “assistive listening devices” on the market today that can make a big difference.
Assistive listening devices are over-the-counter electronic products (they are not FDA approved hearing aid devices) that can amplify and improve sound to help your husband in different listening situations. It’s also important to know that these products are best suited for people with mild to moderate hearing impairment, and they usually aren’t covered by insurance or Medicare.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the different devices that can help.
Personal amplifiers: For better hearing, especially in noisy environments, there are personal sound amplification products that can be worn in the ear like a hearing aid, and are designed to amplify sound while reducing background noise. Two top rated products to consider that were recently recommended by Consumer Reports are the SoundWorld Solutions CS50+ and the Etymotic Bean.
The CS50+, which costs $350, looks like a Bluetooth cell phone headset, and has customizable settings that can be programed with a smartphone. The Etymotic Bean, which costs $399 a pair or $214 for one, is ready to use right out of the box and is best suited for those with high-frequency hearing loss.
If these are too pricy, there are also a number of small hand-held or body-worn amplifiers – like the Williams Sound Pocketalker ($139) and Bellman & Symfon Mino Personal Amplifier ($188) – that have a microphone and headphones or earbuds that are very effective too.
TV amplifiers: To hear the television better, there are TV listening devices that will let your husband increase the volume and adjust the tone to meet his needs, without blasting you out of the room.
Some of the best options include wireless infrared, radio frequency or Bluetooth devices that come with standard or stethoscope headphones. Sennheiser makes a variety of quality products with prices running between $130 and $450. Or, for a more affordable solution, consider the Serene Innovations TV Sound Box for $120. This is a wireless amplified TV speaker that would sit near your husband, and provide clear stereo sound from the TV without the need for headsets.
Amplified telephones: To have clearer phone conversations, there are a wide variety of amplified telephones that offer enhanced volume and tone adjustments, and they usually come with extra loud ringers and flashing ring indicators to alert him when a call is coming in.
Some top makers of these products are Clarity, ClearSounds and Serene Innovations, and a top seller today is the Clarity XLC2+ Amplified Phone ($144), which is a cordless phone that provides three tone settings and 50 decibels of amplification.
Alerting devices: There are also a variety of alerting devices that can help people who have trouble hearing the doorbell, phone, alarm clock, smoke detector or even weather radio. These products use flashing lights, multi-tone ringers or vibrating devices as a means to alert you.
Some popular products in this category include: The Bellman & Symfon Care Home Alerting Solution that provides door and phone notification with a flashing alert ($198); the Silent Call Weather Alert Radio with strobe and bed shaker ($165); and the all-in-one Serene Innovations CentralAlert CA-360 Clock/Receiver Notification System, which provides alarm clock, doorbell, phone, motion and storm warning alerts ($180).
To locate these and any other hearing loss products go to Harris Communications (HarrisComm.com, or call 866-476-9579), which offers more than 2,000 assistive devices and provides customer support services to assist you.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or go to SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.