Are you familiar with what a cyborg is? You probably imagine a half human, half machine when you think about cyborgs, particularly if you love science fiction movies (these characters are typically cleverly used to touch on the human condition). You can get some truly wild cyborgs in Hollywood.
But actually, somebody wearing something as simple as a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. The glasses, in fact, are a technology that has been incorporated into biology.
These technologies usually enhance the human experience. So you’re actually the coolest kind of cyborg in the world if you’re using an assistive listening device. And the best part is that the technology doesn’t stop there.
Disadvantages of hearing loss
Hearing loss certainly comes with some negatives.
It’s difficult 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 clue what K-pop is, and you never will, but mostly it’s the result of hearing loss). And it can be profound (and often negative) how much your life can be impacted.
Left unchecked, the world can get pretty quiet. That’s where technology plays a role.
How can hearing loss be addressed 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? You may be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Where can I buy assistive listening devices? Are there challenges to using assistive listening devices?
These questions are all standard.
Mostly, we’re accustomed to regarding technology for hearing loss in a very monolithic way: hearing aids. That’s reasonable, as hearing aids are an essential part of managing hearing loss. But they’re also just the beginning, there are numerous types of assistive hearing devices. And, used correctly, these hearing devices can help you more fully enjoy the world around you.
What types of assistive listening devices are there?
Sometimes called a “hearing loop,” the technology behind an induction loop sounds really complicated (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here’s what you need to know: individuals with hearing aids can hear more clearly in places with a hearing loop which are normally well marked with signage.
Essentially, hearing loops use magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Here are some examples of when an induction loop can be helpful:
- Settings that tend to be loud (such as waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
- Locations with bad acoustic qualities like echoes.
- Presentations, movies, or other situations that rely on amplification.
These FM systems are like a walkie-talkie or radio. In order for this system to work, you need two components: a transmitter (usually a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (usually in the form of a hearing aid). FM systems are useful for:
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
- An event where amplified sound is being used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Anyplace that is loud and noisy, particularly where that noise makes it challenging to hear.
- Education situations, including classrooms or conferences.
There are similarities between an infrared system and an FM system. It’s composed of a receiver and an amplifier. Usually, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. IR hearing assistance systems are ideal for:
- Situations where there is one primary speaker at a time.
- Indoor environments. Bright sunlight can impact the signals from an IR system. So this kind of technology works best in indoor spaces.
- People who have cochlear implants or hearing aids.
Personal amplifiers are a lot like less specialized and less powerful versions of a hearing aid. They’re generally made of a microphone and a speaker. The microphone detects sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers come in a few different styles and types, which might make them a challenging possible solution.
- These devices are good for people who have very mild hearing loss or only need amplification in select situations.
- You need to be careful, 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 kind of personal amplifier, consult us about it first.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along swimmingly. Sometimes there’s feedback, sometimes things become a bit garbled, sometimes you can’t have a hard time getting the volume quite right.
Amplified phones are a solution. 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 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).
- When multiple people in a home use a single phone.
- When someone has difficulty hearing phone conversations but hears fine in other situations.
Sometimes called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices utilize lights, vibration, or occasionally loud noises to get your attention when something happens. 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 an excellent solution for:
- When alarm sounds like a smoke detector could create a dangerous situation.
- People who intermittently take off their hearing aids (everybody needs a break sometimes).
- Anybody whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- Home and office settings.
So the connection (sometimes discouraging) 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). When you put a hearing aid next to a phone, the same thing happens.
A telecoil is a way to get around that connection. You will be capable of hearing all of your calls without feedback as your telecoil links your hearing aid directly to your phone. They’re good for:
- Individuals who use the phone frequently.
- Anybody who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
- Anybody who uses hearing aids.
These days, it has become rather commonplace for people to use captions and subtitles to enjoy media. You will find captions pretty much everywhere! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a little 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.
The rewards of using assistive listening devices
So, now your greatest question may be: where can I purchase assistive listening devices? This question indicates a recognition of the advantages of these technologies for individuals who use hearing aids.
Clearly, every person won’t get the benefit of every kind of technology. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you may not need 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. After you begin personalizing your journey toward being an awesome cyborg, you will be ready to get the most out of your life. It’s time to get back into that conversation with your grandchildren.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in certain situations but not all. If you want to hear better, call us today!