Personal assistive listening devices

Personal assistive listening devices

Personal assistive listening devices are intended for the use of a single listener. They may be configured to work with more than one speaker, but they are generally used with a single speaker.

The most common device are wired devices like the Pocket Talker. Similar in purpose, but more flexible because it is wireless is thePersonal FM System. Also similar in purpose, but with less flexibility are Wireless Headphones.

Here’s a great set of personal ALD recommendations from a real pro.

For additional information, to get information on a specific device, or to purchase an assistive listening device, see:

bullet shopping for assistive listening devices
bullet general stores for people with hearing loss

Wired Personal ALDs

A wired personal ALD like the Pocket Talker is intended to facilitate conversation between a person with hearing loss and a normally hearing person. It consists of a processor about the size of a small transistor radio, a microphone that connects to the processor, and an output device that also connects to the processor.

The hearing person speaks into the microphone, and the person with hearing loss uses the output device to improve their speech comprehension. The output device may be a pair of headphones that the hard of hearing, late deafened, or oral deaf person wears, or it may be a wire with a jack that plugs directly into a hearing aid or CI.

Some of these devices may be configured for multiple speakers, but they are primarily intended for one-on-one situations.

Personal FM Systems

Personal FM systems are intended to provide improved speech comprehension to a single listener. They are similar in concept to a Pocket Talker, but are much more flexible, because they are wireless. They work much like a radio station; one part (the transmitter) accepts microphone input and transmits the electronic equivalent of that sound into the air; the other part (the receiver) receives the electronic signal and provides the acoustic equivalent to the listener. Because these systems are wireless, they provide more flexibility than the Pocket Talker. Typical uses include:

At a lecture, give the speaker the transmitter & a lapel microphone, and hear every word of the lecture, even if the speaker turns to face a chalkboard or looks down at some papers.

At a restaurant, put the transmitter on the table, and pick up the voices nearest the microphone no matter where you sit at the table.

In a meeting, listen to a speakerphone conversation, by placing the transmitter next to the telephone speaker.

At church, plug the transmitter into a spare output jack on the sound mixer board (cable is $4 at Radio Shack), sit anywhere in church, and get a nice clear signal without any reverberation or fuzziness.

In a car, converse using the same setup as for a lecture.

At home, plug the transmitter into the headphone jack of a boombox to listen to the radio, tapes, or CDs in any room in the house.

February 2004 – Here’s a great article on FM systems  by Dr. Mark Ross.

January 2010 – Personal FM Systems for Adults

Wireless Headphones

Some people have reported that wireless headphones work very well for listening to TV. They are available in FM or Infra-red, and not all that expensive (starting around $50.) Input can be through a plug (which requires that the TV have an audio jack) or through a microphone placed near the TV speaker. The plug is better, if your TV has an audio jack.

More on this and related topics

ALD Recommendations From a Pro

Editor: Joe Marin recently posted an email that described the devices he uses for television viewing and in movies and restaurants. He was gracious enough to allow us to share his comments with you.



When I go to the movies, which I do often, I use an IR Receiver — like the Williams Sound RX3, $79.99. This will accommodate earphone, neckloop, etc. What happens is that the sound comes on like gangbusters — 10,000 Watts of WWII. Then I take my H/As out. Sound goes way down. Then I use an IR Receiver (I use the TV Ears IR Receiver — good hi freq) and the sound is down some (my ears are plugged up) and most words are now intelligible enough to follow the movie. Ask the theater manager to turn down the sound? Yeah, sure. Not even for Nanette. Last REALLY good movie — Traffic.


I take out one H/A and use the Williams Sound Pocketalker PRO — $149.99. I just put it on the table. It helps me tremendously simply because it’s a foot or so nearer the speaker. But, for OUTBACK (I love steak), forget it. It’s too damn loud. I have to get the PRO mic near someone’s tonsils. Best restaurant — Black Angus, lots of padding.


There is nothing…NOTHING, to compare with listening with an FM system using the Chaparral dB50 receiver with 50dB high frequency gain. Tunable over the whole 72-76 MHz ALD band — $39.99 Receiver only.