What is a cyborg? You probably imagine a half human, half machine when you think about cyborgs, particularly if you love science fiction movies (these characters are usually cleverly used to touch on the human condition). Hollywood cyborgs can seem extremely outlandish.
But the truth is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. After all, biology has been upgraded with technology.
These technologies typically enhance the human condition. So, if you’re using an assistive listening device, such as a hearing aid, you’re the coolest type of cyborg anywhere. And there’s much more technology where that comes from.
Disadvantages of hearing loss
There are absolutely some drawbacks that come with hearing loss.
It’s difficult to follow 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 affected.
The world can become very quiet if your hearing loss is disregarded. This is where technology comes in.
How can technology alleviate hearing loss?
“Assistive listening device” is the general category that any device which helps your hearing is put into. That sounds pretty technical, right? The question may arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Is there somewhere I can go and buy one of these devices? Are there challenges to using assistive listening devices?
Those are all fair questions!
Mostly, we’re used to regarding technology for hearing loss in a very monolithic way: hearing aids. That’s logical, 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 kinds of assistive listening devices are there?
Induction loops, also known as hearing loops, use technology that sounds really complex. Here are the basics: places with hearing loops are usually well marked with signage and they can help those with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy settings.
Essentially, hearing loops utilize magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Induction loops are great for:
- Presentations, movies, or other events that depend on amplification.
- Places with inferior acoustic qualities like echoes.
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other loud settings.
These FM systems are like a walkie-talkie or radio. In order for this system to function, you need two components: a transmitter (usually a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (usually in the form of a hearing aid). Here are some situations where an FM system will be helpful:
- Civil and governmental environments (for example, in courtrooms).
- Education situations, such as classrooms or conferences.
- Anyplace that is loud and noisy, especially where that noise makes it difficult to hear.
- 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. It’s composed of a receiver and an amplifier. Usually, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. IR hearing assistance systems are ideal for:
- People who use cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- Scenarios where there is one primary speaker at a time.
- Indoor settings. Strong sunlight can impact the signals from an IR system. So this type of technology works best in indoor spaces.
Personal amplifiers are a lot like less specialized and less powerful versions of a hearing aid. Generally, they consist 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.
- You need to be cautious, though, these devices can hasten the decline of your hearing, especially if you aren’t careful. (You’re basically putting an extremely loud speaker right in your ear, after all.)
- These devices are good for individuals who have very minor hearing loss or only need amplification in specific situations.
- Before you use any kind of personal amplifier, consult us about it first.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along very well. The sound can become garbled or too low in volume and sometimes there can be feedback.
Amplified phones are an option. Depending on the situation, these phones let you control how loud the speaker is. These devices are good for:
- When someone has difficulty hearing phone conversations but hears okay in other situations.
- People who don’t have Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
- When numerous people in a home use a single phone.
When something happens, these devices (sometimes called signalers or notification devices) use loud noises, vibrations, and blinking lights to get your attention. When the microwave bings, the doorbell dings, or the phone rings, for instance. So when something around your workplace or home needs your attention, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be aware of it.
Alerting devices are a good option for:
- Situations where lack of attention could be hazardous (for example, when a smoke alarm goes off).
- Anyone whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- When in the office or at home.
- People who intermittently take off their hearing aids (everyone needs a break sometimes).
So the connection (sometimes discouraging) between your hearing aid and phone comes to the front. The feedback that occurs when two speakers are held in front of each other isn’t pleasant. This is basically what happens when you hold a phone speaker up to a hearing aid.
That connection can be avoided by a telecoil. It will connect your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can hear all of your conversations without interference or feedback. They’re good for:
- Anyone who uses hearing aids.
- Those who do not have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Anyone who regularly talks on the phone.
These days, it has become rather commonplace for people to use captions and subtitles to enjoy media. Everybody uses captions! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a little easier to understand.
When you have hearing loss, captions can work in conjunction with your hearing aids, helping you understand mumbled dialogue or making sure you can follow your favorite show even when there’s distracting conversation nearby.
The advantages 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 beneficial to people with hearing loss.
Clearly, every individual won’t be benefited by every kind of technology. 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 may be useless to you.
But you have choices 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.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and some won’t. Call us right away so we can help you hear better!