Do you know what a cyborg is? You likely imagine a half human, half machine when you think about cyborgs, especially if you love science fiction movies (the human condition is often cleverly portrayed with these characters). Hollywood cyborgs can seem extremely outlandish.
But the reality is that, technically, anybody who wears a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. After all, biology has been upgraded with technology.
These technologies typically add to the human condition. Which means, if you’re wearing an assistive listening device, like a hearing aid, you’re the coolest kind of cyborg in the world. And the best part is that the technology doesn’t end there.
Drawbacks of hearing loss
Hearing loss undeniably comes with some drawbacks.
It’s difficult to follow the plot when you go see a movie. Understanding your grandchildren is even harder (some of that is because of the age-gap, but for the most part, it’s hearing loss). And it can be profound (and often negative) how much your life can be affected.
Left unchecked, the world can get pretty quiet. This is where technology comes in.
How can technology help with hearing loss?
“Assistive listening device” is the general category that any device which helps your hearing is put into. That sounds pretty technical, right? You might be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Where can I buy assistive listening devices? What challenges will I deal with?
Those are all fair questions!
Usually, hearing aids are what we think of when we consider hearing aid technology. That’s logical, as hearing aids are an essential part of dealing with hearing loss. 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 fully enjoy the world around you.
What are the different types of assistive listening devices?
Induction loops, also known as hearing loops, utilize technology that sounds quite complex. Here are the basics: individuals with hearing aids can hear more clearly in locations 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:
- Presentations, movies, or other events that depend on amplification.
- Venues that tend to have a lot of echoes or have poor acoustics.
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other loud places.
An FM hearing assistance system works much like a radio or a walkie-talkie. In order for this system to work, you need two components: a transmitter (usually a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (usually in the form of a hearing aid). Here are some scenarios where an FM system will be useful:
- Education situations, like classrooms or conferences.
- Civil and governmental environments (for example, in courtrooms).
- An occasion where amplified sound is being used, including music from a speaker or sound at 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 consists 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 ideal for:
- Individuals who have cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- Situations where there’s one main speaker at a time.
- Inside settings. IR systems are often impacted by strong sunlight. Because of this, indoor settings are generally the best ones for this type of technology.
Personal amplifiers are like less specialized and less robust versions of a hearing aid. They’re generally made of a speaker and a microphone. The sound is being amplified through the speakers after being picked up by the microphone. Personal amplifiers come in several different types and styles, which could make them a confusing possible option.
- Before you use any kind of personal amplifier, speak with us about it first.
- You need to be cautious, though, these devices can hasten the decline of your hearing, especially if you aren’t careful. (You’re basically putting a super loud speaker right in your ear, after all.)
- For individuals who only need amplification in certain situations or have very mild hearing loss, these devices would be a practical choice.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along swimmingly. Sometimes you have feedback, sometimes things become a bit garbled, sometimes you can’t get the volume quite right.
One option for this is an amplified phone. These devices give you control over the volume of the phone’s speaker, so you can make it as loud or quiet as you need, depending on the circumstance. These devices are good for:
- Families where the phone is used by several people.
- When someone has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears okay in other situations.
- Individuals who don’t have Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
Sometimes called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices utilize lights, vibration, or occasionally loud noises to get your attention when something happens. 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 alert when something around your home or office needs your consideration.
Alerting devices are a good solution for:
- Situations where lack of attention could be dangerous (for instance, when a smoke alarm goes off).
- Anyone whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- Individuals who intermittently take off their hearing aids (everyone needs a break now and then).
- When in the office or at home.
So the connection (sometimes frustrating) between your hearing aid and phone becomes evident. When you hold a speaker up to another speaker, it creates feedback (sometimes painful feedback). When you hold a hearing aid close to a phone, the same thing happens.
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 links your hearing aid directly to your phone. They’re good for:
- Individuals who use the phone often.
- Anybody who uses hearing aids.
- Those who do not have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
Closed captions (and subtitles more generally) have become a mainstay of the way people enjoy media nowadays. Everyone uses captions! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a bit easier to understand.
When you have hearing loss, captions can work in conjunction with your hearing aids, helping you understand mumbled dialogue or making sure you can hear your favorite show even when there’s distracting conversation near you.
What are the advantages of using assistive listening devices?
So, now your greatest question may be: where can I get assistive listening devices? This question implies a recognition of the benefits of these technologies for individuals who use hearing aids.
Obviously, every individual won’t get the benefit of every type of technology. For example, you may not need an amplifier if you have a phone with reliable volume control. A telecoil may 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. After you begin customizing 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 grandkids.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in some situations but not all. If you want to hear better, call us today!