[Athen] FM Listening Devices vs. recordings devices for Hard of Hearing as a classroom conversation

Joshua Hori jhori at ucdavis.edu
Mon Mar 20 10:36:34 PDT 2017

Hello Steve,

Here’s a few…

Sonocent Pros:

- Software can’t be lost

- Proprietary software formats, “mran” for mobile and “ran” for desktop, it could be considered the new “podcast”

- Works on mobile device (less likely to forget at home) and takes about 14.4M an hour (2 very high quality songs)

- Control access from web browser (loan manager)

- Microphone isn’t next to hand, so rubbing of palm on paper isn’t recorded

- Noise cancelation and audio enhancement features on desktop client

o Gets rid of the hiss which most of my DHOH users complain about in recordings

o “Brighten” the audio to make vocals slightly louder

- Gain controls on desktop client

o Have the volume turned all the way up? Use the gain controls to make it louder (may distort)

- Audio replace capabilities

o Sat in the back of the room and recorded poor audio? Is there a podcast? Replace your poor audio with the podcast audio and maintain all your highlight notes at the same time (automagically syncs all, I was amazed)

- Record and edit features

o Navigate to the end of sections, hit record, and record yourself making a summary of what was discussed in that section, highlighting it as a summary

- Extract features

o Extract only the highlighted colors you want, such as your summaries

- Export features

o Export audio as tracks (each row acts as a track), with the image showing as the cover art, and the text appearing as the song title. (Save exports to cloud to playback on mobile devices, laptops, or computer labs)

- Share features

o Share your mran (Sonocent extension) files with your desktop through the cloud. Once uploaded, delete from device to save space

Sonocent Cons:

- Mobile app only allows for 5 minutes of playback. Pro version of app ($13) allows full playback

- The “Transfer” button on the mobile app is blocked on campus, but works flawless at home

- May be a little busy for some users on the spectrum

- No writing support

Also, the Smartpen’s price has risen to $180 per pen, not including a case. The longest I’ve had a Smartpen last me is 4 years. Sonocent is $60 a year, or $200 for 5 years.

There was a time that I would promote the LiveScribe Smartpen to STEM students instead of Sonocent, but even now I believe that Sonocent would flourish in the STEM field. The one issue with the Livescribe smartpen that I have is that it records your palm rubbing against the paper…With Sonocent, you can still write on paper, but maybe suggest taking images of handwritten notes to sync with the audio instead of taking snapshots of the whiteboard or powerpoint presentation.

I would be willing to give a demo of it in use if there’s interest.

We have more and more student’s willing to use CART since the providers no longer have to sit next to them. We use GoToMeeting to screen share the CART screen with the student. Also, check out the Petralex app<http://petralex.pro/>! I’m thinking that some students are attempting to accommodate themselves with the technology they hear about. AVA<https://www.ava.me/> is another app to consider for group discussions.


Joshua Hori

From: athen-list [mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman13.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of Steven Sullam
Sent: Friday, March 17, 2017 9:43 AM
To: 'Access Technology Higher Education Network' <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: [Athen] FM Listening Devices vs. recordings devices for Hard of Hearing as a classroom conversation

Hi Joshua,

Thank you for responding . Here at CUNY/Staten Island there has been a history of providing a very thorough range of accommodations for students with hearing impairments. The students who are advised to use recording device are the students with the mildest hearing impairments who don’t want CART. I still have a problem with the deficiencies in this approach to providing accessibility in the real time classroom environment. It just doesn’t address the issue of the student fully being present in class, which is a central purpose of assistive technology. I hope others will respond to this conundrum of mine.

Since you brought it up, I’m still having a hard time seeing the value of the Somnolent recorder over the smart pen. I’m still sold on the smart pen as the best option, because it enables such fine grained personalized navigation through a class lecture. It seems to me that synchronizing pages of written text to a voice file is a more sophisticated system than one that uses a mark or a picture as a means of navigation through the same file. Since the Sonocet seems to be spreading like wild fire, I would like to hear more as to why you choose it over the smart pen.


Steve Sullam

Hello Steve,

Yes, I've seen that here too. I've been handing out less each year, but our interpreters and CART services may be a reason for that. We have a much higher demand for CART services than other accommodation requests.

For some of our users with a more recent hearing lose, and refuse to use ALD's, I have been suggesting the Petralex app. Kind of like a hand held audio magnifier, and they keep improving the audio quality with each update.

For those wanting the smartpen, I've been moving them over to sonocent where I can. Having them highlight areas of concern and using the noise cancellation (to get rid of the static everyone complains about) and gain controls on the desktop app to produce better audio. I see that we can now import transcripts, but I haven't tried it yet. You can also import smartpen audio into it to reduce the palm rubbing against paper that's picked up.

I think other students use technology in others ways to accommodate themselves, and we never hear from them. I was pointed to the AVA app by one of my students. Interesting app, but not sure how well it's working for them since it picks up background speaking sometimes.

Questions are usually saved for office hours. Lectures can be fast and furious with little room for interruption, others may have a class discussion which may occur. We do accommodate the student for office hours and course events, usually with interpreters, at the request of the student.

We realize that students are going to explore their options and test their limits. We just keep reminding them we're available. I've even had units on hand during finals for students to try out after an exam. They'll probably ignore it, but every now and then I'll get a taker.


Joshua Hori
Accessible Technology Analyst
Student Disability Center
54 Cowell Building
Davis, CA 95616

Sent from my iPhone

On Mar 16, 2017, at 5:25 PM, Steven Sullam <Steven.Sullam at csi.cuny.edu<mailto:Steven.Sullam at csi.cuny.edu>> wrote:

Hello Athen-List,

I wonder if anyone else is experiencing the following situation. Disability services advisors are referring students who had used FM ALDs in high school and are now advised to use a smart pen or a digital tape recorder as their accommodation for hearing impairment.

The students come to me wanting a recorder instead of the ALD so I reluctantly give it to them. As we all know, it is futile to argue with someone who has made up their mind about what they want. I see a major problem with this approach in that it doesn’t address the student’s need for access in real time, even as well as other accommodations like ASL and CART. I don’t see how this accommodation would enable the student to participate by making comments or asking questions in class because s/he still can’t hear what’s going on.

It makes me wonder what the reason for this is. Do students even ask questions in class anymore? I queried the last student who came to see me. She said she didn’t like carrying the FM device to class. She also didn’t like having to give the transmitter to the teacher at the beginning of every class. She said that there was a lot of static on the receiver. (Maybe it wasn’t charged fully.)

From my experience, a properly functioning FM listening device transmits sound loudly and clearly from a speaker to a listener in a way that no other device can. . Are Assistive Listening Devices no longer being used as an accommodation in higher education?

Thanks much in advance for your comments. I would really welcome the thoughts of others on this subject.

Best regards,

Steven A. Sullam M.S.
Assistant Director of Assistive Technology
Center for Student Accessibility
College of Staten Island
City University of New York
2800 Victory Boulevard
Staten Island, NY 10314
Ph. 718.982.3343

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