Neckloops 101

Neckloops 101

By Bob MacPherson

Editor: I’m always surprised when I meet someone with considerable hearing loss who knows nothing about assistive technology and how it can make things easier. One important component is the neckloop, about which people seem to be especially unaware. Here’s bhNEWs’ Bob MacPherson with his neckloops primer. And a special added bonus is the discussion by Richard Uzuanis of ClearSound /HiTec of the new and improved CLA7v2 and the all new CLA7-BT neckloops.

Bob’s bhNEWS group is the place to keep up with hearing loss news in near real time. Point your browser to http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/bhNEWS

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May 2008

After writing for years and fielding emails daily on connectivity issues and ALD issues with hearing instruments, it is clear to me that there exists a great deal of misunderstanding and misinformation on the very basic ALD accessory – the neckloop.

Today, I will attempt to correct all of that, once and for all. ( I also still believe in the tooth-fairy.<G> )

The Basics:

1; A neckloop is a coil of many tiny copper wires covered in a plastic jacket designed to loop about the neck, with an audio connector , typically a 3,5 mm plug, usually mono, but sometimes stereo.

2: How does it work? Connected to a source of audio signal, such as and ALD, personal stereo, computer or whatever, that signal creates an electromagnetic field corresponding to the applied signal. The telecoil ( in hearing instruments so equipped) receives this electromagnetic field and converts it back into an audio signal to be processed the same as the signal from the mic in the instrument.
Known Issues:

1:: ALL neckloops, despite misleading advertising to the contrary, are monaural devices and CANNOT deliver a stereo signal.

Those advertised as “Stereo” ,supplied with a stereo 3.5 mm plug to fit music players, computers, etc,. simply combine the L & R stereo signals, resulting in , yes, mono.

Many bilateral HA/CI users trusted the claims and truly believed they were hearing in true stereo, when, in fact, it was nothing more than bilateral mono.

2: One popular amplified neckloop, the CLA7 from Clear Sounds, is sold for cell phone use but includes a 3.5 mm adapter , for use with “your audio device or iPod” ( from the website) http://www.clearsounds.com/store/dept-315360.htm.

What is NOT mentioned is that the 3.5 mm adapter provides a MONO plug to plug into the STEREO jack of your audio source device.

Which means that firstly, the neckloop will only receive the left channel of the stereo signal! Secondly, the signal from the right channel will be short-circuited to ground, with the “possibility” of damage to the source device ( music player, etc.)
Fixes:

1: Presently, there are only three ways for bilateral hearing instrument users to experience true stereo.
a: Stereo headphones, via audio coupling.
b: Stereo silhouettes, such as the Music Links, via telecoil coupling.
c: DAI, or Direct Audio Input, via direct wired stereo input to the H. instruments. ( CAVEAT: a simple Y-splitter ( One 3.5 mm plug to 2 3.5 mm jacks) WILL NOT provide true stereo – only bilateral mono. My design for a fix, using Radio Shack parts, has been posted previously on all of these lists, WILL provide that true stereo!)

2: For any neckloops supplied with a mono 3.5 mm plug, including the ClearSounds CLA7, the fix is an inexpensive mono to stereo adapter, such as the Radio Shack 274-0374 http://tinyurl.com/4sckpn This will then deliver the signal from both channels and protect the source device as well.
The Future:

In an extended and most productive conversation with Richard Uzuanis of ClearSounds / HiTec , where we discussed these issues and more, I learned a bit about the new and improved CLA7v2 and the all new CLA7-BT. Here’s the sneak preview, in it’s first appearance on the internet, from Mr. Uzuanis just today:
Richard Uzuanis:

The New CLA7v2 Amplified Neckloop
Besides an updated look for the product to reflect the “boomers” and nearly everyone else’s desire for more stylish assistive products, we made the following upgrades to improve the CLA7 with the CLA7v2. With the restyling and the performance improvements, we have maintained the price of the CLA7v2 at a suggested retail of $119.00.

