What’s a cyborg? You most likely imagine a half human, half machine when you think of a cyborg, particularly if you love science fiction movies (the human condition is frequently cleverly depicted with these characters). Hollywood cyborgs can seem wildly bizarre.
But the truth is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. After all, biology has been enhanced with technology.
These technologies typically enhance the human condition. Which means, if you’re using an assistive listening device, such as a hearing aid, you’re the coolest type of cyborg in the world. And there’s much more technology where that comes from.
Hearing loss drawbacks
There are definitely some disadvantages that come with hearing loss.
When you go to see a movie, it can be hard to follow along with the plot. Understanding your grandkids is even more difficult (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 disregarded. That’s where technology has a role to play.
How can technology help with hearing loss?
“Assistive listening device” is the broad category that any device which helps you hear better is put into. Ok, it does sound a bit technical! You may be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Is there somewhere I can go and purchase one of these devices? What challenges will I face?
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 managing hearing loss. But hearing aids aren’t the only kind of assistive hearing device. And, used properly, these hearing devices can help you more completely enjoy the world around you.
What types of assistive listening devices are there?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology behind an induction loop sounds really complicated (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here’s what you need to know: places with hearing loops are typically well marked with signage and they can help people with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy settings.
A speaker will sound more clear due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. Induction loops are good for:
- Locations that tend to have a lot of echoes or have poor acoustics.
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other noisy places.
- Presentations, movies, or other events that depend on amplification.
An FM hearing assistance system works a lot like a radio or a walkie-talkie. In order for this system to function, you need two components: a transmitter (usually a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (often in the form of a hearing aid). FM systems are useful for:
- Anywhere that is loud and noisy, particularly where that noise makes it challenging to hear.
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational events.
- An event where amplified sound is being used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
An infrared system is a lot like an FM system. There’s an amplifier and a receiver. Typically, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. Here are some examples where IR systems can be helpful:
- Indoor environments. Strong sunlight can impact the signals from an IR system. So this kind of technology works best in inside spaces.
- Scenarios where there’s one main speaker at a time.
- Individuals who have cochlear implants or hearing aids.
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 a number of different types and styles, which could make them a confusing possible option.
- Before you use any kind of personal amplifier, talk to us about it first.
- For people who only need amplification in specific situations or have very minor hearing loss, these devices would be a good choice.
- Your basically putting a very loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be cautious not to further damage your hearing.
Hearing aids and phones often have difficulty with one another. Sometimes there’s feedback, sometimes things get a bit garbled, sometimes you can’t get the volume quite right.
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 need, depending on the circumstance. 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 principal telephone).
- When multiple people in a home use a single phone.
- When somebody has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears fine in other circumstances.
Sometimes called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices use lights, vibration, or sometimes loud noises to get your attention when something happens. For example, 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 a good option for:
- When in the office or at home.
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
- When alarm sounds like a smoke detector could lead to a hazardous situation.
- Anyone whose hearing is completely or almost completely gone.
So the link (sometimes discouraging) between your hearing aid and phone becomes evident. When you hold a speaker up to another speaker, it produces feedback (sometimes painful feedback). When you hold a hearing aid close to a phone, the same thing happens.
That connection can be avoided by a telecoil. You will be capable of hearing all of your calls without feedback as your telecoil connects your hearing aid directly to your phone. They’re good for:
- Individuals who have hearing aids.
- Individuals who talk on the phone frequently.
- Anybody who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
These days, it has become fairly commonplace for people to use captions and subtitles to enjoy media. You will find captions pretty much everywhere! Why? Because they make it a little easier to understand what you’re watching.
When you’re dealing with hearing loss, captions can work in conjunction with your hearing aids, helping you understand mumbled dialogue or ensuring you can follow your favorite show even when there’s distracting conversation near you.
What are the advantages of using assistive listening devices?
So where can you buy 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 instance. If you don’t have the right type of hearing aid, a telecoil may be useless to you.
But you have options and that’s really the point. You can customize 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 hear the dialogue at the movies or the conversation with your grandkids.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in specific situations but not all. If you want to hear better, call us today!