What’s a cyborg? If your mind gets swept up in science fiction movies, you likely think of cyborgs as kind of half-human, half machine characters (the human condition is frequently cleverly depicted with these characters). You can get some really fantastic cyborgs in Hollywood.
But actually, somebody wearing something as basic as a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. The glasses, after all, are a technology that has been integrated into a biological process.
The human experience is usually enhanced with these technologies. Which means, if you’re using an assistive listening device, such as a hearing aid, you’re the coolest kind of cyborg in the world. And the best part is that the technology doesn’t end there.
Disadvantages 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 affected.
Left unchecked, the world can get pretty quiet. That’s where technology has a role to play.
How can hearing loss be addressed with technology?
Broadly speaking, technology that helps you hear better is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. Ok, it does sound a bit technical! The question may arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Is there someplace I can go and purchase one of these devices? Are there challenges to utilizing assistive listening devices?
Those are all reasonable questions!
Typically, hearing aids are what we think of when we think about hearing aid technology. Because hearing aids are an essential part of managing hearing loss, that’s reasonable. But hearing aids aren’t the only type of assistive hearing device. And you will be able to enjoy the world around you more when you correctly utilize these devices.
What are the different types of assistive listening devices?
Induction loops, also called hearing loops, use technology that sounds quite complex. Here’s what you need to understand: locations with hearing loops are typically well marked with signage and they can help people with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy areas.
Essentially, 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:
- Venues that tend to have a lot of echoes or have low-quality acoustics.
- Events that rely on amplified sound (including presentations or even movies).
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other noisy places.
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 type of system to function. Here are a few scenarios where an FM system will be helpful:
- Civil and governmental environments (for instance, in courtrooms).
- Anyone who wants to listen to amplified sound systems (this includes things like a speaker during a presentation or dialogue during a movie).
- 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 often worn around your neck (kind of like a lanyard). IR hearing assistance systems are great for:
- Individuals who use cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- Indoor settings. Bright sunlight can impact the signals from an IR system. Consequently, inside settings are usually the best ones for this type of technology.
- When you’re listening to one main person talking.
Personal amplifiers are like less specialized and less powerful versions of a hearing aid. In general, they feature a microphone and a speaker. The microphone detects sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers come in numerous different types and styles, which might make them a confusing possible option.
- For people who only need amplification in certain circumstances or have very slight hearing loss, these devices would be a practical option.
- Before you use any kind of personal amplifier, consult us about it first.
- Your basically putting a really loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be careful not to further damage your hearing.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along very well. The sound can get garbled or too low in volume and sometimes there can be feedback.
One option for this is an amplified phone. 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 circumstance. These devices are good for:
- When someone has difficulty hearing phone conversations but hears fine in other situations.
- When numerous people in a home use a single phone.
- Individuals who don’t have Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
Often called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices use lights, vibration, or occasionally loud noises to get your attention when something occurs. When the microwave bings, the doorbell dings, or the phone rings, for instance. This means even if you aren’t wearing your hearing aids, you’ll still be alert when something around your home or office needs your attention.
Alerting devices are a good solution for:
- Anyone whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- Situations where lack of attention could be hazardous (for instance, when a smoke alarm goes off).
- Home and office settings.
- Individuals who periodically remove their hearing aids (everyone needs a break now and then).
So the connection (sometimes discouraging) between your hearing aid and phone becomes evident. When you put a speaker up to another speaker, it creates feedback (sometimes painful feedback). When you put a hearing aid close to a phone, the same thing occurs.
A telecoil is a way to get around that connection. 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:
- Those who do not have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- People who have hearing aids.
- Individuals who use the phone often.
Closed captions (and subtitles more generally) have become a mainstay of the way people enjoy media nowadays. You will find captions pretty much everywhere! Why? Because they make it a little bit easier to understand what you’re watching.
For individuals who have 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 if it’s mumbled.
The advantages of using assistive listening devices
So where can you get assistive listening devices? This question implies a recognition of the advantages of these technologies for individuals who use hearing aids.
Clearly, every person won’t be benefited by every kind of technology. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you may not require an amplifying phone, for example. If you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid, a telecoil may be useless to you.
The point is that you have choices. You can customize the type of amazing 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 specific situations but not all. Call us as soon as possible so we can help you hear better!