Do you know what a cyborg is? If you get swept up in science fiction movies, you likely think of cyborgs as kind of half-human, half machine characters (these characters are usually cleverly utilized to touch on the human condition). Hollywood cyborgs can seem extremely bizarre.
But the truth is that, technically, anybody who wears a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. After all, biology has been upgraded with technology.
The human condition is usually enhanced using these technologies. So, if you’re using an assistive listening device, such as a hearing aid, you’re the coolest type of cyborg anywhere. And the best thing is that the technology doesn’t end there.
Hearing loss drawbacks
Hearing loss certainly comes with some drawbacks.
It’s hard to follow the plot when you go see a movie. It’s even more challenging to understand what your grandkids are talking about (part of this is because you have no idea 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.
The world can become really quiet if your hearing loss is neglected. That’s where technology has a role to play.
How can hearing loss be managed with technology?
“Assistive listening device” is the general category that any device which helps your hearing is put into. Ok, it does sound a bit technical! The question might arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Is there someplace I can go and purchase one of these devices? Are there challenges to using assistive listening devices?
Those are all fair questions!
Mostly, we’re accustomed to thinking of technology for hearing loss in a very monolithic way: hearing aids. Because hearing aids are a crucial part of treating hearing loss, that’s reasonable. But hearing aids aren’t the only kind of assistive hearing device. And, used properly, these hearing devices can help you more completely enjoy the world around you.
What kinds of assistive listening devices are there?
Induction loops, also called hearing loops, utilize technology that sounds quite complex. Here are the basics: people who wear hearing aids can hear more clearly in places with a hearing loop which are normally well marked with signage.
A speaker will sound clearer due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. Here are some examples of when an induction loop can be helpful:
- Events that depend on amplified sound (like presentations or even movies).
- Locations with inferior acoustic qualities like echoes.
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other loud settings.
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 (usually a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (usually in the form of a hearing aid). Here are a few scenarios where an FM system will be helpful:
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational activities.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil places.
- Anyone who wants to listen to amplified sound systems (this includes things like a speaker during a presentation or dialogue during a movie).
- Anywhere that is loud and noisy, particularly where that noise makes it difficult to hear.
An infrared system is a lot like 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 examples where IR systems can be useful:
- When you’re listening to one primary person speaking.
- Inside settings. Strong sunlight can impact the signals from an IR system. Because of this, indoor settings are generally the best ones for this type of technology.
- Individuals who have cochlear implants or hearing aids.
Personal amplifiers are like less specialized and less robust versions of a hearing aid. Generally, they consist of a microphone and a speaker. The microphone detects sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers come in a number of different types and styles, which might make them a confusing possible option.
- Your essentially putting a very loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be careful not to damage your hearing further.
- These devices are good for individuals who have very slight hearing loss or only need amplification in select situations.
- For best results, talk to us before using personal amplifiers of any type.
Hearing aids and phones sometimes have difficulty with one another. Sometimes you have feedback, sometimes things get a little garbled, sometimes you can’t get the volume quite right.
One solution for this is an amplified phone. Depending on the situation, these phones let you control how loud the speaker is. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- People who only have a difficult time hearing or understanding conversations on the phone.
- People who don’t have Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
- Households where the phone is used by several people.
When something happens, these devices (sometimes called signalers or notification devices) use loud noises, vibrations, and blinking lights to get your attention. For instance, when the doorbell dings, the phone rings, or the microwave bings. So when something around your workplace or home requires your attention, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be aware of it.
Alerting devices are an excellent solution for:
- When in the office or at home.
- Circumstances where lack of attention could be dangerous (for instance, when a smoke alarm sounds).
- Individuals who have total or near total hearing loss.
- People who intermittently take off their hearing aids (everybody needs a break sometimes).
Again, we come back to the occasionally frustrating link between your telephone and your hearing aid. When you hold a speaker up to another speaker, it causes feedback (sometimes painful feedback). This is essentially what occurs when you hold a phone speaker up to a hearing aid.
That connection can be avoided by a telecoil. It will connect your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can hear all of your conversations without noise or feedback. They’re good for:
- Anybody who uses hearing aids.
- Those who don’t have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Individuals who use the phone frequently.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a mainstay of the way people enjoy media nowadays. Everyone uses captions! Why? Because they make it a little bit 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 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 advantages of using assistive listening devices?
So, now your greatest question may be: where can I get assistive listening devices? This question implies a recognition of the advantages of these technologies for individuals who use hearing aids.
Obviously, 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 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 grandchildren.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and some won’t. Call us right away so we can help you hear better!