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 enjoy science fiction movies (these characters are typically cleverly utilized to comment on the human condition). You can get some really fantastic cyborgs in Hollywood.
But the reality is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. After all, biology has been enhanced with technology.
The human condition is generally enhanced using these technologies. Which means, if you’re using an assistive listening device, such as a hearing aid, you’re the coolest kind of cyborg anywhere. And the best part is that the technology doesn’t end there.
Hearing loss drawbacks
Hearing loss certainly comes with some disadvantages.
It’s hard to follow the plot when you go see a movie. It’s even more challenging to understand 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 because of hearing loss). And this can affect your life in very profound (often negative) ways.
Left unchecked, the world can become pretty quiet. That’s where technology plays a role.
How can hearing loss be managed with technology?
“Assistive listening device” is the general category that any device which helps you hear better is put into. Ok, it does sound somewhat technical! The question may 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 standard.
Mostly, we’re accustomed to thinking of technology for hearing loss in a very monolithic way: hearing aids. Because hearing aids are an essential part of dealing with hearing loss, that’s reasonable. But they’re also just the beginning, there are many types of assistive hearing devices. And, used properly, these hearing devices can help you more completely enjoy the world around you.
What are the different kinds of assistive listening devices?
Induction loops, also known as hearing loops, use technology that sounds really complex. Here are the basics: individuals with hearing aids can hear more clearly in areas with a hearing loop which are typically well marked with signage.
A speaker will sound more clear due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. Induction loops are great for:
- Events that rely on amplified sound (including presentations or even movies).
- Venues that tend to have lots of echoes or have poor acoustics.
- Venues that tend to be noisy (including waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
An FM hearing assistance system works much 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 some situations where an FM system will be useful:
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational activities.
- Whenever it’s difficult to hear due to a noisy environment.
- An event where amplified sound is being used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
An infrared system is similar to an FM system. There’s an amplifier and a receiver. Typically, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. Here are some instances where IR systems can be useful:
- Indoor environments. IR systems are often effected by strong sunlight. So this type of technology works best in inside settings.
- Situations where there is one primary speaker at a time.
- People who use cochlear implants or hearing aids.
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 picked up by the microphone. Personal amplifiers may seem like a tricky option since they come in several styles and types.
- Before you use any type of personal amplifier, talk to us about it first.
- For people who only need amplification in certain circumstances or have very minor hearing loss, these devices would be a practical choice.
- Your basically putting a very loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be careful not to further damage your hearing.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along swimmingly. The sound can become garbled or too low in volume and sometimes you can get feedback.
One option for this is an amplified phone. Depending on the situation, these phones let you control the volume of the speaker. These devices are good for:
- Individuals who don’t have their phone connected to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth available on either their hearing aids or their principal telephone).
- When someone has difficulty hearing phone conversations but hears okay in other situations.
- When numerous 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 example, when the doorbell dings, the phone rings, or the microwave bings. This means even if you aren’t using your hearing aids, you’ll still be aware when something around your home or office requires your consideration.
Alerting devices are a good option for:
- Anyone whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- When in the office or at home.
- Situations where lack of attention could be dangerous (for example, when a smoke alarm goes off).
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
Once again, we come back to the occasionally frustrating link between your telephone and your hearing aid. When you hold a speaker up to another speaker, it creates feedback (sometimes painful feedback). This is essentially what happens when you put a phone speaker up 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 interference or feedback. They’re great for:
- Anybody who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
- Individuals who use the phone frequently.
- Individuals who have hearing aids.
Nowadays, it has become fairly commonplace for people to use captions and subtitles to enjoy media. You will find captions pretty much everywhere! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a little easier to understand.
When you’re dealing with hearing loss, captions can work in conjunction 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 advantages of using assistive listening devices?
So, now your greatest question may be: where can I buy assistive listening devices? That’s a good question because it means you’ve recognized how all of these technologies can be worthwhile to those who have hearing loss.
Clearly, every individual won’t get the benefit of every kind of technology. For example, you might not need an amplifier if you have a phone with good volume control. A telecoil might not even work for you if you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid.
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. It’s time to get back into that conversation with your grandchildren.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and others won’t. Call us as soon as possible so we can help you hear better!