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In the car

Photo: Technology can facilitate better communication in the car

Car journeys are a common part of many people’s daily routines, but cars can be very noisy and it can be difficult for a deaf person to hear what others are saying. During a car journey it might also be difficult to pick up visual cues from speech such as lip patterns, facial expressions and gestures. These factors can make communication in the car difficult.

Here we give you a few top tips for communicating in the car and tell you which products and technologies could help to communicate better in the car.

Top tips for communicating in the car

In addition to the products we suggest here, why not:

  • attach a small mirror to the inside of the windscreen so someone sitting in the back could lip read someone in the front
  • try to keep other noises down as much as possible – close the windows and turn music off or only play at a low volume
  • ask your audiologist about a noise-reduction programme on your hearing aids – it could help reduce the sound of engine noise in the car
  • Ask if you can sit in the front – it’ll be much easier for you to lip-read and hear the driver.
Using a radio aid in the car

Radio aids are designed to give clear communication between a speaker and a deaf person. They also help reduce the effects of background noises. This makes radio aids an ideal solution for communicating in the car.

How it works

The driver, or another passenger, would speak into the radio aid transmitter and you or your deaf child will be able to hear it through your radio aid receivers. The radio aid transmitter could also be plugged into a personal music player, DVD player, smartphone or tablet for entertainment on long journeys.

Watch this family use a radio aid in the car.

What do families think of using a radio aid in the car?

"Ellie loved the fact that we could chat whilst I was driving so we could talk about places and things as we drove by them"
Helen, Mum to Ellie (3)

Using a radio aid in the car with speakers or headphones

Radio aids could be connected to small portable speakers or headphones. This could be useful if you don’t wear hearing aids.

How it works

Connecting speakers or headphones to a radio aid is only possible with bodyworn radio aid receivers (the Connevans FM Genie or the Oticon Amigo R5) or a neckloop receiver (the Comfort Audio DH10 or the Phonak Roger MyLink). The speakers, or headphones, simply plug into the bodyworn or neckloop receiver using the 3.5mm connector and the sound from the transmitter can then be heard.

What do families think about using radio aids in the car?

"Max's school is a long way from our home, so he had to spend a great deal of time in the car each week. Using the Connevans FM Genie radio aid and speakers, my voice was clearer and louder to Max and it made a huge difference to our journeys"
Jo, Mum to Max (5)

Using a streamer in the car

If you have a digital streamer with a separate wireless microphone, or mini-mic, then you could use this in the car.

How it works

Most digital streamers have a small, wireless mini-microphone accessory, it works like a radio aid but with a shorter range. The driver, or other passenger, could wear the mini-microphone and it sends their voice to your streamer using Bluetooth. Your streamer then sends the sound directly to your hearing aids.

Using a personal listener in the car

Personal listeners are small, personal amplifiers and can be very useful when communicating with others in noisy places making them ideal products to use in a car.

We think that single unit personal listeners (like the Sonido) are a good, value for money option for communicating better when in the car. Why not borrow one from Technology Test Drive and try it out?

How it works

Single unit personal listener – You hold and control the personal listener which is connected to a small microphone on the end of a long lead. You give the microphone to the driver, or other passenger you want to talk to, and they can clip it to their clothing using a lapel-clip. You will be able to hear them clearly by using a neckloop, headphones, earbuds or a stetoset. You will also be able to control the volume and tone of the speech.

Twin unit personal listeners – these have a separate transmitter and receiver and work in a similar way to a radio aid.

What do families think about using a personal listener in the car?

“The Sonido was easy to install, it was simple to figure out which lead went where and we tested it easily before installing it in the car. The sound quality was good, and our 7 year old was able to easily pick up the signal from her hearing aids on the T programme. The neckloop was worn around her neck"
Rob, dad to Charlotte (7)

Using a loop system in the car

Loop systems directly transfer sound from a particular source to a hearing aid using the T programme. This can make sound much clearer and reduce background noises. A car loop system could be a good solution because once the loop is correctly installed, it will work whenever you need it and when you have the T programme activated on your hearing aids.

Car loops can be helpful for deaf people with additional needs, or mobility problems, as there is no additional equipment or wires for them to manage. Car loops are also a good solution if more than one passenger has hearing aids with the T programme set.

How it works

The car loop system is powered by using an in-car power socket. The main loop amplifier unit is connected to a loop seat pad by a wire. Ideally you will sit on the pad, but if more than one person is using it (or if it doesn't fit with your car seat) it can be placed nearby on the parcel shelf. A microphone, connected to the loop amplifier, should be positioned close to the person speaking. Once the loop is correctly installed, all you have to do is switch your hearing aids to T or MT and you will hear the person who is speaking into the microphone.

In theory, being on the T programme should reduce background noises. But due to all the electrics and metal in cars there may be other interferences that you might now hear.

How to check whether your car is suitable for a loop system

Sit in the car and switch your hearing aids to T or MT, or a hearing person could do this by using a stetoset listener connected to your hearing aids. Now turn the engine on and operate electrical features such as windscreen wipers, washers and air conditioning. If you can hear loud buzzing noises then this is due to interference and a loop will not be suitable for use in that car. Diesel cars tend to be better suited to loop systems as their ignition system produces fewer electronic pulses and less electro-magnetic interference.

What do families think about using a loop system in the car?

"The car loop was a little complicated to set up, there are a good number of options for input but that meant we had to be careful how we set it up. The sound quality was good and the options including tone, bass as well as volume meant that we could get a finer differentiation in the sound quality. We didn’t hear any interference whilst testing the unit and the overall sound quality was good"
Rob, dad to Charlotte (7)