Field Testing the Contacta Portable InfoLoop

By Jim Sharrick: Putting “Special” into Mission Specialist

March 3, 2021

Once I heard about Sertoma’s national initiative to provide portable looping systems for Better Speech & Hearing Month, I gave my forehead a slap. Duh. This was an obvious move for us, (besides that whole “Hearing Aid Project” thing), and I was ready to dive in.  I called HQ in KC, and got permission to order sooner than scheduled. My club board readily agreed to fund the project, so online I went to investigate the options at Contacta.

My plan was to test the equipment myself, (I wear a hearing aid on the right side and a cochlear implant on the left), and then demonstrate the equipment during club visitations. (I only got to visit two clubs, including my own… sad trombone noise.) We ordered the portable loop, (the transmitter), and paid extra for a headset so those without hearing aids could experience how it works.

In my enthusiasm, I ordered the clip-on microphone because I thought it was wireless, which it wasn’t, and never purported to be. But… the clip-on didn’t work, and it was cheerfully replaced. However, the new clip-on mic halved the transmission volume, so it was replaced with a stem microphone. It is better, but still not as loud as the built-in microphone on the back of the loop transmitter.

As for reception, alignment and distance matter. The telecoil in my hearing aid was the most sensitive to both factors, requiring direct alignment with the transmitter, including height, and being no more than four feet away. The processor for my implant, which is larger than my aid, was less sensitive to both and could be roughly 15 degrees off higher, lower, or to either side, and received further away. The headset, again much larger, had the greatest range, and no one had reception issues within six feet, but still within general alignment. We still haven’t tested the system in a clinical or retail setting due to current events, but it is on the docket.

The main attraction of these units is convenience, reducing the effort, as well as time, required by both parties to conduct simple communications in a public setting. I would suggest that you make sure these units are useful in their intended settings first, accepted by staff, and not just the agreeable big boss. Hopefully, all is green-lighted, and you’ve made a lot of folks’ days go smoother. Good job, Sertomans!


1 Comment

  • Monica Watts says:

    Jim,
    Thank you for doing this testing and report. It should be very helpful to the clubs and wonderful for trouble shooting. It would be a shame to think we have done something nice in placing a unit only to have it not be used because it’s frustrating to the people we gave it to. It’s sound advice to test it, be sure all the parts are working properly, and be able to instruct the recipients on use of the system.

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