Are you familiar with what a cyborg is? If you get swept up in science fiction movies, you likely think of cyborgs as sort of half-human, half machine characters (the human condition is often cleverly depicted with these characters). Hollywood cyborgs can seem extremely outlandish.
But the reality is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. After all, biology has been enhanced with technology.
These technologies usually add to the human condition. So you’re actually the coolest kind of cyborg in the world if you’re using an assistive listening device. And the best thing is that the technology doesn’t stop there.
Hearing loss drawbacks
Hearing loss undeniably comes with some disadvantages.
When you go to see a movie, it can be difficult to follow along with the plot. It’s even harder to make out what your grandkids are talking about (part of this is because you have no clue what K-pop is, and you never will, but mostly it’s due to hearing loss). And this can impact your life in very profound (often negative) ways.
Left untreated, the world can get pretty quiet. This is where technology comes in.
How can hearing loss be addressed with technology?
“Assistive listening device” is the general category that any device which helps you hear better is put into. That sounds pretty technical, right? You might be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Where can I get assistive listening devices? Are there challenges to using assistive listening devices?
These questions are all normal.
Typically, hearing aids are what we think of when we think about hearing aid technology. Because hearing aids are a crucial part of managing hearing loss, that’s reasonable. But they’re also just the beginning, there are many kinds of assistive hearing devices. And, used correctly, these hearing devices can help you more fully enjoy the world around you.
What are the different kinds of assistive listening devices?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology of an induction loop sounds really complicated (there are electromagnetic fields involved). This is what you need to know: people who wear hearing aids can hear more clearly in locations with a hearing loop which are typically well marked with signage.
A speaker will sound clearer due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. Induction loops are good for:
- Venues that tend to have a lot of echoes or have poor acoustics.
- Settings that tend to be loud (such as waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
- Presentations, movies, or other situations that depend on amplification.
An FM hearing assistance system works much like a radio or a walkie-talkie. In order for this system to work, you need two components: a transmitter (normally a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (often in the form of a hearing aid). Here are some situations where an FM system will be helpful:
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational activities.
- Civil and governmental locations (for instance, in courtrooms).
- Anyplace that is loud and noisy, especially where that noise makes it challenging to hear.
- Anybody who wants to listen to amplified sound systems (this includes things like a speaker during a presentation or dialogue during a movie).
An infrared system is a lot like an FM system. It’s composed of a receiver and an amplifier. Usually, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. Here are some instances where IR systems can be helpful:
- People with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- Indoor environments. Strong sunlight can interfere with the signals from an IR system. So this type of technology works best in inside settings.
- When you’re listening to one main person speaking.
Personal amplifiers are like less specialized and less robust versions of a hearing aid. Generally, they feature a microphone and a speaker. The sound is being amplified through the speakers after being detected by the microphone. Personal amplifiers come in numerous different styles and types, which may make them a challenging possible solution.
- These devices are good for individuals who have very mild hearing loss or only require amplification in select situations.
- Your essentially putting a very loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be cautious not to further damage your hearing.
- For best outcomes, speak with us before using personal amplifiers of any type.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along swimmingly. Sometimes you have feedback, sometimes things become a bit garbled, sometimes you can’t get the volume quite right.
Amplified phones are an option. Depending on the circumstance, these phones allow you to control how loud the speaker is. These devices are good for:
- Households where the phone is used by several people.
- When someone has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears fine in other situations.
- Individuals who don’t have their phone connected to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth available on either their hearing aids or their principal telephone).
Sometimes called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices use lights, vibration, or sometimes loud noises to get your attention when something happens. When the microwave bings, the doorbell dings, or the phone rings, for instance. This means even if you aren’t wearing your hearing aids, you’ll still be aware when something around your home or office requires your consideration.
Alerting devices are an excellent solution for:
- People who have complete or nearly complete hearing loss.
- When alarm sounds like a smoke detector could create a hazardous situation.
- Individuals who periodically remove their hearing aids (everyone needs a break sometimes).
- Home and office spaces.
So the connection (sometimes frustrating) between your hearing aid and phone becomes evident. When you put a speaker up to another speaker, it produces feedback (sometimes painful feedback). This is basically what happens when you hold a phone speaker up to a hearing aid.
A telecoil is a way to bypass that connection. You will be capable of hearing all of your calls without feedback as your telecoil connects your hearing aid directly to your phone. They’re good for:
- Anyone who regularly talks on the phone.
- Those who don’t have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Anyone who uses hearing aids.
Nowadays, it has become rather commonplace for people to use captions and subtitles to enjoy media. You will find captions pretty much everywhere! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a bit easier to understand.
When you’re dealing with hearing loss, captions can work in conjunction with your hearing aids, helping you understand mumbled dialogue or making sure you can follow your favorite show even when there’s distracting conversation near you.
The rewards of using assistive listening devices
So, now your greatest question may be: where can I buy assistive listening devices? This question indicates a recognition of the advantages of these technologies for people who use hearing aids.
Clearly, every individual won’t be benefited by every kind of technology. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you may not require an amplifying phone, for example. A telecoil may not even work for you if you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid.
But you have options and that’s really the point. You can customize the kind of amazing cyborg you want to be (and you will be amazing, we promise)–so that you can get the most out of life. It’s time to get back into that conversation with your grandkids.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in some situations but not all. If you’re interested in hearing better, call us today!