Best Hearing in Noise, Guaranteed.

This article was adapted from the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association North Shore Branch June Newsletter, and written by Hugh Hetherington (Issue 93, June 2016)

Roger That!

Roger is a military term with the meaning “message received and understood,” a phrase that has special meaning to those who are hard of hearing. Many of you will recognize that often the message is neither heard or understood and sometimes is heard and misunderstood. The Roger system is also Phonak’s replacement technology for its earlier and very successful series of FM and Dy- namic FM products which included their EasyLink, SmartLink, and ZoomLink. Dan made the point that the new Roger system is not FM or Frequency Modulation, but rather DM or Digital Modulation. It operates in the 2.4 GHz ISM band, the same fre- quencies used for WiFi, Bluetooth, baby monitors and other systems. This is a global band dedicated to industry, science and medicine and can be used freely worldwide.

The Roger system, however, uses intelligent adaptive protocols and allows for ultra-low acoustic de- lay and reliable long range broadcast. It uses minia- ture receivers and provides for confidential transmission. This means that the transmission between transmitters and receivers cannot be intercepted by other systems and privacy is guaranteed. This was not the case with FM transmission, which only needed a receiver tuned to the same transmitting fre- quency in order to intercept transmission.

a picture of a graph showing 62% improved speech recognition with the roger system and a 54% improvement over traditional FM signals  and a 35% improvement over dynamic FM signals.

The main advantage to Roger technology is due to its intelligent adaptive protocols in which the audio signals are sampled and digitized and sent as packages. Studies have shown that for a hard of hearing person to hear reliably in a noisy environment a +10 dB signal to noise ratio (SNR) must be maintained. With Phonak’s previous Dynamic FM system this was achievable but diminished as the noise level increased. With the Roger system this SNR was dra- matically improved. With Roger, the louder the noise, the greater the improvement in SNR. As for understanding speech in noise, which was one of Phonak’s primary goals in developing the Roger system the results were impressive as demonstrated in figure 1 which shows how the hearing impaired listeners with Roger are able to understand up to 62% better than even those with normal hearing and in figure 2 which shows a comparison of speech un- derstanding by percent correct comparing FM, Dy- namic FM and Roger. This clearly shows that the higher the noise level the greater the advantage with Roger.

picture of 3 roger pens, in blue, silver and red

The microphone for the Roger system is the Roger Pen, so called because it looks like a pen. There are two versions, the Roger Pen (original) and now a newer version, the EasyPen. Both versions of the Pen feature an accelerometer which is a component that measures accelerations in three dimensions (X, Y and Z). The accelerometer informs the Roger Pen continuously about its orientation with respect to the direction of gravity. It also tells the Roger Pen if it is accidentally dropped. Should this happen in use, the listener does not receive a “bang” in the ear when it hits the floor or table. The microphone momentarily shuts off when it senses this falling movement. Accelerometers are used in other applications, such as, smartphones. In the smartphone application, for instance, it allows for pictures to be automatically rotated so they are dis- played in the proper orientation and never upside down. The Roger Pen also attenuates loud transient signals like clapping or tapping or knocking on the table. In addition, it attenuates noises generated by touching and rubbing on clothes as well as wind noise.

In the Roger Pen, the accelerometer allows the microphone to automatically adapt to one of three modes.

(1) Interview style. This is when the pen is held in the hand and pointed towards a speaker. In this mode, in a noisy environment, the speaker’s voice can be filtered out from the background noise. In a quiet environment, soft voices or speakers further away are automatically closed-up and the acoustically perceived distance can be reduced up to 75%.

(2) Conference style. This mode is automatically selected when the Roger Pen is placed flat on a table. In this mode there are again two situations. In a quiet situation, the Pen will go into omnidirectional mode and pick up sounds from all around. In noise, the Pen automatically activates its beam former and picks up the voice of whoever is speaking.

(3) Lanyard mode. This is for listening to a single speaker. In this mode, a voice activity detector attenuates the microphone when the talker is not speaking. This mode is useful when out walking with a partner or having someone who is giving a lecture wear it around the neck.

These three modes operate the same in both the full version of the Roger Pen and the EasyPen. In the full version, however, it is possible to lock the microphone orientation so that it remains in that mode until unlocked. This gives the advantage that the Roger Pen can be locked in directional mode even while lying flat on a table. The full version of the Roger Pen also features wideband Bluetooth. This allows it to be used with cellphones giving hands free operation and it supports headset profile for ac- cepting and declining phone calls, voice dialing, and last number recall.

The Bluetooth feature also permits its use for transmitting your TV audio directly to your hearing aids. This is in conjunction with its docking station which also provides for charging. It automatically detects an audio signal even if the device is turned off, and powers down if there is no audio signal for 45 seconds.

The system also comes with an audio cord that plugs into the bottom of the pen and transmits audio from any multimedia device, such as an iPod, directly to your hearing aids. When used in this mode, the mi- crophones are muted. The pen remains in this mode until the audio cable is unplugged or the Roger Pen is switched off.

picture of a roger clip on microphone

In addition to the Roger Pen, there are other Roger microphones available. There is the Roger Clip-On Mic. This microphone can be clipped on to the clothing. It is ideal for use by a partner or friend. It also includes an audio input for listening to multimedia and TV similar to the Roger Pen.

picture of a roger table microphone

A newer addition to the Roger family is the Roger Table Mic. It is useful for people who participate in meetings. It is easy to connect and allows for full participation in large meetings with multiple participants. With its rechargeable battery it allows for 20 hours of operat- ing time before needing to be recharged. For very large meetings, multiple Table Mic’s can be net- worked together to provide for larger table coverage.

While the Roger system works seamlessly with Phonak hearing aid models, it is also compatible to be used with most other hearing aid manufacturer’s products. With Phonak aids a number of receiver options are available. Integrated receivers are built right into the hearing aids and become the battery door. There is also a universal Roger X receiver. This can be plugged into the ComPilot and operates through the ComPilot neckloop. It is tiny, not as this image would suggest, and plugs into all kinds of remotes, neckloops, hearing aids and more.

picture of a roger x receiver with direct audio input to any device able to connect to this type of input

For other manufacturer’s hearing aids, including cochlear implants and bone anchored hearing aids (BAHA), there are also options. The Roger X receiver can be plugged into the streamers of other manufacturer’s or plugged into their hearing aid via a boot or audio shoe. There is also a Roger MyLink Neckloop receiver that functions with all hearing aids that are equipped with telecoils.

The Roger components, microphones and receivers work seamlessly and automatically with each other. There are no channels to select or change. To con- nect simply press a button on the Roger microphone or it can be set up to connect automatically. The op- erating range is about 20 meters, but will be some- what less if there are walls or room dividers involved.

If understanding speech in noise is a major problem for you, then maybe the Roger System is your answer. Perhaps a less expensive hearing aid with a Rogers system would cost less and give you so much more lifestyle enhancement.

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