Do you know what a cyborg is? 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 wildly outlandish.
But the truth is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. The glasses, in fact, are a technology that has been incorporated into biology.
The human condition is generally enhanced using these technologies. Which means, if you’re wearing an assistive listening device, like a hearing aid, you’re the coolest kind of cyborg anywhere. And there’s much more technology where that comes from.
Hearing loss negative aspects
Hearing loss undeniably comes with some drawbacks.
It’s hard 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 it can be profound (and often negative) how much your life can be impacted.
Left unchecked, the world can become pretty quiet. This is where technology comes in.
How can technology alleviate hearing loss?
Generally speaking, technology that helps you have better hearing is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. Ok, it does sound a bit technical! You might be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Where can I get assistive listening devices? What challenges will I deal with?
These questions are all normal.
Mostly, we’re used to regarding technology for hearing loss in a rather monolithic way: hearing aids. Because hearing aids are an essential part of managing hearing loss, that’s reasonable. But they’re also just the start, there are many kinds of assistive hearing devices. And, used correctly, these hearing devices can help you more completely enjoy the world around you.
What kinds of assistive listening devices are there?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology of an induction loop sounds pretty complicated (there are electromagnetic fields involved). This is what you need to know: locations with hearing loops are normally 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. Here are some examples of when an induction loop can be beneficial:
- Venues that tend to be noisy (including waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
- Locations with bad acoustic qualities like echoes.
- Presentations, movies, or other situations that depend on amplification.
These FM systems are similar to 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 (usually in the form of a hearing aid). Here are a few situations where an FM system will be useful:
- Education situations, such as classrooms or conferences.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
- An event where amplified sound is being used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Anyplace that is loud and noisy, particularly where that noise makes it challenging to hear.
An infrared system is a lot like 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). Here are some instances where IR systems can be helpful:
- When you’re listening to one main person talking.
- Inside settings. Bright sunlight can impact the signals from an IR system. So this kind of technology works best in inside spaces.
- People with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Personal amplifiers are a lot like less specialized and less robust versions of a hearing aid. They’re generally made of a speaker and a microphone. The sound is being amplified through the speakers after being detected by the microphone. Personal amplifiers come in several different types and styles, which may make them a confusing possible option.
- Before you use any kind of personal amplifier, talk to us about it first.
- For people who only require amplification in specific situations or have very minor hearing loss, these devices would be a practical choice.
- 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 an extremely loud speaker right inside of your ear, after all.)
Hearing aids and phones often have difficulty with each other. The sound can get garbled or too low in volume and sometimes there can be feedback.
Amplified phones are a solution. 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:
- Individuals who don’t have their phone synced to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth available on either their hearing aids or their primary telephone).
- Individuals who only have a hard time understanding or hearing conversations on the phone.
- Households where the phone is used by multiple people.
When something happens, these devices (sometimes called signalers or notification devices) use loud noises, vibrations, and flashing lights to get your attention. For example, 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 alert when something around your home or office needs your consideration.
Alerting devices are a good solution for:
- Individuals with complete or nearly complete hearing loss.
- Home and office spaces.
- Circumstances where lack of attention could be dangerous (for instance, when a smoke alarm sounds).
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
So the connection (sometimes frustrating) between your hearing aid and phone becomes evident. When you hold a speaker up to another speaker, it causes feedback (sometimes painful feedback). This is essentially what occurs when you put a phone speaker close to a hearing aid.
A telecoil is a way to bypass that connection. 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:
- People who use the phone often.
- Anyone who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
- Anybody who uses hearing aids.
These days, it has become fairly commonplace for people to use captions and subtitles to enjoy media. You will find captions just about everywhere! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a bit easier to understand.
For individuals who have hearing loss, captions will help them be able to comprehend 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 advantages of using assistive listening devices
So, now your greatest question may be: where can I get 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 solution is right for every individual. For example, you might not need an amplifier if you have a phone with good volume control. If you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid, a telecoil may be useless to you.
But you have choices and that’s really the point. After you start 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 understand the dialogue at the movie theater or the conversation with your grandkids.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in some situations but not all. Call us as soon as possible so we can help you hear better!