Do you know what a cyborg is? If you get swept up in science fiction movies, you probably think of cyborgs as sort of half-human, half machine characters (these characters are usually cleverly used to touch on the human condition). Hollywood cyborgs can seem wildly outlandish.
But the reality is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. The glasses, in fact, are a technology that has been incorporated into biology.
These technologies typically enhance the human experience. So you’re actually the coolest type of cyborg around if you’re using an assistive listening device. And the best thing is that the technology doesn’t stop there.
Disadvantages of hearing loss
Hearing loss undeniably comes with some disadvantages.
It’s difficult to follow the plot when you go see a movie. It’s even harder to understand what your grandkids are talking about (part of this is because you have no idea what K-pop is, and you never will, but mostly it’s the result of hearing loss). And it can be profound (and often negative) how much your life can be affected.
Left unchecked, the world can become pretty quiet. 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 you hear better is put into. Ok, it does sound somewhat technical! You may 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 standard.
Typically, hearing aids are what we think of when we think about hearing aid technology. Because hearing aids are an essential part of dealing with hearing loss, that’s reasonable. But hearing aids aren’t the only type of assistive hearing device. And, used properly, these hearing devices can help you more completely enjoy the world around you.
What are the different kinds of assistive listening devices?
Sometimes 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 those with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy areas.
Essentially, hearing loops utilize magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Induction loops are good for:
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other loud places.
- Presentations, movies, or other situations that rely on amplification.
- Venues that tend to have a lot of echoes or have poor acoustics.
These FM systems are similar to a walkie-talkie or radio. In order for this system to work, you need two elements: a transmitter (normally a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (often in the form of a hearing aid). FM systems are useful for:
- Civil and governmental locations (for example, in courtrooms).
- Education environments, such as classrooms or conferences.
- Anyone who wants to listen to sound systems that use amplification (this includes things like a speaker during a presentation or dialogue during a movie).
- Anywhere that is loud and noisy, especially where that noise makes it difficult to hear.
An infrared system is a lot like an FM system. There’s an amplifier and a receiver. With an IR system, the receiver is usually worn around your neck (kind of like a lanyard). Here are some instances where IR systems can be helpful:
- Indoor environments. Bright sunlight can interfere with the signals from an IR system. Because of this, inside venues are generally the best ones for this sort of technology.
- People who use cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- Situations where there is one main speaker at a time.
Personal amplifiers are like less specialized and less robust versions of a hearing aid. 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 a number of different types and styles, which might make them a challenging possible solution.
- Before you use any type of personal amplifier, speak with us about it first.
- These devices are good for individuals who have very mild hearing loss or only require amplification in select situations.
- You need to be cautious, though, these devices can hasten the decline of your hearing, especially if you aren’t careful. (You’re essentially putting a super loud speaker right in your ear, after all.)
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along very well. The sound can get garbled or too low in volume and sometimes there can be feedback.
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 situation. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- People who don’t have Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
- Families where the phone is used by multiple people.
- When somebody has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears fine in other situations.
Sometimes called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices use lights, vibration, or sometimes 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 wearing your hearing aids, you’ll still be alert when something around your home or office requires your consideration.
Alerting devices are a good solution for:
- When alarm sounds such as a smoke detector could lead to a hazardous situation.
- Anyone whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- When in the office or at home.
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
Once again, we come back to the occasionally frustrating link between your telephone and your hearing aid. When you hold a speaker up to another speaker, it creates feedback (sometimes painful feedback). When you hold a hearing aid next to a phone, the same thing happens.
That connection can be avoided by a telecoil. 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:
- Anyone who frequently talks on the phone.
- Those who don’t have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Anyone who uses hearing aids.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a mainstay of the way people enjoy media nowadays. Everyone uses captions! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a little easier to understand.
When you have hearing loss, captions can work in combination 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 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 advantageous to those with hearing loss.
To be sure, not every strategy is right for every individual. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you may not need an amplifying phone, for example. A telecoil might not even work for you if you don’t have the right type of hearing aid.
The point is that you have options. After you begin personalizing 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 certain situations but not all. Call us right away so we can help you hear better!