There are a number of amplification options for people with voicea problems. What system is best for you may depend on your particular need. For example, if amplification in one particular area (eg. office, classroom) is the main issue then an inbuilt sound system (built into or attached to walls) may be appropriate. If you need something that can be used in lots of different settings, a body worn amplifier may be what you need. It may also be the case that you can use more than one system (eg. an inbuilt system in your office and a body worn amplifier when out and about).
Amplification devices can vary considerably in quality therefore we recommend trying before you buy. This is usually possible by speaking to the distributor or manufacturer beforehand.
Body Portable Amplification Systems
These are worn on the body (both microphone and speaker) so they have the advantage of being highly portable. There can be issues regarding sound quality, appearance (eg. some people can have issues with wearing a very visible microphone) and other factors such as feedback. It is therefore advisable to try before you buy. You can usually arrange a test with a local sales rep or go into a local stockist shop to try products out.
Here are some examples of products The Lary Project has reviewed: http://www.lary.org.uk/voice-equipment-/voice-equipment
Hand Portable Amplification Systems
If you want to be able to transport your amplification system, say for giving a presentation, but do not need the degree of portability a body worn system offers or find that a body worn system is inappropriate for some other reason (eg. quality issues), there are a number of amplification systems available that can be taken to different locations.
They often consist of a standalone speaker (or speakers) and a handheld microphone and/or headset microphone. You can often buy optional add-ons such as a headset microphone. If you need to walk around with your microphone then it may be an idea to get a wireless system (ie. you do not need to plug in the microphone using a wire).
If you are in London, a shop you can visit to try out various hand portable and body worn amplifiers is Henrys: http://www.henrys.co.uk/PA/portableamplifiers.html
Soundfield also do the To Go system which is portable. 2 speakers on one column and two microphones – boom mic (ie. Britney) and handheld. They allow free trials – contact to try. £675 approx
Inbuilt Amplification Systems
These are systems which can be installed into an office or other area and are usually attached to walls or built into walls in some way. They are sometimes portable options although the speaker is not designed to be worn on the body.
Sound Field offer an amplification system particularly used by teachers. See: http://www.soundfield.info/
Ricky from Soundfield says Soundfield System is very clear, have a number of speakers in a room, it doesn’t sound like you are being amplified (sounds very natural) and because number of speakers people around the room can hear you well.
Usually used with “silver smile” necklace which can be worn around the neck. Means don’t have anything obvious on the face. Or can use with Britney style overhead mic.
Not very suitable for someone who cannot speak at conversational level (wouldn’t suit a whisper – helps project a conversational level voice)
They allow free trials. Cost is £1100 approx
Speaking on the telephone can be a big issue for people with voice problems. A telephone amplifier which amplifies outgoing sound can be helpful. It is important for any system you purchase that you make sure it amplifies outgoing sound (many are designed for the hearing impaired and therefore just amplify incoming sound). Two manufacturers of amplifiers with outgoing amplification functions are:
JPA Communications: http://www.jpltele.com/
We have spoken to Plantronics about their amplifiers and they mention two systems:
The M12 Vista provides outgoing amplification and is a professional system designed particularly for call centres. It costs approximately £70 (M12 only) and you must buy an additional microphone (the Supra Plus with noise cancelling is recommended – approx £50)
They have a cheaper amplifier system called the S12 which provides outgoing amplification. It costs approximately £48. It comes with a noise cancelling microphone included. They recommend this for private use, saying it is more than sufficient.
Whatever system you purchase, it is important to use a noise cancelling microphone so background noise is reduced and speaker voice alone is amplified.
As we have not tried these products, we would recommend contacting them directly to discuss your needs (they said people were welcome to) and consider testing the products before purchase (they are the manufacturers but their distributors should let you try the products – they can let you know who is the nearest distributor).
Plantronics contact details are listed here: http://www.plantronics.com/europe_union/en_GB/contact.jsp
Other links that may be useful
Text to speak software. This provides the ability to type what you want to say into a computer and the computer speaks for you. A leading supplier is Natural Readers: www.naturalreaders.com
Communication Matters. A charity working with communication assistive technologies: http://www.communicationmatters.org.uk
You may like to attend one of their road shows where you can try out what they have to offer:
Toby Churchill. A UK based company supplying some voice amplifiers and text to speech communication systems for those who may need to communicate using software/computer device.
For voice amplifiers, see: http://www.toby-churchill.com/en/products/voice-amplifiers
For text to speech communication, see: http://www.toby-churchill.com/en/content/lightwriters-0