Do you know what a cyborg is? If your mind gets swept up in science fiction movies, you likely think of cyborgs as kind of half-human, half machine characters (these characters are usually cleverly used to comment on the human condition). You can get some truly wild cyborgs in Hollywood.
But the truth is that, technically, anybody who wears a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. The glasses, in fact, are a technology that has been incorporated into biology.
The human experience is generally 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 part is that the technology doesn’t stop there.
Disadvantages of hearing loss
There are absolutely some drawbacks that come with hearing loss.
It’s hard to keep up with the plot when you go see a movie. Understanding your grandkids is even more difficult (some of that is due to the age-gap, but mostly, it’s hearing loss). And it can be profound (and often negative) how much your life can be impacted.
Left untreated, the world can become pretty quiet. That’s where technology has a role to play.
How can hearing loss be managed with technology?
Broadly speaking, technology that helps you have better hearing is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. That sounds pretty technical, right? You might be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Where can I get assistive listening 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. 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 kinds of assistive listening devices?
Sometimes called a “hearing loop,” the technology behind an induction loop sounds really complicated (there are electromagnetic fields involved). This is what you need to know: people with hearing aids can hear more clearly in areas with a hearing loop which are usually well marked with signage.
Basically, hearing loops utilize magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Here are a few examples of when an induction loop can be beneficial:
- Events that rely on amplified sound (like presentations or even movies).
- Locations with inferior acoustic qualities like echoes.
- Locations that tend to be loud (including waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
An FM hearing assistance system works a lot like a radio or a walkie-talkie. In order for this system to work, you need two elements: a transmitter (usually a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (usually in the form of a hearing aid). Here are a few situations where an FM system will be helpful:
- Whenever it’s difficult to hear due to a noisy environment.
- Anyone who wants to listen to amplified sound systems (this includes things like a speaker during a presentation or dialogue during a movie).
- Education environments, including classrooms or conferences.
- Civil and governmental locations (for instance, in courtrooms).
An infrared system is a lot like an FM system. There’s an amplifier and a receiver. Typically, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. IR hearing assistance systems are ideal for:
- Individuals who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- When you’re listening to one primary person speaking.
- Inside settings. Bright sunlight can interfere with the signals from an IR system. So this kind of technology works best in inside spaces.
Personal amplifiers are like less specialized and less powerful versions of a hearing aid. They’re generally composed 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 may make them a confusing possible solution.
- For individuals who only require amplification in certain circumstances or have very minor hearing loss, these devices would be a practical choice.
- Your essentially putting a very loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be cautious not to further damage your hearing.
- Before you use any type of personal amplifier, consult us about it first.
Hearing aids and phones sometimes have difficulty with each other. The sound can get garbled or too low in volume and sometimes there can be feedback.
One option for this is an amplified phone. Depending on the situation, these phones allow you to control how loud the speaker is. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- When someone has difficulty hearing phone conversations but hears okay in other circumstances.
- People who don’t have their phone synced to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth offered on either their hearing aids or their primary telephone).
- Households where the phone is used by numerous people.
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 instance. So when something around your workplace or home requires your consideration, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be conscious of it.
Alerting devices are a good solution for:
- Anyone whose hearing is completely or almost completely gone.
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
- Circumstances where lack of attention could be dangerous (for instance, when a smoke alarm sounds).
- Home and office spaces.
Once again, we come back to the sometimes frustrating connection between your telephone and your hearing aid. When you put a speaker up to another speaker, it creates feedback (sometimes painful feedback). When you put a hearing aid close to a phone, the same thing occurs.
A telecoil is a way to bypass that connection. It will connect your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can hear all of your conversations without interference or feedback. They’re good for:
- Anyone who uses hearing aids.
- Those who don’t have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- People who use the phone often.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a mainstay of the way people enjoy media today. Everybody uses captions! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a bit easier to understand.
When you’re dealing with hearing loss, captions can work in combination with your hearing aids, helping you understand mumbled dialogue or making sure you can hear your favorite show even when there’s distracting conversation near you.
What are the benefits of using assistive listening devices?
So, now your greatest question may be: where can I purchase assistive listening devices? This question implies a recognition of the benefits of these technologies for individuals 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 type of hearing aid.
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 grandchildren.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and others won’t. Call us as soon as possible so we can help you hear better!