If you’ve been living with a hearing impairment for any length of time, you know that it can make everyday life more challenging. Conversations can be difficult to participate in, entertainment devices such as TV’s and radios can be difficult to hear, and it can be challenging to interpret the sounds around you.
What if there were technology options available to assist you and reduce the effects of your hearing impairment? The good news is, there IS help available. You just have to know where to look and what to ask for.
Types of assistive hearing technology
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) is a great resource for finding out exactly what types of assistive technology are currently available. Basically, these devices exist to help individuals with hearing, speech, or language disorders to be able to communicate more effectively.
Some common assistive devices include:
- Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs): Many people think of hearing aids when they hear the term assistive listening device. However, ALDs are actually used with hearing aids or a cochlear implant. They simply amplify sounds that might be otherwise difficult to hear. They are especially useful in noisy environments where excessive background noise might interfere with even the best hearing aids.
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices (AACs): These assistive devices are used primarily for those with communication disorders. They include technology such as computer programs or picture boards that produce speech from text input into the system, allowing someone with a speech disorder to effectively communicate.
- Alerting Devices: Just as the name implies, this helpful technology alerts someone with hearing loss to the occurrence of a particular event. For example, when the telephone rings, an alarm might sound or light could blink.
Assistive listening device options
Fortunately, new hearing technology is emerging all the time, making it easier than ever to live with hearing loss. Let’s take a look at a few of the current options for assistive listening devices:
- Hearing Loop Systems: In order for this technology to be effective, four elements must be present – a sound source (i.e. television), an amplifier, a wire loop, and a receiver. Sound is amplified and then transmitted through a loop, creating an electromagnetic field in the process. When wearing the receiver, the individual with hearing loss can then better hear the sound source and without all the background noise.
- Frequency-Modulated (FM) Systems: Using radio signals, these devices transmit amplified sound via a microphone and receiver. For example, in a classroom setting, a teacher may wear the microphone while a hearing-impaired student wears the receiver. Tuned into the same frequency, or channel, the two devices “talk” to each other. This allows the sound source (the teacher’s voice) to be received in an amplified version by the receiver (the student’s ears) without everyone else in the room having to experience the same.
- Infrared Systems: These devices utilize a transmitter to change infrared light into sound. The sound is then picked up by a receiver worn by the hearing impaired individual. Unlike FM systems, which can mix signals because radio signals travel through walls, infrared systems do not. Since infrared signals cannot penetrate walls, these devices are especially useful in areas where privacy is a concern, or where there could be too many signals interfering with each other.
- Personal Amplifiers: Sometimes, the systems outlined above are not available. Or, a hearing-impaired individual is outdoors or riding in a vehicle. At these times, it could be helpful to use a personal amplifier. These devices have directional microphones that can easily pick up sound, amplify it, and transmit it to the receiver worn by the listener.
What type of assistive hearing technology is right for you?
Every person is different, and so are their hearing needs. An assistive listening device that works perfectly for one person, may not be the best option for another. And, there’s no sense in spending your hard-earned money on something that won’t meet your needs.
That’s why it’s important to work closely with your audiologist, or other hearing professionals, to determine which assistive device will work best in YOUR environment. Schedule an appointment with your doctor today so you can discuss all of your options and make an informed decision.
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