What’s a cyborg? You probably imagine a half human, half machine when you think about cyborgs, especially if you love science fiction movies (these characters are usually cleverly used to comment on the human condition). You can get some truly wild cyborgs in Hollywood.
But the reality is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. The glasses, in fact, are a technology that has been incorporated into a biological process.
These technologies usually enhance the human condition. So, if you’re using an assistive listening device, such as a hearing aid, you’re the coolest kind of cyborg anywhere. And there’s a lot more technology where that comes from.
Hearing loss drawbacks
Hearing loss undeniably comes with some disadvantages.
When you go to the movies, it can be difficult to follow along with the plot. It’s even more challenging to understand what your grandkids are talking about (part of this is because you have no clue 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 untreated, the world can become pretty quiet. That’s where technology has a role to play.
How can technology help with hearing loss?
Broadly speaking, technology that helps you have better hearing is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. Ok, it does sound somewhat technical! The question might arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Is there somewhere I can go and buy 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. That’s reasonable, as hearing aids are an essential part of managing 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 completely enjoy the world around you.
What are the different kinds of assistive listening devices?
Sometimes called a “hearing loop,” the technology of an induction loop sounds pretty complex (there are electromagnetic fields involved). 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.
A speaker will sound more clear due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. Here are some examples of when an induction loop can be helpful:
- Locations that tend to have a lot of echoes or have low-quality acoustics.
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other loud settings.
- Presentations, movies, or other situations that rely on amplification.
An FM hearing assistance system works much like a radio or a walkie-talkie. A transmitter, typically a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, such as a hearing aid, are required for this kind of system to function. FM systems are great for:
- Whenever it’s hard 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.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
- Education situations, including classrooms or conferences.
An infrared system is a lot like an FM system. It consists of a receiver and an amplifier. Typically, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. IR hearing assistance systems are ideal for:
- Individuals who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- Indoor settings. Bright sunlight can impact the signals from an IR system. So this kind of technology works best in indoor spaces.
- Scenarios where there is one primary speaker at a time.
Personal amplifiers are sort of like hearing aids, just less specialized and less powerful. They’re generally made of a microphone and a speaker. The microphone picks up sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers may seem like a confusing option since they come in several styles and types.
- Before you use any kind of personal amplifier, talk to us about it first.
- These devices are good for individuals who have very minor hearing loss or only require amplification in select situations.
- Your basically putting a really loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be careful not to further damage your hearing.
Hearing aids and phones often have trouble with one another. The sound can get garbled or too low in volume and sometimes there can be feedback.
Amplified phones are a solution. Depending on the situation, these phones let you control the volume of the speaker. These devices are good for:
- Families where the phone is used by numerous people.
- When somebody has difficulty hearing phone conversations but hears fine in other situations.
- People who don’t use Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
When something is going on, 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. This means even if you aren’t using your hearing aids, you’ll still be aware when something around your home or office needs your consideration.
Alerting devices are a good solution for:
- Those who have complete or nearly complete hearing loss.
- Circumstances where lack of attention could be dangerous (for example, when a smoke alarm sounds).
- Home and office settings.
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
Once again, we come back to the sometimes frustrating connection between your telephone and your hearing aid. The feedback that happens when two speakers are put in front of each other isn’t pleasant. This is essentially what occurs when you put a phone speaker up to a hearing aid.
That connection can be bypassed by a telecoil. 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:
- Anybody who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
- People who have hearing aids.
- Anybody who frequently talks on the phone.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a normal way for people to enjoy media nowadays. You will find captions just about everywhere! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a little easier to understand.
When you’re dealing with hearing loss, captions can work in combination with your hearing aids, helping you understand mumbled dialogue or ensuring you can follow your favorite show even when there’s distracting conversation nearby.
What are the benefits of using assistive listening devices?
So where can you buy assistive listening devices? That’s a good question because it means you’ve recognized how all of these technologies can be beneficial to those who have hearing loss.
To be sure, not every strategy is right for every person. For example, you might not need an amplifier if you have a phone with good volume control. If you don’t have the right type of hearing aid, a telecoil might be useless to you.
The point is that you have options. After you begin customizing your journey toward being an awesome cyborg, you will be ready to get the most out of your life. So you can more easily hear the dialogue at the movies or the conversation with your grandchildren.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in specific situations but not all. If you want to hear better, call us today!