What is a cyborg? You probably imagine a half human, half machine when you think of a cyborg, especially if you love science fiction movies (the human condition is often cleverly depicted with these characters). Hollywood cyborgs can seem wildly outlandish.
But in reality, somebody wearing something as basic as a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. After all, biology has been upgraded with technology.
The human experience is usually enhanced using these technologies. So you’re actually the coolest type of cyborg in the world if you’re using an assistive listening device. And there’s much more technology where that comes from.
Negative aspects of hearing loss
Hearing loss certainly comes with some drawbacks.
It’s hard to follow the plot when you go see a movie. Understanding your grandkids is even harder (some of that is because of 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 really quiet if your hearing loss is ignored. That’s where technology has a role to play.
How can hearing loss be managed with technology?
Generally speaking, technology that helps you have better hearing is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. That sounds pretty technical, right? The question might 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 used to thinking of 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 types of assistive hearing devices. And you will be able to enjoy the world around you more when you correctly use these devices.
What are the different types of assistive listening devices?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology of an induction loop sounds pretty complicated (there are electromagnetic fields involved). This is what you need to know: places with hearing loops are typically well marked with signage and they can help those with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy settings.
Basically, hearing loops utilize magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Induction loops are good for:
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other noisy places.
- Spots that tend to have lots of echoes or have low-quality acoustics.
- Presentations, movies, or other situations that depend on amplification.
These FM systems are similar to a walkie-talkie or radio. A transmitter, typically a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, such as a hearing aid, are required for this type of system to work. FM systems are useful for:
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational activities.
- Whenever it’s difficult to hear due to a noisy environment.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil places.
- An event where amplified sound is used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
An infrared system is similar to 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). IR hearing assistance systems are great for:
- Situations where there is one primary speaker at a time.
- Inside settings. IR systems are often effected by strong sunlight. Because of this, indoor venues are usually the best ones for this type of technology.
- Individuals with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Personal amplifiers are a lot like less specialized and less powerful versions of a hearing aid. In general, they consist of a microphone and a speaker. The sound is being amplified through the speakers after being picked up by the microphone. Personal amplifiers may seem like a tricky solution since they come in numerous styles and types.
- Before you use any kind of personal amplifier, talk to us about it first.
- Your essentially putting a really loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be careful not to further damage your hearing.
- These devices are good for people who have very minor hearing loss or only require amplification in specific situations.
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 a solution. Depending on the situation, these phones let you control the volume of the speaker. These devices are good for:
- When someone has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears okay in other circumstances.
- Households where the phone is used by multiple people.
- Individuals who don’t use Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
When something is going on, these devices (sometimes called signalers or notification devices) use loud noises, vibrations, and flashing lights to get your attention. When the microwave bings, the doorbell dings, or the phone rings, for instance. So when something around your workplace or home needs your consideration, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be conscious of it.
Alerting devices are a good option for:
- When in the office or at home.
- Situations where lack of attention could be hazardous (for instance, when a smoke alarm sounds).
- Individuals who periodically remove their hearing aids (everyone needs a break sometimes).
- Individuals with complete or nearly complete hearing loss.
So the link (sometimes frustrating) between your hearing aid and phone becomes evident. When you hold a speaker up to another speaker, it creates feedback (sometimes painful feedback). This is basically what happens when you hold a phone speaker close 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 hear all of your conversations without interference or feedback. They’re great for:
- Anyone who regularly talks on the phone.
- People who have hearing aids.
- Individuals who don’t have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
These days, it has become fairly commonplace for people to utilize captions and subtitles to enjoy media. Everybody uses captions! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a little easier to understand.
When you’re dealing with hearing loss, captions can work in combination with your hearing aids, helping you understand mumbled dialogue or ensuring you can hear your favorite show even when there’s distracting conversation near you.
What are the advantages of using assistive listening devices?
So, now your greatest question may be: where can I purchase assistive listening devices? This question implies 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. For instance, you might not need an amplifier if you have a phone with reliable volume control. If you don’t have the right type of hearing aid, a telecoil may be useless to you.
But you have options and that’s really the point. 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 grandchildren.
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!