Are you familiar with what a cyborg is? You probably imagine a half human, half machine when you think of a cyborg, particularly if you love science fiction movies (these characters are typically cleverly utilized to touch on the human condition). You can get some really wild cyborgs in Hollywood.
But the reality is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. The glasses, after all, are a technology that has been integrated into a biological process.
These technologies usually 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 there’s much more technology where that comes from.
Hearing loss disadvantages
There are definitely some drawbacks that come with hearing loss.
When you go to the movies, it can be difficult to follow along with the plot. 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.
Left unchecked, the world can become pretty quiet. That’s where technology has a role to play.
How can hearing loss be addressed with technology?
Broadly speaking, technology that helps you hear better is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. That sounds pretty technical, right? The question might arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Where can I buy 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 a vital part of dealing with hearing loss. But they’re also just the beginning, there are numerous types of assistive hearing devices. And, used properly, these hearing devices can help you more fully 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 complex (there are electromagnetic fields involved). This is what you need to understand: individuals with hearing aids can hear more clearly in locations with a hearing loop which are usually well marked with signage.
A speaker will sound clearer due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. 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 inferior acoustic qualities like echoes.
- Events that rely on amplified sound (like presentations or even movies).
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 some scenarios where an FM system will be helpful:
- Whenever it’s hard to hear due to a loud environment.
- An event where amplified sound is used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational events.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
An infrared system is similar to an FM system. There’s an amplifier and a receiver. Usually, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. Here are some examples where IR systems can be helpful:
- Inside settings. Strong sunlight can interfere with the signals from an IR system. So this kind of technology works best in indoor settings.
- When you’re listening to one primary person talking.
- People with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Personal amplifiers are kind of like hearing aids, but less specialized and less powerful. Generally, they consist of a microphone and a speaker. The microphone picks up sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers come in several different styles and types, which may make them a challenging possible option.
- For individuals who only require amplification in certain circumstances or have very minor hearing loss, these devices would be a practical choice.
- You need to be cautious, though, these devices can expedite the decline of your hearing, especially if you aren’t careful. (You’re basically 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.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along swimmingly. The sound can get garbled or too low in volume and sometimes you can get feedback.
One solution for this is an amplified phone. Depending on the situation, these phones allow you to control the volume of the speaker. These devices are good for:
- When somebody has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears okay in other situations.
- 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 principal telephone).
- Families 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 happens. For instance, 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 aware of it.
Alerting devices are an excellent option for:
- When in the office or at home.
- People who periodically take off their hearing aids (everybody needs a break now and then).
- Anybody whose hearing is completely or almost completely gone.
- When alarm sounds like a smoke detector could lead to a dangerous situation.
So the link (sometimes frustrating) between your hearing aid and phone becomes evident. The feedback that happens when two speakers are held in front of each other is not pleasant. When you hold a hearing aid next to a phone, the same thing occurs.
That connection can be bypassed by a telecoil. 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 great for:
- Anyone who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
- Anybody who uses hearing aids.
- Individuals who talk on the phone frequently.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a normal way for people to enjoy media today. You will find captions just about everywhere! Why? Because they make it a little bit easier to understand what you’re watching.
For individuals 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 in tandem with their hearing aids so they can hear dialog even when it’s mumbled.
The advantages of using assistive listening devices
So, now your greatest question may be: where can I buy assistive listening devices? This question indicates a recognition of the benefits of these technologies for people who use hearing aids.
Clearly, every individual won’t be benefited by every kind of technology. For instance, you may not need an amplifier if you have a phone with reliable volume control. If you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid, a telecoil might be useless to you.
But you have choices and that’s really the point. After you start personalizing your journey toward being an awesome cyborg, you will be ready to get the most out of your life. So you can more easily hear the dialogue at the movies or the conversation with your grandchildren.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in certain situations but not all. If you’re interested in hearing better, call us today!