What’s a cyborg? You probably imagine a half human, half machine when you think about cyborgs, especially if you love science fiction movies (the human condition is often cleverly portrayed 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 incorporated into biology.
These technologies typically enhance the human condition. So you’re actually the coolest kind of cyborg around if you’re using an assistive listening device. And the best part is that the technology doesn’t end there.
Disadvantages of hearing loss
There are definitely some disadvantages that come with hearing loss.
It’s hard to keep up with the plot when you go see a movie. Understanding your grandchildren is even harder (some of that is attributable to the age-gap, but for the most part, it’s hearing loss). And this can affect your life in extremely profound (often negative) ways.
The world can become very quiet if your hearing loss is neglected. That’s where technology plays a role.
How can hearing loss be addressed with technology?
Generally speaking, technology that helps you hear better is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. That sounds rather technical, right? You might be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Where can I get assistive listening 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 rather monolithic way: hearing aids. That’s logical, as hearing aids are a vital part of dealing with hearing loss. But hearing aids aren’t the only type of assistive hearing device. And, used correctly, these hearing devices can help you more completely enjoy the world around you.
What are the different kinds of assistive listening devices?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology of an induction loop sounds pretty complex (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here are the basics: locations with hearing loops are normally well marked with signage and they can help individuals with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy settings.
A speaker will sound clearer due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. Induction loops are great for:
- Locations with inferior acoustic qualities like echoes.
- Events that depend on amplified sound (such as presentations or even movies).
- Locations that tend to be loud (including waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
An FM hearing assistance system works much like a radio or a walkie-talkie. A transmitter, typically a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, such as a hearing aid, are needed for this kind of system to work. FM systems are great for:
- Anybody who wants to listen to amplified sound systems (this includes things like a speaker during a presentation or dialogue during a movie).
- Education situations, including classrooms or conferences.
- Whenever it’s difficult to hear because of a noisy environment.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
An infrared system is similar to an FM system. It consists of a receiver and an amplifier. Usually, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. IR hearing assistance systems are ideal for:
- People who use cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- Inside environments. Strong sunlight can impact the signals from an IR system. So this kind of technology works best in indoor settings.
- Scenarios where there’s one primary speaker at a time.
Personal amplifiers are kind of like hearing aids, just less specialized and less powerful. They’re generally made of a microphone and a speaker. The sound is being amplified through the speakers after being detected by the microphone. Personal amplifiers might seem like a tricky solution since they come in numerous styles and types.
- These devices are good for people who have very minor hearing loss or only need amplification in specific situations.
- You need to be careful, though, these devices can hasten the decline of your hearing, particularly if you aren’t careful. (You’re basically putting a super loud speaker right inside of your ear, after all.)
- For best results, talk to us before using personal amplifiers of any type.
Hearing aids and phones often have difficulty with one another. The sound can become garbled or too low in volume and sometimes you can get feedback.
Amplified phones are a solution. 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 need, depending on the circumstance. These devices are good for:
- When somebody has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears fine in other situations.
- Individuals who don’t have their phone synced to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth available on either their hearing aids or their primary telephone).
- Families where the phone is used by multiple people.
Often called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices use lights, vibration, or sometimes loud noises to get your attention when something happens. For instance, when the doorbell dings, the phone rings, or the microwave bings. So when something around your workplace or home requires your attention, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be aware of it.
Alerting devices are an excellent solution for:
- Those who have total or near total hearing loss.
- Home and office settings.
- When alarm sounds such as a smoke detector could create a dangerous situation.
- People who intermittently remove their hearing aids (everybody needs a break now and then).
Again, we come back to the sometimes frustrating link between your telephone and your hearing aid. When you put a speaker up to another speaker, it causes feedback (sometimes painful feedback). When you hold a hearing aid close to a phone, the same thing happens.
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 noise or feedback. They’re great for:
- Individuals who don’t have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Anyone who frequently talks on the phone.
- People who have hearing aids.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a normal way for people to enjoy media today. 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 understand what they’re watching even with loud conversations around them and can work together with their hearing aids so they can hear dialog even when it’s mumbled.
What are the benefits of using assistive listening devices?
So, now your biggest question might be: where can I get assistive listening devices? That’s a good question because it means you’ve acknowledged how all of these technologies can be advantageous to those with hearing loss.
Obviously, every individual won’t get the benefit of every kind of technology. For example, you may not need an amplifier if you have a phone with reliable volume control. A telecoil might not even work for you if you don’t have the right type of hearing aid.
But you have choices and that’s really the point. After you begin customizing your journey toward being an awesome cyborg, you will be ready to get the most out of your life. So you can more easily hear the dialogue at the movie theater or the conversation with your grandkids.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and some won’t. If you want to hear better, call us today!