Do you know what a cyborg is? You likely imagine a half human, half machine when you think of a cyborg, especially if you enjoy science fiction movies (these characters are typically cleverly used to comment on the human condition). Hollywood cyborgs can seem wildly outlandish.
But in reality, somebody wearing something as basic as a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. After all, biology has been upgraded with technology.
These technologies typically add to the human experience. So you’re actually the coolest type 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 certainly comes with some negatives.
It’s hard to keep up with the plot when you go see a movie. 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 impact your life in extremely profound (often negative) ways.
Left unchecked, the world can get pretty quiet. That’s where technology has a role to play.
How can technology alleviate hearing loss?
Broadly speaking, technology that helps you have better hearing is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. That sounds pretty technical, right? You may be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Is there somewhere I can go and purchase one of these devices? What challenges will I face?
These questions are all standard.
Mostly, we’re used to thinking of technology for hearing loss in a rather monolithic way: hearing aids. That’s reasonable, as hearing aids are a vital part of treating hearing loss. But they’re also just the beginning, there are numerous types of assistive hearing devices. And you will be capable of enjoying the world around you more when you properly utilize these devices.
What kinds of assistive listening devices are there?
Sometimes called a “hearing loop,” the technology of an induction loop sounds really complex (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here are the basics: people who wear hearing aids can hear more clearly in areas with a hearing loop which are typically well marked with signage.
A speaker will sound more clear due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. Induction loops are great for:
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other noisy settings.
- Events that depend on amplified sound (such as presentations or even movies).
- Venues that tend to have lots of echoes or have low-quality acoustics.
An FM hearing assistance system works a lot like a radio or a walkie-talkie. In order for this system to function, you need two components: a transmitter (normally a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (usually in the form of a hearing aid). FM systems are useful for:
- Anybody who wants to listen to sound systems that use amplification (this includes things like a speaker during a presentation or dialogue during a movie).
- Anywhere that is loud and noisy, especially where that noise makes it difficult to hear.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational events.
There are similarities between an infrared system and an FM system. There’s an amplifier and a receiver. With an IR system, the receiver is usually worn around your neck (kind of like a lanyard). Here are some instances where IR systems can be useful:
- Indoor settings. IR systems are frequently impacted by strong sunlight. So this type of technology works best in indoor spaces.
- People who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- Scenarios where there’s one primary speaker at a time.
Personal amplifiers are kind of like hearing aids, just less specialized and less powerful. 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 might seem like a tricky option since they come in numerous styles and types.
- Your basically putting a very loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be cautious not to further damage your hearing.
- These devices are good for individuals who have very minor hearing loss or only need amplification in specific situations.
- For best outcomes, speak with us before using personal amplifiers of any kind.
Hearing aids and phones often have difficulty with each other. Sometimes you have feedback, sometimes things get a bit garbled, sometimes you can’t have a hard time getting the volume quite right.
One solution for this is an amplified phone. These devices allow you to have control of the volume of the phone’s speaker, so you can make it as loud or quiet as you want, depending on the circumstance. These devices are good for:
- Households where the phone is used by numerous people.
- When someone has difficulty hearing phone conversations but hears fine in other situations.
- Individuals who don’t have Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
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 example. So when something around your workplace or home needs your consideration, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be conscious of it.
Alerting devices are an excellent solution for:
- Anyone whose hearing is completely or almost completely gone.
- Individuals who periodically take off their hearing aids (everyone needs a break now and then).
- Home and office spaces.
- When alarm sounds such as a smoke detector could create a dangerous situation.
So the connection (sometimes discouraging) between your hearing aid and phone comes to the front. When you put a speaker up to another speaker, it produces feedback (sometimes painful feedback). When you hold a hearing aid next to a phone, the same thing happens.
A telecoil is a way to bypass that connection. It will link up your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can hear all of your conversations without interference or feedback. They’re good for:
- Anybody who frequently talks on the phone.
- Individuals who do not have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Anyone who uses hearing aids.
Closed captions (and subtitles more generally) have become a mainstay of the way people enjoy media today. You will find captions pretty much everywhere! Why? Because they make it a little easier to understand what you’re watching.
For people with hearing loss, captions will help them be able to comprehend what they’re watching even with loud conversations around them and can work together with their hearing aids so they can hear dialog even when it’s mumbled.
What are the advantages of using assistive listening devices?
So, now your biggest question might be: where can I get assistive listening devices? This question indicates a recognition of the benefits of these technologies for people who use hearing aids.
To be sure, not every solution is right for every individual. For example, you might not need an amplifier if you have a phone with good volume control. A telecoil may not even work for you if you don’t have the right type of hearing aid.
The point is that you have choices. You can personalize the type 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 grandchildren.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in some situations but not all. If you’re interested in hearing better, call us today!