What’s a cyborg? You probably imagine a half human, half machine when you think of a cyborg, especially if you enjoy science fiction movies (these characters are usually cleverly utilized to comment on the human condition). Hollywood cyborgs can seem wildly outlandish.
But the truth is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. After all, biology has been enhanced with technology.
These technologies typically add to the human experience. So, if you’re using an assistive listening device, like a hearing aid, you’re the coolest type of cyborg anywhere. And the best part is that the technology doesn’t stop there.
Hearing loss drawbacks
There are definitely some drawbacks that come with hearing loss.
When you go to the movies, it can be difficult to follow along with the plot. Understanding your grandchildren is even more difficult (some of that is because of 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 very quiet if your hearing loss is neglected. This is where technology comes in.
How can hearing loss be addressed with technology?
“Assistive listening device” is the general category that any device which helps your hearing is put into. Ok, it does sound somewhat technical! The question may arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Where can I buy assistive listening devices? What challenges will I confront?
Those are all reasonable questions!
Mostly, we’re used to thinking of technology for hearing loss in a rather monolithic way: hearing aids. That’s logical, as hearing aids are a vital part of managing hearing loss. But hearing aids aren’t the only kind of assistive hearing device. And you will be capable of enjoying the world around you more when you correctly use these devices.
What kinds 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 normally well marked with signage.
Essentially, hearing loops utilize magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Induction loops are great for:
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other loud settings.
- Venues that tend to have a lot of echoes or have poor acoustics.
- 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. A transmitter, typically a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, like a hearing aid, are required for this kind of system to work. FM systems are useful for:
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational activities.
- An event where amplified sound is used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Anyplace that is loud and noisy, especially where that noise makes it challenging to hear.
- Civil and governmental locations (for example, in courtrooms).
An infrared system is similar to an FM system. It’s composed of a receiver and an amplifier. With an IR system, the receiver is often worn around your neck (kind of like a lanyard). Here are some instances where IR systems can be helpful:
- People who have cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- Inside environments. IR systems are frequently impacted by strong sunlight. So this kind of technology works best in inside settings.
- Situations where there’s one main speaker at a time.
Personal amplifiers are kind of like hearing aids, but less specialized and less powerful. They’re generally composed 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 may make them a challenging possible option.
- Your essentially putting a really loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be careful not to damage your hearing further.
- Before you use any type of personal amplifier, consult us about it first.
- For individuals who only require amplification in certain situations or have very minor hearing loss, these devices would be a good choice.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along very well. Sometimes there’s feedback, sometimes things get a bit garbled, sometimes you can’t get the volume quite right.
Amplified phones are an option. Depending on the situation, these phones let you control how loud the speaker is. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- When somebody has difficulty hearing phone conversations but hears okay in other situations.
- When numerous people in a home use a single phone.
- Individuals who don’t use Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
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 instance, when the doorbell dings, the phone rings, or the microwave bings. So when something around your workplace or home needs your attention, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be aware of it.
Alerting devices are a good option for:
- People who intermittently remove their hearing aids (everybody needs a break sometimes).
- When in the office or at home.
- Those who have complete or nearly complete hearing loss.
- When alarm sounds like a smoke detector could create a dangerous situation.
Once again, we come back to the sometimes frustrating link between your telephone and your hearing aid. When you put a speaker up to another speaker, it produces feedback (sometimes painful feedback). When you put 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 connects your hearing aid directly to your phone. They’re good for:
- Anybody who uses hearing aids.
- Individuals who don’t have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Anybody who regularly talks on the phone.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a normal way for people to enjoy media today. You will find captions just about everywhere! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a little easier to understand.
For people who have hearing loss, captions will help them be able to understand what they’re watching even with noisy conversations around them and can work together with their hearing aids so they can hear dialog even when it’s mumbled.
What are the benefits of using assistive listening devices?
So where can you get assistive listening devices? That’s a good question because it means you’ve recognized how all of these technologies can be beneficial to people with hearing loss.
To be sure, not every solution is right for every person. For example, you might not need an amplifier if you have a phone with reliable volume control. A telecoil might not even work for you if you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid.
But you have options 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 some won’t. If you’re interested in hearing better, call us today!