Are you familiar with what a cyborg is? If your mind gets swept up in science fiction movies, you probably think of cyborgs as sort of half-human, half machine characters (these characters are usually cleverly used to touch on the human condition). Hollywood cyborgs can seem wildly outlandish.
But the truth is that, technically, anybody who wears a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. The glasses, in fact, are a technology that has been incorporated into biology.
The human condition is usually enhanced with these technologies. So you’re actually the coolest type of cyborg in the world if you’re using an assistive listening device. And there’s a lot more technology where that comes from.
Drawbacks of hearing loss
There are definitely some drawbacks that come with hearing loss.
When you go to see a movie, it can be hard to follow along with the plot. Understanding your grandkids is even harder (some of that is due to the age-gap, but for the most part, it’s hearing loss). And it can be profound (and often negative) how much your life can be affected.
Left untreated, the world can become pretty quiet. This is where technology comes in.
How can hearing loss be managed with technology?
“Assistive listening device” is the broad category that any device which helps your hearing is put into. Ok, it does sound somewhat technical! You might be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Where can I buy assistive listening devices? What challenges will I face?
Those are all fair questions!
Mostly, we’re accustomed to thinking of technology for hearing loss in a rather monolithic way: hearing aids. That’s logical, as hearing aids are a vital part of dealing with hearing loss. But they’re also just the start, there are many types of assistive hearing devices. And you will be able to enjoy the world around you more when you properly use these devices.
What kinds of assistive listening devices are there?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology behind an induction loop sounds really complicated (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here are the basics: places with hearing loops are usually well marked with signage and they can help people with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy settings.
A speaker will sound clearer due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. Induction loops are good for:
- Venues that tend to be noisy (including waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
- 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 elements: a transmitter (normally 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:
- Whenever it’s hard to hear because of a noisy environment.
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational activities.
- Civil and governmental locations (for instance, in courtrooms).
- Anybody who wants to listen to amplified sound systems (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. It’s composed of a receiver and an amplifier. With an IR system, the receiver is often worn around your neck (sort of like a lanyard). Here are some examples where IR systems can be useful:
- People who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- Scenarios where there’s one main speaker at a time.
- Indoor settings. Bright sunlight can impact the signals from an IR system. Consequently, indoor venues are usually the best ones for this sort of technology.
Personal amplifiers are like less specialized and less powerful versions of a hearing aid. They’re generally composed of a speaker and a microphone. The microphone picks up sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers come in numerous different types and styles, which might make them a challenging possible option.
- For best results, speak with us before using personal amplifiers of any kind.
- You need to be careful, though, these devices can expedite the decline of your hearing, especially if you aren’t careful. (You’re essentially putting an extremely loud speaker right in your ear, after all.)
- These devices are good for people who have very minor hearing loss or only require amplification in select situations.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along very well. The sound can get garbled or too low in volume and sometimes you can get feedback.
Amplified phones are an option. 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 need, depending on the circumstance. These devices are good for:
- Families where the phone is used by numerous people.
- People who only have a difficult time understanding or hearing conversations on the phone.
- People 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).
Often called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices utilize 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 example. 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 a good option for:
- When alarm sounds like a smoke detector could create a dangerous situation.
- Home and office settings.
- Individuals who have complete or nearly complete hearing loss.
- Individuals who periodically remove their hearing aids (everyone needs a break sometimes).
So the link (sometimes discouraging) between your hearing aid and phone comes to the front. When you hold a speaker up to another speaker, it produces feedback (sometimes painful feedback). When you hold a hearing aid close to a phone, the same thing happens.
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:
- Those who do not have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- People who use the phone frequently.
- People who have hearing aids.
These days, it has become rather commonplace for people to use captions and subtitles to enjoy media. Everybody uses captions! Why? Because they make it a little easier to understand what you’re watching.
When you have 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.
What are the benefits of using assistive listening devices?
So where can you buy assistive listening devices? That’s a good question because it means you’ve recognized how all of these technologies can be beneficial to people who have hearing loss.
Obviously, every individual won’t get the benefit of every kind of technology. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you might not need an amplifying phone, for instance. A telecoil might 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 customize the type 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 as soon as possible so we can help you hear better!