What is a cyborg? You probably imagine a half human, half machine when you think about cyborgs, particularly if you love science fiction movies (the human condition is frequently cleverly depicted with these characters). Hollywood cyborgs can seem wildly outlandish.
But actually, someone wearing something as simple as a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. After all, biology has been enhanced with technology.
The human experience is usually enhanced with these technologies. Which means, if you’re using an assistive listening device, such as a hearing aid, you’re the coolest type of cyborg in the world. And there’s a lot more technology where that comes from.
Hearing loss negative aspects
Hearing loss certainly comes with some drawbacks.
It’s difficult 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 clue what K-pop is, and you never will, but mostly it’s due to hearing loss). And it can be profound (and often negative) how much your life can be affected.
The world can become really quiet if your hearing loss is ignored. This is where technology comes in.
How can hearing loss be managed with technology?
Generally speaking, technology that helps you hear better 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 buy assistive listening 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 logical, as hearing aids are a vital part of treating hearing loss. But they’re also just the beginning, there are many types of assistive hearing devices. And you will be able to enjoy the world around you more when you properly use these devices.
What kinds of assistive listening devices are there?
Induction loops, also known as hearing loops, utilize technology that sounds quite complex. This is what you need to understand: places with hearing loops are normally well marked with signage and they can help people with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy settings.
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:
- Places with bad acoustic qualities like echoes.
- Locations that tend to be loud (including waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
- Presentations, movies, or other events that rely on amplification.
An FM hearing assistance system works much like a radio or a walkie-talkie. A transmitter, usually a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, like a hearing aid, are needed for this type of system to function. FM systems are great for:
- An event where amplified sound is being used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Whenever it’s hard to hear because of a noisy environment.
- Education situations, like classrooms or conferences.
- Civil and governmental locations (for example, in courtrooms).
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:
- Inside environments. Bright sunlight can interfere with the signals from an IR system. As a result, inside settings are generally the best ones for this type of technology.
- Individuals who use cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- When you’re listening to one main person speaking.
Personal amplifiers are sort of like hearing aids, just less specialized and less powerful. In general, they feature a microphone and a speaker. The sound is being amplified through the speakers after being picked up by the microphone. Personal amplifiers come in a number of different types and styles, which may make them a confusing possible solution.
- Before you use any type of personal amplifier, talk to us about it first.
- For people who only need amplification in certain circumstances or have very mild hearing loss, these devices would be a good option.
- You need to be careful, though, these devices can hasten the decline of your hearing, particularly if you aren’t careful. (You’re basically putting an extremely loud speaker right in your ear, after all.)
Hearing aids and phones sometimes have difficulty with each other. Sometimes you have feedback, sometimes things become a bit garbled, sometimes you can’t have a hard time getting the volume quite right.
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 circumstance. These devices are good for:
- People who don’t use Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
- When multiple people in a home use a single phone.
- People who only have a difficult time hearing or understanding conversations on the phone.
Often called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices use lights, vibration, or sometimes loud noises to get your attention when something happens. For example, when the doorbell dings, the phone rings, or the microwave bings. So when something around your workplace or home requires your consideration, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be conscious of it.
Alerting devices are a good solution for:
- Anybody whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- Situations where lack of attention could be dangerous (for instance, when a smoke alarm goes off).
- Home and office spaces.
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
So the link (sometimes frustrating) between your hearing aid and phone becomes evident. The feedback that happens when two speakers are put in front of each other is not pleasant. This is essentially what occurs when you put a phone speaker close to a hearing aid.
That connection can be bypassed by a telecoil. It will connect your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can listen to all of your conversations without noise or feedback. They’re great for:
- Anyone who uses hearing aids.
- Anybody who regularly talks on the phone.
- Those who don’t have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a mainstay of the way people enjoy media today. Everybody uses captions! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a bit 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 near you.
What are the benefits of using assistive listening devices?
So, now your greatest question might be: where can I get assistive listening devices? This question implies a recognition of the advantages of these technologies for people who use hearing aids.
To be sure, not every strategy is right for every individual. For example, you may not need an amplifier if you have a phone with reliable volume control. A telecoil may not even work for you if you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid.
But you have choices and that’s really the point. After you begin personalizing your journey toward being an awesome cyborg, you will be ready to get the most out of your life. It’s time to get back into that conversation with your grandkids.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and some won’t. If you want to hear better, call us today!