Are you familiar with what a cyborg is? You most likely imagine a half human, half machine when you think of a cyborg, particularly if you enjoy science fiction movies (these characters are usually cleverly used to comment on the human condition). Hollywood cyborgs can seem extremely outlandish.
But in reality, someone wearing something as basic as 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 add to the human experience. So, if you’re wearing an assistive listening device, such as a hearing aid, you’re the coolest type of cyborg in the world. And the best thing is that the technology doesn’t stop there.
Hearing loss negative aspects
There are definitely some negative aspects that come with hearing loss.
When you go to see a movie, it can be hard to follow along with the plot. It’s even harder to make out what your grandkids are talking about (part of this is because you have no idea 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 get pretty quiet. This is where technology comes in.
How can hearing loss be addressed with technology?
“Assistive listening device” is the broad category that any device which helps your hearing is put into. That sounds pretty technical, right? The question might arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Is there someplace I can go and buy one of these devices? What challenges will I deal with?
These questions are all normal.
Mostly, we’re accustomed to thinking of technology for hearing loss in a very monolithic way: hearing aids. That’s logical, as hearing aids are an essential part of treating hearing loss. But hearing aids aren’t the only type of assistive hearing device. And you will be capable of enjoying the world around you more when you correctly utilize these devices.
What types of assistive listening devices are there?
Sometimes called a “hearing loop,” the technology of an induction loop sounds really complicated (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here are the basics: locations with hearing loops are typically well marked with signage and they can help individuals with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy areas.
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:
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other noisy places.
- Venues that tend to have lots of echoes or have poor acoustics.
- Events that rely on amplified sound (including presentations or even movies).
An FM hearing assistance system works a lot like a radio or a walkie-talkie. A transmitter, typically a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, such as a hearing aid, are needed for this kind of system to work. Here are some scenarios where an FM system will be helpful:
- Anywhere that is loud and noisy, especially where that noise makes it challenging to hear.
- Civil and governmental locations (for example, in courtrooms).
- An event where amplified sound is being used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Education environments, like classrooms or conferences.
There are similarities between an infrared system and an FM system. It consists of a receiver and an amplifier. With an IR system, the receiver is often worn around your neck (kind of like a lanyard). IR hearing assistance systems are ideal for:
- Inside settings. IR systems are often effected by strong sunlight. So this kind of technology works best in indoor settings.
- Scenarios where there’s one primary speaker at a time.
- Individuals who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Personal amplifiers are a lot like less specialized and less powerful versions of a hearing aid. In general, they consist of a microphone and a speaker. The sound is being amplified through the speakers after being detected by the microphone. Personal amplifiers might seem like a tricky option since they come in various styles and types.
- These devices are good for people who have very minor hearing loss or only require amplification in select situations.
- 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 kind of personal amplifier, consult us about it first.
Hearing aids and phones often have difficulty with one another. The sound can become garbled or too low in volume and sometimes you can get feedback.
Amplified phones are a solution. 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:
- Individuals who only have a difficult time hearing or understanding conversations on the phone.
- Individuals who don’t have Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
- When multiple people in a home use a single phone.
When something is going on, these devices (sometimes called signalers or notification devices) use loud noises, vibrations, and flashing lights to get your attention. For instance, when the doorbell dings, the phone rings, or the microwave bings. This means even if you aren’t wearing your hearing aids, you’ll still be alert when something around your home or office needs your attention.
Alerting devices are an excellent option for:
- When in the office or at home.
- Circumstances where lack of attention could be hazardous (for instance, when a smoke alarm goes off).
- People with total or near total hearing loss.
- People who periodically remove their hearing aids (everyone needs a break sometimes).
So the connection (sometimes frustrating) 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). This is essentially what occurs when you hold a phone speaker close to a hearing aid.
A telecoil is a way to get around that connection. It will connect your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can hear all of your conversations without noise or feedback. They’re good for:
- Individuals who use the phone often.
- Anyone who uses hearing aids.
- Anybody who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
Closed captions (and subtitles more generally) have become a normal way for people to enjoy media nowadays. Everyone uses captions! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a little easier to understand.
For people with hearing loss, captions will help them be able to understand what they’re watching even with loud conversations around them and can work in tandem 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 biggest question may be: where can I buy assistive listening devices? This question indicates a recognition of the advantages of these technologies for people 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 require an amplifying phone, for instance. A telecoil may not even work for you if you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid.
The point is that you have options. After you begin customizing 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 grandkids.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and some won’t. Call us right away so we can help you hear better!