Are you familiar with what a cyborg is? You most likely imagine a half human, half machine when you think about cyborgs, especially if you love science fiction movies (these characters are usually cleverly utilized to comment on the human condition). You can get some truly wild cyborgs in Hollywood.
But actually, someone wearing something as basic as a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. The glasses, after all, are a technology that has been incorporated into a biological process.
The human experience is usually enhanced with these technologies. Which means, if you’re wearing an assistive listening device, like a hearing aid, you’re the coolest kind of cyborg in the world. And there’s much more technology where that comes from.
Hearing loss disadvantages
Hearing loss certainly comes with some disadvantages.
It’s difficult to follow 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 this can impact your life in very profound (often negative) ways.
The world can become very quiet if your hearing loss is neglected. That’s where technology has a role to play.
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”. Ok, it does sound somewhat technical! The question may arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Where can I get assistive listening devices? Are there challenges to using assistive listening devices?
These questions are all standard.
Usually, hearing aids are what we think of when we think about hearing aid technology. Because hearing aids are an essential part of managing hearing loss, that’s reasonable. But hearing aids aren’t the only type of assistive hearing device. And, used correctly, these hearing devices can help you more completely enjoy the world around you.
What kinds 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 people with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy areas.
A speaker will sound clearer due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. Induction loops are great for:
- Presentations, movies, or other situations that depend on amplification.
- Locations that tend to be noisy (such as waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
- Places with bad acoustic qualities like echoes.
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 (normally a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (usually in the form of a hearing aid). FM systems are great for:
- Anyplace that is loud and noisy, particularly where that noise makes it difficult to hear.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
- An occasion where amplified sound is used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational events.
There are similarities between an infrared system and an FM system. It consists of a receiver and an amplifier. Typically, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. Here are some examples where IR systems can be helpful:
- Individuals who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- When you’re listening to one primary person talking.
- Inside settings. IR systems are often impacted by strong sunlight. So this type of technology works best in inside settings.
Personal amplifiers are sort of like hearing aids, but less specialized and less powerful. They’re generally made 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 confusing solution since they come in various styles and types.
- Your basically putting a very loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be cautious not to further damage your hearing.
- These devices are good for people who have very minor hearing loss or only need amplification in specific situations.
- Before you use any type of personal amplifier, speak with us about it first.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along very well. Sometimes there’s feedback, sometimes things get a bit garbled, sometimes you can’t get the volume quite right.
One option for this is an amplified phone. These devices give you control over the volume of the phone’s speaker, so you can make it as loud or quiet as you want, depending on the circumstance. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- Individuals who don’t have Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
- Households where the phone is used by multiple people.
- When someone has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears okay in other circumstances.
Sometimes 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 needs your attention, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be conscious of it.
Alerting devices are a good option for:
- Anybody whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- People who intermittently remove their hearing aids (everybody needs a break now and then).
- When in the office or at home.
- When alarm sounds like a smoke detector could lead to a hazardous situation.
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 causes feedback (sometimes painful feedback). This is essentially what happens when you put a phone speaker close to a hearing aid.
A telecoil is a way to bypass that connection. It will connect your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can listen to all of your conversations without noise or feedback. They’re good for:
- Anyone who uses hearing aids.
- Anybody who frequently talks on the phone.
- Anybody who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a mainstay of the way people 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.
When you’re dealing with hearing loss, captions can work in combination with your hearing aids, helping you understand mumbled dialogue or ensuring you can hear your favorite show even when there’s distracting conversation nearby.
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 indicates a recognition of the benefits of these technologies for people who use hearing aids.
To be sure, not every solution is right for every person. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you might not require an amplifying phone, for example. A telecoil may not even work for you if you don’t have the right type of hearing aid.
But you have options and that’s really the point. 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. So you can more easily hear the dialogue at the movie theater or the conversation with your grandkids.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and others won’t. If you’re interested in hearing better, call us today!