Are you familiar with what a cyborg is? If your mind gets swept up in science fiction movies, you probably think of cyborgs as sort of half-human, half machine characters (these characters are usually cleverly used to touch on the human condition). Hollywood cyborgs can seem extremely bizarre.
But the reality is that, technically, anybody who wears a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. The glasses, in fact, are a technology that has been incorporated into a biological process.
The human experience is generally enhanced using these technologies. So, if you’re wearing an assistive listening device, like a hearing aid, you’re the coolest kind of cyborg anywhere. And the best thing is that the technology doesn’t end there.
Hearing loss disadvantages
Hearing loss undeniably comes with some disadvantages.
When you go to the movies, it can be difficult to follow along with the plot. It’s even harder to understand 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 due to hearing loss). And it can be profound (and often negative) how much your life can be impacted.
The world can become very quiet if your hearing loss is ignored. This is where technology comes in.
How can technology help with hearing loss?
Generally speaking, technology that helps you hear better is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. That sounds rather technical, right? The question might arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Is there somewhere I can go and buy one of these devices? What challenges will I confront?
Those are all fair questions!
Mostly, we’re used to regarding technology for hearing loss in a rather monolithic way: hearing aids. Because hearing aids are an essential part of dealing with hearing loss, that’s reasonable. But hearing aids aren’t the only kind of assistive hearing device. And, used correctly, these hearing devices can help you more completely enjoy the world around you.
What are the different kinds of assistive listening devices?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology of an induction loop sounds pretty complex (there are electromagnetic fields involved). This is what you need to know: locations with hearing loops are usually well marked with signage and they can help individuals with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy settings.
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:
- Places with bad acoustic qualities like echoes.
- Settings that tend to be noisy (such as waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
- Events that depend 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 components: a transmitter (normally a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (usually in the form of a hearing aid). Here are a few scenarios where an FM system will be helpful:
- Civil and governmental environments (for example, in courtrooms).
- An occasion where amplified sound is used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Whenever it’s hard to hear due to a noisy environment.
- 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 usually worn around your neck (kind of like a lanyard). Here are some examples where IR systems can be helpful:
- Scenarios where there is one primary speaker at a time.
- Inside environments. Strong sunlight can interfere with the signals from an IR system. Consequently, inside venues are generally the best ones for this sort of technology.
- Individuals who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Personal amplifiers are sort of like hearing aids, only less specialized and less powerful. They’re generally composed of a microphone and a speaker. The microphone detects sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers come in a number of different types and styles, which could make them a confusing possible solution.
- For people who only require amplification in certain situations or have very mild hearing loss, these devices would be a good option.
- For best results, consult us before using personal amplifiers of any kind.
- You need to be careful, though, these devices can expedite 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.)
Hearing aids and phones often have trouble with one another. The sound can become garbled or too low in volume and sometimes there can be feedback.
Amplified phones are an option. 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 want, depending on the situation. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- Families where the phone is used by multiple people.
- People who only have a difficult time understanding or hearing conversations over the phone.
- Individuals who don’t have their phone synced to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth available on either their hearing aids or their principal telephone).
Sometimes called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices use lights, vibration, or occasionally loud noises to get your attention when something occurs. 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 aware when something around your home or office requires your consideration.
Alerting devices are an excellent solution for:
- When alarm sounds such as a smoke detector could create a hazardous situation.
- Anyone whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- When in the office or at home.
- Individuals who intermittently take off their hearing aids (everybody needs a break sometimes).
So the link (sometimes discouraging) between your hearing aid and phone becomes evident. The feedback that occurs when two speakers are held in front of each other isn’t pleasant. 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. 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:
- People who have hearing aids.
- People who talk on the phone often.
- Those who don’t have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
Closed captions (and subtitles more generally) have become a normal way for people to enjoy media nowadays. Everyone uses captions! Why? Because they make it a little easier to understand what you’re watching.
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 in tandem with their hearing aids so they can hear dialog even if it’s mumbled.
What are the advantages of using assistive listening devices?
So, now your biggest question may be: where can I get 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 get the benefit of every type of technology. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you might not require an amplifying phone, for example. A telecoil might 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 understand the dialogue at the movie theater or the conversation with your grandkids.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in some situations but not all. If you’re interested in hearing better, call us today!