What is a cyborg? If you get swept up in science fiction movies, you probably think of cyborgs as sort of half-human, half machine characters (these characters are usually cleverly utilized to comment on the human condition). Hollywood cyborgs can seem extremely bizarre.
But in reality, somebody wearing something as simple as a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. The glasses, in fact, are a technology that has been incorporated into a biological process.
The human experience is generally enhanced using these technologies. So you’re actually the coolest kind of cyborg in the world if you’re using an assistive listening device. And there’s a lot more technology where that comes from.
Negative aspects of hearing loss
There are absolutely some disadvantages that come with hearing loss.
It’s hard to follow the plot when you go see a movie. 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 it can be profound (and often negative) how much your life can be impacted.
Left unchecked, the world can get pretty quiet. That’s where technology plays a role.
How can technology alleviate hearing loss?
Broadly speaking, technology that helps you hear better is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. That sounds rather technical, right? The question might arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Where can I get assistive listening devices? Are there challenges to utilizing assistive listening devices?
These questions are all standard.
Usually, hearing aids are what we think of when we consider hearing aid technology. Because hearing aids are an essential part of managing hearing loss, that’s reasonable. But they’re also just the beginning, there are numerous types of assistive hearing devices. And you will be able to enjoy the world around you more when you properly utilize these devices.
What types of assistive listening devices are there?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology behind an induction loop sounds pretty complex (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here are the basics: people who wear hearing aids can hear more clearly in locations with a hearing loop which are normally well marked with signage.
Basically, hearing loops utilize magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Here are a few examples of when an induction loop can be beneficial:
- Spots that tend to have lots of echoes or have poor acoustics.
- Presentations, movies, or other events that depend on amplification.
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other loud places.
These FM systems are like a walkie-talkie or radio. In order for this system to work, you need two elements: a transmitter (usually a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (often in the form of a hearing aid). Here are a few scenarios where an FM system will be helpful:
- An event where amplified sound is used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational activities.
- Whenever it’s hard to hear due to a noisy environment.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
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 (sort of like a lanyard). IR hearing assistance systems are great for:
- Inside environments. Bright sunlight can impact the signals from an IR system. Consequently, indoor venues are generally the best ones for this sort of technology.
- Scenarios where there’s one main speaker at a time.
- Individuals with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Personal amplifiers are kind of like hearing aids, just less specialized and less powerful. Generally, they feature a microphone and a speaker. The microphone picks up sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers may seem like a tricky option since they come in several styles and types.
- These devices are good for people who have very mild hearing loss or only require amplification in select situations.
- You need to be cautious, though, these devices can hasten the decline of your hearing, particularly if you aren’t careful. (You’re essentially putting a super loud speaker right inside of your ear, after all.)
- For best results, speak with us before using personal amplifiers of any type.
Hearing aids and phones sometimes have trouble with each other. The sound can get garbled or too low in volume and sometimes you can get feedback.
One solution for this is an amplified phone. Depending on the situation, these phones allow you to control the volume of the speaker. These devices are good for:
- Households where the phone is used by multiple people.
- When somebody has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears fine in other situations.
- Individuals who don’t have Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
Often called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices utilize 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. This means even if you aren’t wearing your hearing aids, you’ll still be alert when something around your home or office requires your consideration.
Alerting devices are an excellent option for:
- When alarm sounds such as a smoke detector could lead to a dangerous situation.
- Anyone whose hearing is completely or almost completely gone.
- Individuals who periodically take off their hearing aids (everyone needs a break now and then).
- When in the office or at home.
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 creates 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 bypass that connection. You will be able to hear all of your calls without feedback as your telecoil links your hearing aid directly to your phone. They’re great for:
- People who have hearing aids.
- Individuals who don’t have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Individuals who talk on the phone often.
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 people 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 when it’s mumbled.
What are the benefits of using assistive listening devices?
So where can you buy assistive listening devices? This question implies a recognition of the advantages of these technologies for individuals who use hearing aids.
To be sure, not every strategy is right for every individual. For instance, you may 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 type of hearing aid.
The point is that you have options. 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 some situations but not all. If you want to hear better, call us today!