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 used to comment on the human condition). You can get some really wild cyborgs in Hollywood.
But actually, somebody wearing something as simple as a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. The glasses, after all, are a technology that has been incorporated into a biological process.
These technologies usually enhance the human condition. So you’re actually the coolest type of cyborg around if you’re using an assistive listening device. And there’s a lot more technology where that comes from.
Drawbacks of hearing loss
There are absolutely some negative aspects that come with hearing loss.
It’s difficult to keep up with the plot when you go see a movie. It’s even harder 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 because of hearing loss). And this can affect your life in very profound (often negative) ways.
Left unchecked, the world can get pretty quiet. This is where technology comes in.
How can technology help with hearing loss?
“Assistive listening device” is the general category that any device which helps you hear better is put into. 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?
These questions are all normal.
Usually, hearing aids are what we think of when we think about hearing aid technology. Because hearing aids are an essential part of dealing with hearing loss, that’s reasonable. But hearing aids aren’t the only kind of assistive hearing device. 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?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology behind an induction loop sounds pretty complicated (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here are the basics: locations with hearing loops are normally well marked with signage and they can help people with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy areas.
A speaker will sound more clear due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. Induction loops are good for:
- Venues that tend to have lots of echoes or have low-quality acoustics.
- Events that rely on amplified sound (including presentations or even movies).
- Settings that tend to be noisy (including waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
These FM systems are similar to a walkie-talkie or radio. In order for this system to work, you need two components: a transmitter (normally a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (often in the form of a hearing aid). FM systems are useful for:
- Education environments, like classrooms or conferences.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
- Whenever it’s difficult to hear due to a loud environment.
- An event where amplified sound is being used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
An infrared system is similar to an FM system. You have an amplifier and a receiver. With an IR system, the receiver is often worn around your neck (sort of like a lanyard). IR hearing assistance systems are great for:
- People who use cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- Scenarios where there is one primary speaker at a time.
- Indoor settings. IR systems are often impacted by strong sunlight. So this type of technology works best in inside spaces.
Personal amplifiers are kind of like hearing aids, just less specialized and less powerful. They’re generally composed of a microphone and a speaker. The sound is being amplified through the speakers after being detected by the microphone. Personal amplifiers may seem like a confusing solution since they come in numerous styles and types.
- These devices are good for individuals who have very minor hearing loss or only need amplification in specific situations.
- You need to be cautious, 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 in your ear, after all.)
- For best results, talk to us before using personal amplifiers of any kind.
Hearing aids and phones often have trouble with one another. The sound can become garbled or too low in volume and sometimes you can get feedback.
Amplified phones are an option. 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 situation. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- People who don’t have their phone synced to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth offered on either their hearing aids or their primary telephone).
- When multiple people in a home use a single phone.
- When somebody has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears okay in other circumstances.
When something is going on, these devices (sometimes called signalers or notification devices) use loud noises, vibrations, and blinking 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 attention, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be aware of it.
Alerting devices are an excellent option for:
- Anyone whose hearing is completely or almost completely gone.
- Home and office spaces.
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
- When alarm sounds like a smoke detector could create a hazardous situation.
Once again, we come back to the sometimes frustrating link between your telephone and your hearing aid. The feedback that happens when two speakers are held in front of each other isn’t pleasant. When you hold a hearing aid close to a phone, the same thing occurs.
A telecoil is a way to get around that connection. It will link up your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can listen to all of your conversations without noise or feedback. They’re good for:
- People who use the phone frequently.
- Those who do not have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Anybody who uses hearing aids.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a normal way for people to enjoy media nowadays. Everybody uses captions! Why? Because they make it a little bit easier to understand what you’re watching.
For people who have hearing loss, captions will help them be able to understand 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.
The rewards of using assistive listening devices
So where can you get assistive listening devices? This question indicates a recognition of the benefits of these technologies for people who use hearing aids.
To be sure, not every solution is right for every individual. 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 type of hearing aid, a telecoil may be useless to you.
The point is that you have possibilities. You can personalize the kind of amazing cyborg you want to be (and you will be amazing, we promise)–so that you can get the most out of life. So you can more easily understand the dialogue at the movie theater or the conversation with your grandkids.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and others won’t. Call us right away so we can help you hear better!