Are you familiar with what a cyborg is? If you get swept up in science fiction movies, you probably think of cyborgs as kind of half-human, half machine characters (these characters are usually cleverly used to touch on the human condition). You can get some really wild cyborgs in Hollywood.
But in reality, someone wearing something as basic as a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. After all, biology has been upgraded with technology.
The human condition is generally enhanced with these technologies. 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 end there.
Disadvantages of hearing loss
Hearing loss certainly comes with some negatives.
It’s hard to keep up with the plot when you go see a movie. It’s even more challenging 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 the result of hearing loss). And this can impact your life in extremely profound (often negative) ways.
The world can become really quiet if your hearing loss is disregarded. This is where technology comes in.
How can hearing loss be managed with technology?
Generally speaking, technology that helps you have better hearing is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. That sounds rather technical, right? The question may arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Is there somewhere I can go and purchase one of these devices? Are there challenges to using assistive listening devices?
These questions are all standard.
Typically, hearing aids are what we think of when we consider hearing aid technology. That’s reasonable, as hearing aids are an essential part of dealing with hearing loss. But hearing aids aren’t the only kind of assistive hearing device. And, used correctly, these hearing devices can help you more completely enjoy the world around you.
What are the different types 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: areas with hearing loops are typically well marked with signage and they can help individuals 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:
- Events that depend on amplified sound (like presentations or even movies).
- Venues that tend to have a lot of echoes or have low-quality acoustics.
- Settings that tend to be noisy (such as waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
An FM hearing assistance system works much 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 (often in the form of a hearing aid). FM systems are useful for:
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational activities.
- 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).
- Whenever it’s difficult to hear due to a noisy environment.
An infrared system is similar to an FM system. It’s composed of a receiver and an amplifier. With an IR system, the receiver is usually worn around your neck (kind of like a lanyard). IR hearing assistance systems are great for:
- When you’re listening to one main person speaking.
- Individuals who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- Inside environments. IR systems are often effected by strong sunlight. So this kind of technology works best in indoor spaces.
Personal amplifiers are a lot like less specialized and less powerful versions of a hearing aid. In general, they feature a microphone and a speaker. The sound is being amplified through the speakers after being detected 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 damage your hearing further.
- Before you use any kind of personal amplifier, speak with us about it first.
- For individuals who only need amplification in certain situations or have very slight hearing loss, these devices would be a good choice.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along swimmingly. The sound can get garbled or too low in volume and sometimes there can be feedback.
One option 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 situation. These devices are good for:
- People who don’t have their phone synced to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth available on either their hearing aids or their principal telephone).
- Households where the phone is used by multiple people.
- When someone has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears fine in other circumstances.
When something happens, these devices (sometimes called signalers or notification devices) use loud noises, vibrations, and flashing lights to get your attention. For example, when the doorbell dings, the phone rings, or the microwave bings. So when something around your workplace or home needs your attention, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be conscious of it.
Alerting devices are an excellent option for:
- When alarm sounds like a smoke detector could create a dangerous situation.
- Individuals who periodically remove their hearing aids (everybody needs a break now and then).
- Anyone whose hearing is completely or almost completely gone.
- Home and office settings.
So the link (sometimes frustrating) between your hearing aid and phone comes to the front. When you hold a speaker up to another speaker, it causes 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 get around that connection. You will be able to hear all of your calls without feedback as your telecoil connects your hearing aid directly to your phone. They’re good for:
- Individuals who talk on the phone frequently.
- Anybody who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
- Anyone who uses hearing aids.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a mainstay of the way people enjoy media today. Everyone uses captions! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a bit easier to understand.
For individuals with hearing loss, captions will help them be able to understand 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 may be: where can I get assistive listening devices? This question implies a recognition of the benefits of these technologies for people who use hearing aids.
Obviously, every individual won’t get the benefit of every kind of technology. 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 kind of hearing aid.
The point is that you have options. You can customize the kind of incredible 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.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and some won’t. Call us right away so we can help you hear better!