Do you know what a cyborg is? You most likely imagine a half human, half machine when you think of a cyborg, particularly if you enjoy science fiction movies (the human condition is frequently cleverly depicted with these characters). Hollywood cyborgs can seem extremely outlandish.
But the truth is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. The glasses, in fact, are a technology that has been integrated into a biological process.
The human experience is usually enhanced using these technologies. So you’re actually the coolest kind of cyborg in the world if you’re using an assistive listening device. And the best thing is that the technology doesn’t stop there.
Negative aspects of hearing loss
Hearing loss certainly comes with some negatives.
It’s difficult to follow the plot when you go see a movie. It’s even more challenging 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 impacted.
Left untreated, the world can become pretty quiet. This is where technology comes in.
How can technology alleviate hearing loss?
Broadly speaking, technology that helps you have better hearing is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. Ok, it does sound somewhat technical! The question may arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Is there somewhere I can go and purchase one of these devices? Are there challenges to using assistive listening devices?
Those are all reasonable questions!
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 managing hearing loss, that’s reasonable. 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 properly utilize these devices.
What types of assistive listening devices are there?
Induction loops, also known as hearing loops, utilize technology that sounds really complex. Here’s what you need to understand: locations with hearing loops are usually well marked with signage and they can help people with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy settings.
A speaker will sound more clear due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. Here are some examples of when an induction loop can be helpful:
- Events that rely on amplified sound (including presentations or even movies).
- Places with bad acoustic qualities like echoes.
- Settings that tend to be noisy (including 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, like a hearing aid, are required for this kind of system to function. Here are a few scenarios where an FM system will be helpful:
- Anybody who wants to listen to amplified sound systems (this includes things like a speaker during a presentation or dialogue during a movie).
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational activities.
- Civil and governmental locations (for instance, in courtrooms).
- Anyplace that is loud and noisy, particularly where that noise makes it difficult to hear.
There are similarities between an infrared system and an FM system. It’s composed of a receiver and an amplifier. With an IR system, the receiver is usually worn around your neck (sort of like a lanyard). Here are some examples where IR systems can be useful:
- When you’re listening to one primary person talking.
- Indoor environments. Bright sunlight can impact the signals from an IR system. As a result, indoor venues are usually the best ones for this sort of technology.
- People who use cochlear implants or hearing aids.
Personal amplifiers are a lot like less specialized and less robust versions of a hearing aid. They’re generally made of a speaker and a microphone. The microphone picks up sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers come in several different styles and types, which might make them a challenging possible solution.
- These devices are good for people who have very minor hearing loss or only require amplification in select situations.
- You need to be careful, though, these devices can expedite the decline of your hearing, particularly if you aren’t careful. (You’re basically putting a super loud speaker right in your ear, after all.)
- Before you use any kind of personal amplifier, talk to us about it first.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along very well. The sound can get garbled or too low in volume and sometimes you can get feedback.
Amplified phones are an option. 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 situation. These devices are good for:
- People who only have a hard time hearing or understanding conversations over the phone.
- People who don’t have their phone connected to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth offered on either their hearing aids or their primary telephone).
- When multiple people in a home use a single phone.
Often called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices use lights, vibration, or sometimes loud noises to get your attention when something occurs. 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 conscious of it.
Alerting devices are a good option for:
- Circumstances where lack of attention could be dangerous (for example, when a smoke alarm sounds).
- Home and office spaces.
- Individuals who periodically take off their hearing aids (everyone needs a break now and then).
- Anyone whose hearing is completely or almost completely gone.
So the connection (sometimes discouraging) between your hearing aid and phone comes to the front. The feedback that occurs when two speakers are held in front of each other is not pleasant. This is essentially what happens when you hold a phone speaker up to a hearing aid.
That connection can be bypassed by a telecoil. It will connect your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can listen to all of your conversations without interference or feedback. They’re great for:
- Anyone who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
- Anyone who regularly talks on the phone.
- People who have hearing aids.
These days, it has become fairly commonplace for people to use captions and subtitles to enjoy media. You will find captions just about everywhere! 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 ensuring you can follow your favorite show even when there’s distracting conversation near you.
The advantages of using assistive listening devices
So, now your greatest question may be: where can I get assistive listening devices? This question indicates a recognition of the benefits of these technologies for individuals who use hearing aids.
To be sure, not every strategy is right for every individual. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you might not need an amplifying phone, for example. If you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid, a telecoil might be useless to you.
The point is that you have possibilities. 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. So you can more easily understand the dialogue at the movies or the 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!