What Headphones to Use?

Ear Buds

Here at Aphasia Corner our goal is to provide computer-based services for speech rehabilitation for people with aphasia. In line with that goal, in the next couple of months we plan to address several computer-equipmet-related topics on our blog. Today we’ll start with headphones, and in one of the next post we will compare a computer mouse to a trackpad.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve spent some time observing people with aphasia using the first feature of our service; this feature presents news stories in an aphasia-friendly way.

By aphasia-friendly presentation I mean that users can listen to the audio of the news story, control the rate of speech (i.e. make it slower), read the text of the story as the audio is playing and follow the highlighted text as the audio is playing, look up definitions of words, etc.. The audio is a real human voice, not a computerized (“text-to-speech”) voice.

If computer speakers are available on a user’s computer, they can be used to listen to the audio; however, we recommend the headset since it tunes out ambient noises. In addition, speakers may introduce interference when used for two-way communication,  Skype for example.

As we were testing the news feature at a couple of places, a pattern emerged with respect to the type of headphones that were used.

Over-the-head Headphones

These over-the-head headphones turned out to be somewhat problematic for people with hemiparesis or hemiplegia. Putting the headphones on was not a trivial undertaking. While this was a doable task, even for people who could not use their right hand and arm at all, I realized there were more effective solutions for the headphones.

The easiest solution was for the users to use simple MP3 player headphones, the ones with two little pieces that go directly into the ear.

Ear Buds

Each of these ear buds can easily be “operated” with one hand. (Link on Amazon.com)

Somewhat different, but yet similar solution are the earhook headphones, like the ones on this photo:

Earhook Headphones

These earhook headphones are also easy to handle, and the hooks make them a bit more stable. (Link on Amazon.com)

What’s your experience with computer headphones? What worked well for you?

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