What’s a cyborg? You likely imagine a half human, half machine when you think of a cyborg, especially if you love science fiction movies (these characters are usually cleverly utilized to comment on the human condition). You can get some really wild cyborgs in Hollywood.
But the reality is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. After all, biology has been enhanced 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.
Drawbacks of hearing loss
Hearing loss certainly comes with some disadvantages.
When you go to the movies, it can be hard to keep up with the plot. It’s even harder to make out 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 because of hearing loss). And this can affect your life in extremely profound (often negative) ways.
The world can become really quiet if your hearing loss is ignored. This is where technology comes in.
How can technology alleviate hearing loss?
Generally speaking, technology that helps you have better hearing is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. That sounds pretty technical, right? You may be thinking: 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 fair questions!
Mostly, we’re accustomed to thinking of technology for hearing loss in a very monolithic way: hearing aids. That’s reasonable, as hearing aids are an essential part of treating hearing loss. But they’re also just the start, there are many kinds of assistive hearing devices. And, used properly, these hearing devices can help you more fully enjoy the world around you.
What are the different kinds of assistive listening devices?
Induction loops, also known as hearing loops, use technology that sounds really complex. Here are the basics: areas with hearing loops are normally well marked with signage and they can help individuals with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy settings.
Basically, hearing loops use magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Here are a few examples of when an induction loop can be helpful:
- Locations that tend to be loud (including waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
- Spots that tend to have lots of echoes or have poor acoustics.
- Events that rely on amplified sound (like presentations or even movies).
These FM systems are like a walkie-talkie or radio. In order for this system to function, you need two components: a transmitter (normally a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (usually in the form of a hearing aid). FM systems are useful for:
- Anyone who wants to listen to sound systems that use amplification (this includes things like a speaker during a presentation or dialogue during a movie).
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
- Anyplace that is loud and noisy, particularly where that noise makes it difficult to hear.
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational activities.
There are similarities between an infrared system and an FM system. It consists of a receiver and an amplifier. With an IR system, the receiver is usually worn around your neck (kind of like a lanyard). IR hearing assistance systems are ideal for:
- People who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- When you’re listening to one main person speaking.
- Indoor environments. Bright sunlight can interfere with the signals from an IR system. So this type of technology works best in indoor settings.
Personal amplifiers are sort of like hearing aids, but 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 picked up by the microphone. Personal amplifiers come in several different types and styles, which might make them a confusing possible solution.
- These devices are good for people who have very slight hearing loss or only require amplification in specific situations.
- Your essentially putting a really loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be careful not to further damage your hearing.
- Before you use any type of personal amplifier, consult us about it first.
Hearing aids and phones often have difficulty with each other. The sound can get garbled or too low in volume and sometimes you can get feedback.
Amplified phones are an option. Depending on the situation, these phones let you control how loud the speaker is. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- People who only have a difficult time understanding or hearing conversations over the phone.
- Individuals who don’t use Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
- When multiple people in a home use a single phone.
When something happens, these devices (sometimes called signalers or notification devices) use loud noises, vibrations, and flashing lights to get your attention. For instance, when the doorbell dings, the phone rings, or the microwave bings. So when something around your workplace or home requires your consideration, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be conscious of it.
Alerting devices are an excellent solution for:
- When alarm sounds such as a smoke detector could lead to a hazardous situation.
- Anyone whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
- Home and office spaces.
Once again, we come back to the occasionally frustrating connection between your telephone and your hearing aid. When you put a speaker up to another speaker, it causes feedback (sometimes painful feedback). This is essentially what happens when you hold a phone speaker close to a hearing aid.
A telecoil is a way to get around that connection. You will be able to hear all of your calls without feedback as your telecoil connects your hearing aid directly to your phone. They’re great for:
- People who have hearing aids.
- Anybody who regularly talks on the phone.
- Those who don’t have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a mainstay of the way people enjoy media today. You will find captions just about everywhere! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a little easier to understand.
For individuals with hearing loss, captions will help them be able to comprehend what they’re watching even with noisy conversations around them and can work in tandem with their hearing aids so they can hear dialog even if 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 recognized how all of these technologies can be worthwhile to those with hearing loss.
Obviously, every person won’t get the benefit of every type of technology. For example, you might not need an amplifier if you have a phone with good volume control. A telecoil might not even work for you if you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid.
The point is that you have choices. After you begin customizing 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 grandkids.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in specific situations but not all. Call us as soon as possible so we can help you hear better!