Are you familiar with what a cyborg is? If your mind gets swept up in science fiction movies, you likely think of cyborgs as sort of half-human, half machine characters (the human condition is often cleverly depicted with these characters). Hollywood cyborgs can seem extremely bizarre.
But actually, somebody wearing something as simple as a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. The glasses, after all, are a technology that has been integrated into biology.
The human experience is generally enhanced with these technologies. Which means, if you’re using an assistive listening device, like a hearing aid, you’re the coolest kind of cyborg anywhere. And there’s much more technology where that comes from.
Hearing loss drawbacks
Hearing loss certainly comes with some negatives.
When you go to the movies, it can be hard to follow along with the plot. Understanding your grandchildren is even more difficult (some of that is attributable to the age-gap, but for the most part, it’s hearing loss). And this can impact your life in extremely profound (often negative) ways.
The world can become really quiet if your hearing loss is ignored. This is where technology comes in.
How can hearing loss be managed with technology?
Broadly speaking, technology that helps you hear better is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. That sounds pretty technical, right? You might be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Where can I get assistive listening devices? Are there challenges to using assistive listening devices?
These questions are all normal.
Typically, hearing aids are what we think of when we think about hearing aid technology. That’s reasonable, as hearing aids are a vital part of dealing with hearing loss. But they’re also just the beginning, there are many types of assistive hearing devices. And you will be able to enjoy the world around you more when you correctly use these devices.
What types 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). Here are the basics: people who wear hearing aids can hear more clearly in areas with a hearing loop which are typically well marked with signage.
Essentially, hearing loops utilize magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Here are a few examples of when an induction loop can be beneficial:
- Places with bad acoustic qualities like echoes.
- Events that depend on amplified sound (like presentations or even movies).
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other loud settings.
An FM hearing assistance system works a lot like a radio or a walkie-talkie. A transmitter, usually a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, like a hearing aid, are required for this kind of system to work. FM systems are great for:
- Courtrooms and other government or civil places.
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational events.
- Anyone who wants to listen to amplified sound systems (this includes things like a speaker during a presentation or dialogue during a movie).
- Whenever it’s hard to hear because of a loud environment.
There are similarities between an infrared system and an FM system. It’s composed of a receiver and an amplifier. With an IR system, the receiver is usually worn around your neck (kind of like a lanyard). IR hearing assistance systems are great for:
- Inside environments. Bright sunlight can impact the signals from an IR system. As a result, indoor settings are usually the best ones for this sort of technology.
- People who use cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- When you’re listening to one primary person speaking.
Personal amplifiers are sort of like hearing aids, only 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 tricky solution since they come in several styles and types.
- You need to be cautious, though, these devices can expedite the decline of your hearing, especially if you aren’t careful. (You’re basically putting an extremely loud speaker right in your ear, after all.)
- For individuals who only need amplification in specific circumstances or have very minor hearing loss, these devices would be a practical option.
- For best outcomes, talk to us before using personal amplifiers of any type.
Hearing aids and phones sometimes have trouble with each other. The sound can get garbled or too low in volume and sometimes you can get feedback.
One option for this is an amplified phone. 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. These devices are good for:
- Individuals who only have a difficult time hearing or understanding conversations over the phone.
- When multiple people in a home use a single phone.
- People who don’t have their phone synced to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth offered on either their hearing aids or their principal telephone).
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 wearing your hearing aids, you’ll still be aware when something around your home or office requires your attention.
Alerting devices are a good solution for:
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
- Situations where lack of attention could be hazardous (for instance, when a smoke alarm sounds).
- Anybody whose hearing is completely or almost completely gone.
- When in the office or at home.
So the link (sometimes frustrating) between your hearing aid and phone comes to the front. The feedback that happens when two speakers are held in front of each other isn’t pleasant. When you hold a hearing aid close to a phone, the same thing occurs.
That connection can be bypassed by a telecoil. It will connect 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 have hearing aids.
- Individuals who do not have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Individuals who talk on the phone frequently.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a normal way for people to enjoy media nowadays. You will find captions just about everywhere! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a bit easier to understand.
For people who have hearing loss, captions will help them be able to comprehend what they’re watching even with noisy conversations around them and can work together with their hearing aids so they can hear dialog even if it’s mumbled.
The rewards of using assistive listening devices
So, now your greatest question might be: where can I get assistive listening devices? This question implies a recognition of the benefits of these technologies for people who use hearing aids.
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 example. A telecoil might not even work for you if you don’t have the right type of hearing aid.
But you have choices and that’s really the point. You can customize 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 grandchildren.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in specific situations but not all. Call us as soon as possible so we can help you hear better!