Are you familiar with what a cyborg is? You most likely imagine a half human, half machine when you think of a cyborg, particularly if you enjoy science fiction movies (these characters are typically cleverly utilized to touch on the human condition). You can get some truly fantastic cyborgs in Hollywood.
But in reality, somebody wearing something as simple as a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. The glasses, after all, are a technology that has been incorporated into biology.
The human condition is usually enhanced using these technologies. So you’re actually the coolest kind of cyborg around if you’re using an assistive listening device. And there’s a lot more technology where that comes from.
Hearing loss disadvantages
Hearing loss undeniably comes with some drawbacks.
When you go to the movies, it can be hard to follow along with the plot. Understanding your grandchildren is even harder (some of that is attributable to the age-gap, but for the most part, it’s hearing loss). And this can affect your life in extremely profound (often negative) ways.
The world can become very quiet if your hearing loss is ignored. That’s where technology plays a role.
How can hearing loss be addressed with technology?
Generally speaking, technology that helps you have better hearing is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. Ok, it does sound somewhat technical! The question may arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Is there someplace I can go and purchase one of these devices? What challenges will I face?
Those are all reasonable questions!
Mostly, we’re used to regarding technology for hearing loss in a very monolithic way: hearing aids. Because hearing aids are a crucial part of managing hearing loss, that’s reasonable. But hearing aids aren’t the only type of assistive hearing device. And you will be able to enjoy the world around you more when you properly utilize these devices.
What are the different kinds of assistive listening devices?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology of an induction loop sounds really complex (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here are the basics: places with hearing loops are normally well marked with signage and they can help those with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy settings.
Basically, hearing loops use magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Induction loops are great for:
- Venues that tend to be noisy (including waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
- Events that depend on amplified sound (like presentations or even movies).
- Spots that tend to have a lot of echoes or have poor acoustics.
These FM systems are like a walkie-talkie or radio. In order for this system to work, you need two elements: a transmitter (usually a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (usually in the form of a hearing aid). FM systems are great for:
- Civil and governmental environments (for instance, in courtrooms).
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational events.
- Anyplace that is loud and noisy, particularly where that noise makes it difficult to hear.
- Anyone who wants to listen to sound systems that use amplification (this includes things like a speaker during a presentation or dialogue during a movie).
There are similarities between an infrared system and an FM system. You have an amplifier and a receiver. With an IR system, the receiver is often worn around your neck (sort of like a lanyard). Here are some instances where IR systems can be useful:
- Indoor settings. IR systems are often impacted by strong sunlight. As a result, inside venues are generally the best ones for this type of technology.
- People who have cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- Situations where there is one main speaker at a time.
Personal amplifiers are like less specialized and less robust versions of a hearing aid. Generally, they consist of a microphone and a speaker. The sound is being amplified through the speakers after being picked up by the microphone. Personal amplifiers come in numerous different types and styles, which might make them a confusing possible solution.
- These devices are good for individuals who have very slight hearing loss or only need amplification in specific situations.
- You need to be careful, though, these devices can hasten the decline of your hearing, particularly if you aren’t careful. (You’re essentially putting an extremely loud speaker right inside of your ear, after all.)
- Before you use any type of personal amplifier, speak with us about it first.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along very well. The sound can become garbled or too low in volume and sometimes you can get feedback.
One solution for this is an amplified phone. These devices give you control over the volume of the phone’s speaker, so you can make it as loud or quiet as you need, depending on the situation. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- Individuals who don’t use Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
- Individuals who only have a difficult time hearing or understanding conversations over the phone.
- Families where the phone is used by multiple people.
When something happens, these devices (sometimes called signalers or notification devices) use loud noises, vibrations, and blinking lights to get your attention. When the microwave bings, the doorbell dings, or the phone rings, for instance. So when something around your workplace or home needs your consideration, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be aware of it.
Alerting devices are an excellent solution for:
- People who have total or near total hearing loss.
- People who periodically take off their hearing aids (everybody needs a break now and then).
- When alarm sounds such as a smoke detector could create a hazardous situation.
- Home and office settings.
So the link (sometimes frustrating) between your hearing aid and phone comes to the front. The feedback that happens when two speakers are put in front of each other is not pleasant. When you hold a hearing aid close to a phone, the same thing happens.
A telecoil is a way to get around that connection. It will connect your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can listen to all of your conversations without interference or feedback. They’re great for:
- Anybody who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
- People who talk on the phone often.
- Anybody who uses hearing aids.
Nowadays, it has become rather commonplace for people to utilize captions and subtitles to enjoy media. Everyone uses captions! Why? Because they make it a little easier to understand what you’re watching.
For individuals who have hearing loss, captions will help them be able to understand what they’re watching even with noisy conversations around them and can work together with their hearing aids so they can hear dialog even when it’s mumbled.
What are the benefits of using assistive listening devices?
So, now your greatest question might be: where can I buy assistive listening devices? That’s a good question because it means you’ve recognized how all of these technologies can be advantageous to people who have hearing loss.
To be sure, not every solution is right for every person. For example, you may not need an amplifier if you have a phone with reliable volume control. A telecoil may not even work for you if you don’t have the right type of hearing aid.
But you have choices and that’s really the point. You can personalize 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. So you can more easily understand the dialogue at the movies or the conversation with your grandkids.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in specific situations but not all. If you want to hear better, call us today!