Are you familiar with what a cyborg is? If your mind gets swept up in science fiction movies, you probably think of cyborgs as kind of half-human, half machine characters (the human condition is frequently cleverly portrayed with these characters). Hollywood cyborgs can seem wildly outlandish.
But the reality is that, technically, anybody who wears a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. The glasses, in fact, are a technology that has been integrated into biology.
The human condition is generally enhanced using these technologies. Which means, if you’re wearing an assistive listening device, like a hearing aid, you’re the coolest type of cyborg anywhere. And the best thing is that the technology doesn’t stop there.
Disadvantages of hearing loss
Hearing loss undeniably comes with some negatives.
When you go to see a movie, it can be difficult to follow along with the plot. 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 it can be profound (and often negative) how much your life can be impacted.
Left untreated, the world can get pretty quiet. That’s where technology plays a role.
How can technology alleviate hearing loss?
“Assistive listening device” is the general category that any device which helps your hearing is put into. Ok, it does sound a bit technical! You may be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Where can I get assistive listening devices? Are there challenges to utilizing assistive listening devices?
These questions are all standard.
Mostly, we’re used to regarding 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 kinds of assistive hearing devices. And you will be capable of enjoying the world around you more when you correctly utilize these devices.
What types of assistive listening devices are there?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology behind an induction loop sounds pretty complicated (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here are the basics: areas with hearing loops are typically well marked with signage and they can help people with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy areas.
A speaker will sound clearer due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. Induction loops are great for:
- Spots that tend to have a lot of echoes or have poor acoustics.
- Events that depend on amplified sound (like presentations or even movies).
- Venues 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. A transmitter, typically a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, such as a hearing aid, are required for this kind of system to function. Here are a few scenarios where an FM system will be helpful:
- Anyplace that is loud and noisy, especially where that noise makes it difficult to hear.
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational activities.
- An event where amplified sound is used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Civil and governmental locations (for instance, in courtrooms).
An infrared system is a lot like an FM system. There’s an amplifier and a receiver. Usually, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. IR hearing assistance systems are ideal for:
- When you’re listening to one main person speaking.
- Indoor settings. IR systems are often effected by strong sunlight. So this type of technology works best in indoor spaces.
- Individuals with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
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 detected by the microphone. Personal amplifiers come in a few different styles and types, which might make them a confusing possible option.
- For best outcomes, talk to us before using personal amplifiers of any type.
- 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 an extremely loud speaker right in your ear, after all.)
- For individuals who only require amplification in certain circumstances or have very minor hearing loss, these devices would be a good option.
Hearing aids and phones often have difficulty with each other. Sometimes there’s feedback, sometimes things get a bit garbled, sometimes you can’t have a hard time getting the volume quite right.
One solution 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 circumstance. These devices are good for:
- 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 available on either their hearing aids or their primary telephone).
- People who only have a hard time hearing or understanding conversations over the phone.
Sometimes called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices utilize lights, vibration, or occasionally loud noises to get your attention when something happens. For instance, when the doorbell dings, the phone rings, or the microwave bings. So when something around your workplace or home needs your consideration, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be aware of it.
Alerting devices are a good solution for:
- Anybody whose hearing is completely or almost completely gone.
- Home and office settings.
- When alarm sounds like a smoke detector could lead to a dangerous situation.
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
Again, we come back to the sometimes frustrating link between your telephone and your hearing aid. When you hold a speaker up to another speaker, it causes feedback (sometimes painful feedback). When you hold a hearing aid close to a phone, the same thing occurs.
A telecoil is a way to get around that connection. You will be capable of hearing all of your calls without feedback as your telecoil connects your hearing aid directly to your phone. They’re good for:
- People who have hearing aids.
- Individuals who talk on the phone frequently.
- Anyone who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
Nowadays, it has become fairly commonplace for people to use captions and subtitles to enjoy media. Everyone uses captions! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a bit easier to understand.
For people with 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 when it’s mumbled.
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 advantageous to those with hearing loss.
To be sure, not every solution is right for every person. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you may not require an amplifying phone, for example. 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 start 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 grandchildren.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and some won’t. If you want to hear better, call us today!