What’s a cyborg? You probably imagine a half human, half machine when you think about cyborgs, particularly if you enjoy science fiction movies (these characters are typically cleverly utilized to touch on the human condition). You can get some truly wild cyborgs in Hollywood.
But in reality, someone wearing something as basic as a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. The glasses, in fact, are a technology that has been incorporated into biology.
The human condition is usually enhanced using these technologies. So, if you’re wearing 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 end there.
Hearing loss disadvantages
There are absolutely some disadvantages that come with hearing loss.
It’s hard to keep up with the plot when you go see a movie. Understanding your grandkids 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.
The world can become very quiet if your hearing loss is neglected. That’s where technology plays a role.
How can hearing loss be managed with technology?
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 utilizing assistive listening devices?
Those are all reasonable questions!
Mostly, we’re accustomed to thinking of technology for hearing loss in a very monolithic way: hearing aids. That’s logical, as hearing aids are an essential part of managing hearing loss. But they’re also just the start, there are numerous types 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 of an induction loop sounds pretty complex (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here are the basics: places with hearing loops are usually well marked with signage and they can help people with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy areas.
Basically, hearing loops use magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Induction loops are good for:
- Presentations, movies, or other situations that depend on amplification.
- Locations that tend to be noisy (such as waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
- Locations with bad acoustic qualities like echoes.
An FM hearing assistance system works a lot like a radio or a walkie-talkie. In order for this system to work, you need two components: a transmitter (usually a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (often in the form of a hearing aid). Here are a few situations where an FM system will be helpful:
- An event where amplified sound is being used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Anyplace that is loud and noisy, particularly where that noise makes it challenging to hear.
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational events.
- Civil and governmental environments (for instance, in courtrooms).
An infrared system is a lot like an FM system. It consists 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 examples where IR systems can be helpful:
- People who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- Situations where there is one main speaker at a time.
- Indoor settings. Strong sunlight can impact the signals from an IR system. So this kind of technology works best in indoor spaces.
Personal amplifiers are like less specialized and less powerful versions of a hearing aid. They’re generally composed of a microphone and a speaker. The microphone picks up sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers come in several different types and styles, which might make them a challenging possible solution.
- Your essentially putting a very loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be careful not to further damage your hearing.
- For people who only require amplification in certain situations or have very minor hearing loss, these devices would be a good choice.
- Before you use any kind of personal amplifier, speak with us about it first.
Hearing aids and phones often have difficulty with one another. The sound can get garbled or too low in volume and sometimes there can be feedback.
One option for this is an amplified phone. Depending on the situation, these phones allow you to control the volume of the speaker. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- People who don’t have their phone connected to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth available on either their hearing aids or their principal telephone).
- When numerous people in a home use a single phone.
- When somebody has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears okay in other circumstances.
When something is going on, these devices (sometimes called signalers or notification devices) use loud noises, vibrations, and blinking lights to get your attention. For example, when the doorbell dings, the phone rings, or the microwave bings. This means even if you aren’t using your hearing aids, you’ll still be alert when something around your home or office requires your consideration.
Alerting devices are a good option for:
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
- When alarm sounds like a smoke detector could create a dangerous situation.
- Those who have complete or nearly complete hearing loss.
- When in the office or at home.
Once again, we come back to the occasionally frustrating link between your telephone and your hearing aid. The feedback that happens when two speakers are held in front of each other isn’t pleasant. When you put a hearing aid next to a phone, the same thing happens.
A telecoil is a way to get around that connection. It will link up your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can hear all of your conversations without interference or feedback. They’re good for:
- Anyone who uses hearing aids.
- Anyone who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
- Anyone who regularly talks on the phone.
These days, it has become fairly commonplace for people to utilize captions and subtitles to enjoy media. Everyone uses captions! Why? Because they make it a little easier to understand what you’re watching.
For people with hearing loss, captions will help them be able to comprehend what they’re watching even with loud conversations around them and can work in tandem with their hearing aids so they can hear dialog even when it’s mumbled.
The rewards of using assistive listening devices
So, now your biggest question might be: where can I get assistive listening devices? This question implies a recognition of the advantages of these technologies for individuals who use hearing aids.
Obviously, every individual won’t get the benefit of every type of technology. For instance, you might not need an amplifier if you have a phone with good volume control. If you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid, a telecoil might be useless to you.
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 grandchildren.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in some situations but not all. If you want to hear better, call us today!