Are you familiar with what a cyborg is? You likely imagine a half human, half machine when you think of a cyborg, particularly if you enjoy science fiction movies (the human condition is often 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. The glasses, after all, are a technology that has been incorporated into a biological process.
The human condition is usually enhanced with these technologies. So you’re actually the coolest type of cyborg in the world if you’re using an assistive listening device. And there’s much more technology where that comes from.
Disadvantages of hearing loss
There are absolutely some disadvantages that come with hearing loss.
It’s hard to keep up with the plot when you go see a movie. Understanding your grandchildren is even harder (some of that is due to the age-gap, but for the most part, it’s hearing loss). And this can impact your life in very profound (often negative) ways.
Left untreated, the world can get pretty quiet. That’s where technology has a role to play.
How can technology alleviate hearing loss?
Generally speaking, technology that helps you have better hearing is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. Ok, it does sound a bit technical! You may be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Is there somewhere I can go and buy one of these devices? What challenges will I deal with?
Those are all reasonable questions!
Usually, hearing aids are what we think of when we think about hearing aid technology. 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 use these devices.
What types of assistive listening devices are there?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology of an induction loop sounds really complex (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here are the basics: individuals with hearing aids can hear more clearly in places with a hearing loop which are usually well marked with signage.
Basically, hearing loops use magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Induction loops are great for:
- Venues that tend to have lots of echoes or have low-quality acoustics.
- Presentations, movies, or other events that depend on amplification.
- Settings that tend to be noisy (such as waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
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 (usually a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (often in the form of a hearing aid). Here are a few scenarios where an FM system will be useful:
- Education environments, such as classrooms or conferences.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil places.
- An occasion where amplified sound is being used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Whenever it’s hard to hear due to a loud environment.
There are similarities between an infrared system and an FM system. It consists of a receiver and an amplifier. Usually, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. IR hearing assistance systems are great for:
- Individuals with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- Indoor settings. Bright sunlight can interfere with the signals from an IR system. Because of this, inside settings are generally the best ones for this sort of technology.
- Scenarios where there is one primary speaker at a time.
Personal amplifiers are kind of like hearing aids, just less specialized and less powerful. In general, they feature a microphone and a speaker. The microphone detects sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers come in a few different types and styles, which may make them a confusing possible option.
- For individuals who only need amplification in specific situations or have very slight hearing loss, these devices would be a practical choice.
- For best outcomes, speak with us before using personal amplifiers of any kind.
- Your essentially putting a very loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be cautious not to further damage your hearing.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along very well. Sometimes you have 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 circumstance, these phones let you control the volume of the speaker. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- People who don’t use Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
- When numerous people in a home use a single phone.
- When somebody has difficulty hearing phone conversations but hears fine in other circumstances.
When something is going on, these devices (sometimes called signalers or notification devices) use loud noises, vibrations, and blinking lights to get your attention. When the microwave bings, the doorbell dings, or the phone rings, for example. 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 an excellent option for:
- Situations where lack of attention could be dangerous (for example, when a smoke alarm sounds).
- Anybody whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- Individuals who intermittently remove their hearing aids (everybody needs a break sometimes).
- When in the office or at home.
Once again, we come back to the sometimes frustrating connection between your telephone and your hearing aid. When you hold a speaker up to another speaker, it causes feedback (sometimes painful feedback). This is basically what happens when you hold a phone speaker up to a hearing aid.
A telecoil is a way to get around that connection. It will link up your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can listen to all of your conversations without interference or feedback. They’re good for:
- People who have hearing aids.
- People who use the phone often.
- Anyone who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
These days, it has become rather commonplace for people to use captions and subtitles to enjoy media. You will find captions just about everywhere! Why? Because they make it a little easier to understand what you’re watching.
When you have hearing loss, captions can work in combination with your hearing aids, helping you understand mumbled dialogue or making sure you can follow your favorite show even when there’s distracting conversation near you.
The rewards of using assistive listening devices
So, now your biggest question may be: where can I get assistive listening devices? That’s a good question because it means you’ve recognized how all of these technologies can be worthwhile to people with hearing loss.
Clearly, every person won’t be benefited by every type of technology. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you might not require an amplifying phone, for instance. If you don’t have the right type of hearing aid, a telecoil may be useless to you.
But you have choices and that’s really the point. You can personalize 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.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and others won’t. If you’re interested in hearing better, call us today!