What is a cyborg? You most likely imagine a half human, half machine when you think about cyborgs, especially if you love science fiction movies (these characters are typically cleverly used to touch on the human condition). Hollywood cyborgs can seem wildly bizarre.
But actually, someone wearing something as simple as a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. After all, biology has been upgraded with technology.
These technologies typically enhance the human condition. 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 stop there.
Hearing loss drawbacks
There are definitely some negative aspects that come with hearing loss.
When you go to see a movie, it can be difficult to keep up 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 it can be profound (and often negative) how much your life can be impacted.
The world can become really quiet if your hearing loss is neglected. This is where technology comes in.
How can technology alleviate hearing loss?
“Assistive listening device” is the broad category that any device which helps you hear better is put into. Ok, it does sound somewhat technical! You might be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Is there somewhere I can go and buy one of these devices? Are there challenges to using assistive listening devices?
These questions are all normal.
Usually, hearing aids are what we think of when we consider hearing aid technology. Because hearing aids are an essential part of dealing with hearing loss, that’s reasonable. But they’re also just the beginning, there are many kinds of assistive hearing devices. And, used correctly, these hearing devices can help you more fully enjoy the world around you.
What are the different kinds of assistive listening devices?
Induction loops, also called hearing loops, utilize technology that sounds really complex. This is what you need to understand: locations with hearing loops are typically well marked with signage and they can help individuals with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy settings.
A speaker will sound more clear due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. Induction loops are good for:
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other loud places.
- Events that rely on amplified sound (like presentations or even movies).
- Venues that tend to have lots of echoes or have poor acoustics.
An FM hearing assistance system works much like a radio or a walkie-talkie. In order for this system to function, you need two elements: a transmitter (usually a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (often in the form of a hearing aid). Here are some situations where an FM system will be useful:
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational events.
- An event where amplified sound is being used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Civil and governmental environments (for instance, in courtrooms).
- Anywhere that is loud and noisy, particularly where that noise makes it challenging to hear.
An infrared system is a lot like an FM system. It consists 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:
- Individuals who use cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- Situations where there is one primary speaker at a time.
- Indoor settings. IR systems are frequently effected by strong sunlight. So this type of technology works best in inside settings.
Personal amplifiers are like less specialized and less robust versions of a hearing aid. They’re generally composed of a speaker and a microphone. The sound is being amplified through the speakers after being picked up by the microphone. Personal amplifiers may seem like a confusing option since they come in various styles and types.
- You need to be cautious, though, these devices can hasten the decline of your hearing, especially if you aren’t careful. (You’re essentially putting a super loud speaker right in your ear, after all.)
- Before you use any type of personal amplifier, speak with us about it first.
- For individuals who only need amplification in certain circumstances or have very slight hearing loss, these devices would be a good choice.
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.
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 situation. These devices are good for:
- People who don’t use Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
- When somebody has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears okay in other circumstances.
- Households where the phone is used by several people.
Often called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices use lights, vibration, or sometimes loud noises to get your attention when something occurs. When the microwave bings, the doorbell dings, or the phone rings, for instance. This means even if you aren’t wearing your hearing aids, you’ll still be alert when something around your home or office requires your consideration.
Alerting devices are a good option for:
- Those who have total or near total hearing loss.
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
- Circumstances where lack of attention could be hazardous (for example, when a smoke alarm goes off).
- Home and office spaces.
So the link (sometimes discouraging) between your hearing aid and phone becomes evident. When you hold a speaker up to another speaker, it causes feedback (sometimes painful feedback). This is essentially what happens when you put a phone speaker close 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 great for:
- Anybody who uses hearing aids.
- Individuals who use the phone frequently.
- Individuals who do not have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
Closed captions (and subtitles more generally) have become a normal way for people to enjoy media today. Everyone uses captions! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a bit easier to understand.
For people 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 if it’s mumbled.
What are the benefits of using assistive listening devices?
So, now your greatest question may 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 those who have hearing loss.
Clearly, every individual won’t get the benefit of every type of technology. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you may not need an amplifying phone, for instance. If you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid, a telecoil may be useless to you.
The point is that you have options. 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 grandkids.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in some situations but not all. Call us as soon as possible so we can help you hear better!