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Summary of new research on wireless streaming technologies

Published Date: 08 Mar 2022

New research into the effectiveness of wireless streaming technologies shows that they can be an alternative to radio aid devices – however, caution is still needed in reaching definitive conclusions.

We commissioned the University of Manchester’s Centre for Audiology and Deafness to carry out this research. This was an exploratory piece of research to see if it might be possible to standardise the testing of wireless streaming devices technologies. As part of this, the research sought to carry out a technical assessment of a small number of wireless streaming devices. It also explored how easy the devices were to use.

By wireless streaming devices, we mean devices that rely on specialist wireless or Bluetooth technologies to transmit sound signals in a digital format to a child’s hearing aid or implant, rather than conventional FM radio aids transmitted sound in an analogue format and with far less processing. The research looked at the following devices:

  • Roger Touchscreen
  • Roger Pen
  • Roger Select
  • Oticon EduMic
  • Phonak Compilot.

Key findings from the University of Manchester research include:

  • the devices generally performed in a similar way to each other in terms of predicted sound intelligibility. However, there was greater variation between the devices in terms of predicted sound quality
  • in particular, in the conditions in which they were tested, there was a longer sound delay introduced by two devices (Oticon EduMic and Phonak Compilot) on the edge of what is considered to be an acceptable range.

What does this mean in practice?

It’s important to remember that these devices were largely tested in laboratory conditions and they are likely to perform in a different way in real-life conditions. It is also important to remember that this was an exploratory study and that the manufacturers will also have done their own testing of these devices. 

However, we hope that it will be a useful addition to the evidence base on the benefits of wireless streaming devices. We also hope that it will generate debate about the best way to independently test and compare different wireless streaming technologies. 

We believe the research also shows the importance of continuing to engage with and listen carefully to, the views, observations and experiences of deaf children and young people, and their families, on the use of hearing technologies. 

Given that the early years are a critical time for language development, it’s especially important that professionals continue to carefully monitor the use of any hearing technology being used with younger deaf children, particularly as these users may be less likely/able to report any issues or problems.

Our view remains that the benefits of assistive listening technologies in the real world in terms of supporting children's language and communication development are likely to outweigh any specific issues that may arise in laboratory conditions. 

More information

The full report is available to download here.

Update (July 2020)

We are pleased to see that the publication of the report in March 2022 has generated much interest and debate. However, some feedback received has indicated there has been some over-interpretation of the reported results. As highlighted above, this was an exploratory piece of research and given the preliminary nature of this work, the intention was not to provide a ‘best buy”’ recommendation for one particular device.

It is also important to highlight that the user feedback in the report was based on a very small number of users. The particular devices tested produced a range of comments which we hope will help generate a discussion as to what factors could be included in a future comparison table of a device’s strengths and weaknesses. However, deciding the best device for a particular user will depend on a wide range of factors, as well as individual needs. This report does not have the statistical power on which to base these kind of clinical decisions.