What’s a cyborg? If you get swept up in science fiction movies, you likely think of cyborgs as kind of half-human, half machine characters (the human condition is often cleverly portrayed with these characters). Hollywood cyborgs can seem extremely outlandish.
But the truth is that, technically, anybody who wears a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. After all, biology has been enhanced with technology.
These technologies typically add to the human condition. So, if you’re using an assistive listening device, like 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 absolutely some drawbacks that come with hearing loss.
When you go to see a movie, it can be difficult to keep up with the plot. Understanding your grandkids is even harder (some of that is due to 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.
Left untreated, the world can become pretty quiet. This is where technology comes in.
How can technology help with hearing loss?
Broadly speaking, technology that helps you hear better is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. 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? What challenges will I deal with?
Those are all fair questions!
Mostly, we’re accustomed to regarding technology for hearing loss in a very monolithic way: hearing aids. Because hearing aids are a crucial part of managing hearing loss, that’s reasonable. But hearing aids aren’t the only type of assistive hearing device. And, used correctly, these hearing devices can help you more completely enjoy the world around you.
What kinds of assistive listening devices are there?
Sometimes called a “hearing loop,” the technology of an induction loop sounds really complex (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here are the basics: locations with hearing loops are typically 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:
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other noisy places.
- Events that depend on amplified sound (like presentations or even movies).
- Locations with bad acoustic qualities like echoes.
These FM systems are like a walkie-talkie or radio. A transmitter, typically a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, such as a hearing aid, are required for this kind of system to work. Here are some scenarios where an FM system will be helpful:
- Civil and governmental environments (for example, in courtrooms).
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational activities.
- An event where amplified sound is being used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Anywhere that is loud and noisy, particularly where that noise makes it difficult to hear.
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. Here are some examples where IR systems can be helpful:
- Indoor settings. Strong sunlight can interfere with the signals from an IR system. As a result, indoor settings are generally the best ones for this sort of technology.
- When you’re listening to one primary person speaking.
- Individuals who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Personal amplifiers are kind of like hearing aids, only less specialized and less powerful. In general, they consist of a microphone and a speaker. The microphone detects sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers may seem like a confusing option since they come in several styles and types.
- For best outcomes, consult us before using personal amplifiers of any type.
- You need to be cautious, though, these devices can expedite the decline of your hearing, especially if you aren’t careful. (You’re basically putting a super loud speaker right inside of your ear, after all.)
- These devices are good for individuals who have very mild hearing loss or only require amplification in select situations.
Hearing aids and phones often have difficulty with each other. Sometimes you have feedback, sometimes things become a bit garbled, sometimes you can’t get the volume quite right.
One solution for this is an amplified phone. These devices give you control over the volume of the phone’s speaker, so you can make it as loud or quiet as you want, depending on the situation. 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).
- Households where the phone is used by numerous people.
- People who only have a difficult time hearing or understanding conversations on the phone.
Sometimes called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices use lights, vibration, or sometimes loud noises to get your attention when something occurs. When the microwave bings, the doorbell dings, or the phone rings, for instance. 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 option for:
- Circumstances where lack of attention could be hazardous (for instance, when a smoke alarm sounds).
- Anybody whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
- Home and office settings.
So the link (sometimes frustrating) between your hearing aid and phone becomes evident. When you put a speaker up to another speaker, it produces feedback (sometimes painful feedback). When you put a hearing aid next to a phone, the same thing happens.
A telecoil is a way to bypass that connection. You will be able to hear all of your calls without feedback as your telecoil links your hearing aid directly to your phone. They’re good for:
- Anyone who frequently talks on the phone.
- Anyone who uses hearing aids.
- Anybody who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
These days, it has become fairly commonplace for people to utilize captions and subtitles to enjoy media. Everyone uses captions! Why? Because they make it a little bit easier to understand what you’re watching.
For individuals who have hearing loss, captions will help them be able to comprehend what they’re watching even with noisy conversations around them and can work together 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? That’s a good question because it means you’ve acknowledged how all of these technologies can be advantageous to people with hearing loss.
Clearly, every person won’t get the benefit of every type of technology. For instance, you might not need an amplifier if you have a phone with reliable volume control. If you don’t have the right type of hearing aid, a telecoil may be useless to you.
But you have choices and that’s really the point. You can personalize the type 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.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and some won’t. Call us right away so we can help you hear better!