1. User Interface;
a. Replaced the center on/off button that facilitated the CLA7 being turned on unexpectedly with a positive slide switch on the side of the unit. Major improvement to save battery life.
b. Moved the volume control from the bottom of the unit to the side of the unit to make it easier to manage the volume control.
2. Performance and Reliability
a. Redesigned the circuit board with improved components and a reduced component count.
b. Improved the clarity of the device with enhanced circuit design and components
c. Maintained the 30dB of signal gain to accommodate devices that have low output and hearing aids that have weak t-coils.
3. Safety:
The breakaway connector in the loop is maintained to provide a safe release should the user catch the loop on a foreign object. We have also improved safety by adding another breakaway point at the connection cable point so that catching the cable between the device and the base of the loop will not cause a hardwired cable to be damaged at the base of the loop by being ripped out of the base. This same feature provides excellent connectivity options.
4. Device Connectivity
An ongoing problem with connecting Neckloops to cell phones and other devices is the lack of standards and plug/connector compatibility between devices. While the CLA7v2 can be used with a wide variety of devices including cell phones, cordless phones, landline phones, TV Listening Systems, personal amplifiers (ie Sound Wizard and Pocketalker), radios, and a variety of audio devices, the connections to each of these devices can be and usually is different. To facilitate connections to the widest variety of devices, we have removed the hard wired connection cable and replaced it with a 3.5mm jack. In addition to making the neckloop safer to wear, using the jack instead of a hard wired connector opens up the ability to provide direct and clean connectivity to a wide variety of devices. With the initial release of the CLA7v2 we will provide 4 connectivity cords with the unit.
a. 3.5mm to 2.5mm mono handsfree – this cord will be the cord used for hands free connections with cordless phones and cellphone with a mono 2.5mm jack or that has a 2.5mm mono adapter. Certain corded phones that have 2.5mm hands free jacks like the new ClearSounds CSC600 will be able to use the neckloop with this cord.
b. 3.5mm to 2.5mm stereo handsfree – this cord will be the cord used with newer cellphone that have stereo 2.5mm jacks or adapters
c. 3.5mm to 3.5mm mono audio – this cord will be used with cordedphones that use a 3.5mm mono jack for connection to neckloops and headsets. This is also the cable the would be used with most personal listening systems like the SoundWizard or the Pocketalker.
d. 3.5mm to 3.5mm stereo audio – this cord will be used with most audio devices that use stereo connectors for their headsets such as iPods, radios, etc.
5. Power
The CLA7v2 continues to use 2 AAA batteries for power. The improved circuit design provides up a to 30% increase in battery life. Users can use rechargable batteries as long as they use an external recharger.

If there is a question about connections to a cellphone, ask the cellphone provider for a phone or the adapter used to connect a TTY to the phone. All TTY adapters or connection points have to be 2.5mm mono handsfree connectors. A good example is the Apple iPhone. They use a proprietary 3.5mm stereo handsfree connector for their headsets but if you get their TTY adapter it provides connection for a cord that is 2.5mm mono handsfree. With this adapter the iPhone works great with the old CLA7 as well as the new CLA7v2.

The New CLA7-BT Neckloop
We are really excited about the new CLA7-BT Amplifed Bluetooth Neckloop. The New CLA7-BT Amplified Bluetooth Headset will use the nearly same tooling and form factor as the CLA7v2. It will however, provide wireless connections between Bluetooth capable cellphones and other Bluetooth devices such as audio systems, MP3 Players, PCs and any other BT compatible device.

The CLA7-BT will be the only amplified Bluetooth device on the market. There have been numerous recent releases of Bluetooth neckloops or BT devices using earhooks. Most often these devices do not provide enough signal output or require the frustration of an earhook with a wire hanging from the ear which can get caught or becomes uncomfortable. Most earhook devices do not provide binaural listening. The signal amplification concept was proven to be highly effective compared to non-amplified neckloops with the CLA7. Customers were extremely happy with the additional signal gain when their device was not able to put out enough signal at the headset jack to drive the neckloop or their hearing aids had weak or improperly aligned t-coils.

The CLA7-BT continues to offer the amplification and binaural listening option without having to have cords linked to the cellphone or other Bluetooth capable devices. It provides superior signal delivery and binaural listening options. Large capacity rechargable lithium batteries will be provided along with USB plug and car chargers. Usage time is still being measured but we expect the batteries to provide 6-7 hours of talk time and 150 hours of standby time.

We will get you more details and complete product information and images as soon as they are available. We are extremely excited about the improvements and the benefits that both the CLA7v2 and the CLA7-BT offer to the consumer.