What’s a cyborg? If you get swept up in science fiction movies, you probably think of cyborgs as kind 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 the truth is that, technically, anybody who wears a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. The glasses, after all, are a technology that has been integrated into biology.
The human condition is generally enhanced with these technologies. So, if you’re wearing an assistive listening device, such as a hearing aid, you’re the coolest kind of cyborg anywhere. And the best thing is that the technology doesn’t end there.
Hearing loss drawbacks
There are definitely some disadvantages that come with hearing loss.
When you go to the movies, it can be hard to follow along with the plot. Understanding your grandchildren is even more difficult (some of that is because of the age-gap, but for the most part, it’s hearing loss). And it can be profound (and often negative) how much your life can be impacted.
The world can become very quiet if your hearing loss is disregarded. That’s where technology plays a role.
How can technology alleviate hearing loss?
Generally speaking, technology that helps you have better hearing is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. That sounds rather technical, right? You may be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Is there someplace I can go and buy one of these devices? What challenges will I face?
These questions are all standard.
Mostly, we’re used to thinking of technology for hearing loss in a rather monolithic way: hearing aids. That’s reasonable, as hearing aids are an essential part of dealing with hearing loss. But hearing aids aren’t the only kind of assistive hearing device. And you will be capable of enjoying the world around you more when you correctly utilize these devices.
What are the different kinds of assistive listening devices?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology behind an induction loop sounds really complex (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.
Basically, hearing loops use magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Here are some examples of when an induction loop can be beneficial:
- Presentations, movies, or other events that rely on amplification.
- Places with bad acoustic qualities like echoes.
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other loud settings.
These FM systems are like a walkie-talkie or radio. A transmitter, typically a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, like a hearing aid, are needed for this type of system to function. FM systems are useful for:
- Courtrooms and other government or civil places.
- Anywhere that is loud and noisy, especially where that noise makes it difficult to hear.
- Education environments, like classrooms or conferences.
- An event where amplified sound is used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
There are similarities between an infrared system and an FM system. You have an amplifier and a receiver. Typically, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. IR hearing assistance systems are great for:
- Individuals with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- Indoor environments. Bright sunlight can interfere with the signals from an IR system. So this kind of technology works best in inside settings.
- When you’re listening to one primary person talking.
Personal amplifiers are kind of like hearing aids, just less specialized and less powerful. Generally, they consist of a microphone and a speaker. The microphone detects sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers might seem like a confusing option since they come in various styles and types.
- These devices are good for individuals who have very mild hearing loss or only require amplification in specific situations.
- Before you use any type of personal amplifier, consult us about it first.
- You need to be cautious, though, these devices can expedite 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.)
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along very well. Sometimes there’s feedback, sometimes things become a little garbled, sometimes you can’t get the volume quite right.
One solution for this is an amplified phone. Depending on the circumstance, these phones allow you to control the volume of the speaker. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- Individuals who only have a hard time understanding or hearing conversations over the phone.
- People who don’t have their phone connected 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.
Often called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices use 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 using your hearing aids, you’ll still be aware when something around your home or office needs your attention.
Alerting devices are a good option for:
- Anybody whose hearing is completely or almost completely gone.
- Individuals who periodically remove their hearing aids (everyone needs a break now and then).
- Situations where lack of attention could be hazardous (for instance, when a smoke alarm goes off).
- Home and office spaces.
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. When you put a hearing aid close to a phone, the same thing happens.
A telecoil is a way to get around that connection. You will be able to hear all of your calls without feedback as your telecoil connects your hearing aid directly to your phone. They’re great for:
- Anyone who frequently talks on the phone.
- Individuals who do not have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Anybody who uses hearing aids.
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 what you’re watching a bit easier to understand.
For individuals with hearing loss, captions will help them be able to understand what they’re watching even with loud conversations around them and can work in tandem with their hearing aids so they can hear dialog even if it’s mumbled.
The rewards of using assistive listening devices
So, now your greatest question may be: where can I buy assistive listening devices? That’s a good question because it means you’ve recognized how all of these technologies can be advantageous to those who have hearing loss.
Clearly, every individual won’t get the benefit of every kind of technology. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you might 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.
The point is that you have possibilities. You can personalize the type of incredible 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 certain situations but not all. Call us as soon as possible so we can help you hear better!