Let’s Try Anyway

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There’s nothing to lose with an assistive technology (AT) device loan! What started as defeat for a pottery student in central Florida became a new opportunity with help from the Florida AT Act Program, FAAST.

Miss Jane was taking a city-offered pottery class and struggling to keep up with instructions. She wears hearing aids, and the environment was difficult for listening and getting the help she needed to learn. Her teacher reached out to the FAAST Central Florida Demonstration Center to find out about equipment to borrow that might improve Miss Jane’s experience.

Two hand held devices: a transmitter and a receiver. Each has buttons and LCD screens.
The Comfort Contego assistive listening system

FAAST has six regional demonstration centers serving Florida. Every state and territory provides device demonstration and loan services and in Florida equipment may be borrowed for up to six weeks at a time. Device demonstration and loan programs allow the public to learn about different assistive technologies and try out equipment for free (or a nominal fee) before committing to make a purchase. These short-term device loans are designed to fill a temporary need or to help an individual decide which device works best for them.

Miss Jane’s art teacher borrowed a Comfort Contego assistive listening system for use by her student. FAAST staff explained the receiver can connect with the t-coil (or “telecoil”) built into most hearing aids by using a neckloop. This means the transmitter amplifies sound to the user’s own equipment. It can even securely connect to multiple receivers should more than one student need this hearing assistance.

On the day Miss Jane was to try out the Comfort Contego, however, she arrived to class sounding defeated. She explained she wasn’t wearing her hearing aids because the batteries were dead and cost too much for her to replace. Communication, she said, would be even more difficult than normal.

“Let’s try the system anyway,” her instructor replied, having noticed the Comfort Contego also came with its own headset. A user did not need to wear hearing aids. Of course, they had no idea if this headset would work for Miss Jane.

The results were unexpected, “She put the head set on,” her teacher would later write FAAST, “and we got just over half way on the volume control and she goes, ‘Wow, I can hear… I haven’t heard that good in two years! Not even my hearing aids work this well.'”

The microphones built into the Comfort Contego can be adjusted for omni or directional use. This means they can capture the room or zero-in on a speaker. The transmitter may be worn by a teacher in a classroom environment. The receiver can also operate on its own as a personal amplifier with a built-in mic. The system amplifies up to 40 dB at 1 kHz.

“So we sat down at the wheel and we had the most successful class yet. She made her first bowl. In fact, she made two bowls. A student came up to compliment her and she replied, ‘That is the result you get when you can hear the teacher.’ It was amazing!!! I was so excited for her.”

Even more exciting was the decision by the city to purchase several Comfort Contegos for use by future students.

Interested to learn about assistive technology for yourself or someone you know? Find your State or Territory AT Act Program.

More Resources:

Hearing Assistive Technology – the What, When, Who and Why (from the AT3 Center)

Assistive Listening Systems and Devices (from the National Association of the Deaf)