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 (the human condition is frequently cleverly portrayed with these characters). You can get some really wild cyborgs in Hollywood.
But the reality is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. After all, biology has been upgraded with technology.
The human experience is usually enhanced with these technologies. So, if you’re using an assistive listening device, such as a hearing aid, you’re the coolest kind of cyborg anywhere. And the best thing is that the technology doesn’t stop there.
Drawbacks of hearing loss
Hearing loss undeniably comes with some negatives.
It’s difficult to keep up with the plot when you go see a movie. 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 because of hearing loss). And this can impact your life in very profound (often negative) ways.
Left untreated, the world can get pretty quiet. This is where technology comes in.
How can technology alleviate hearing loss?
“Assistive listening device” is the general category that any device which helps you hear better is put into. That sounds pretty technical, right? You might be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Where can I buy assistive listening devices? Are there challenges to using assistive listening devices?
Those are all reasonable questions!
Typically, hearing aids are what we think of when we consider hearing aid technology. Because hearing aids are a crucial part of managing hearing loss, that’s reasonable. But hearing aids aren’t the only kind of assistive hearing device. And, used properly, 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 behind an induction loop sounds pretty complicated (there are electromagnetic fields involved). This is what you need to know: individuals with hearing aids can hear more clearly in areas with a hearing loop which are typically 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:
- Events that depend on amplified sound (such as presentations or even movies).
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other loud settings.
- Venues that tend to have a lot of echoes or have low-quality acoustics.
These FM systems are like a walkie-talkie or radio. A transmitter, typically a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, like a hearing aid, are required for this kind of system to work. Here are some situations where an FM system will be helpful:
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
- Whenever it’s hard 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 situations, like classrooms or conferences.
An infrared system is a lot like an FM system. There’s an amplifier and a receiver. With an IR system, the receiver is usually worn around your neck (sort of like a lanyard). IR hearing assistance systems are ideal for:
- Individuals who have cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- Inside environments. Strong sunlight can impact the signals from an IR system. So this type of technology works best in indoor spaces.
- Situations where there is one main speaker at a time.
Personal amplifiers are a lot like less specialized and less robust 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 might seem like a confusing solution since they come in various styles and types.
- Your essentially putting a really loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be cautious not to damage your hearing further.
- These devices are good for people who have very minor hearing loss or only require amplification in specific situations.
- For best outcomes, speak with us before using personal amplifiers of any kind.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along swimmingly. Sometimes there’s feedback, sometimes things get a little garbled, sometimes you can’t have a hard time getting the volume quite right.
Amplified phones are an option. Depending on the situation, these phones let you control the volume of the speaker. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- Individuals who only have a hard time understanding or hearing conversations over the phone.
- Individuals who don’t use Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
- When multiple people in a home use a single phone.
Sometimes called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices use 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 attention, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be aware of it.
Alerting devices are a good option for:
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
- Anyone whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- Home and office settings.
- Situations where lack of attention could be hazardous (for instance, when a smoke alarm goes off).
So the link (sometimes frustrating) between your hearing aid and phone comes to the front. The feedback that occurs when two speakers are held in front of each other is not pleasant. This is essentially what happens when you hold a phone speaker close to a hearing aid.
That connection can be bypassed by a telecoil. It will link up your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can hear all of your conversations without interference or feedback. They’re good for:
- Individuals who don’t have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Anybody who uses hearing aids.
- Individuals who use the phone often.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a mainstay of the way people enjoy media nowadays. You will find captions just about everywhere! 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 comprehend what they’re watching even with loud conversations around them and can work together 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 greatest question might be: where can I buy assistive listening devices? That’s a good question because it means you’ve acknowledged how all of these technologies can be advantageous to people with hearing loss.
Obviously, every person won’t get the benefit of every type of technology. For example, you may not need an amplifier if you have a phone with good volume control. If you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid, a telecoil may be useless to you.
The point is that you have choices. You can customize the type of incredible 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 grandkids.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in certain situations but not all. If you’re interested in hearing better, call us today!