What is a cyborg? You likely imagine a half human, half machine when you think of a cyborg, especially if you love science fiction movies (the human condition is often cleverly depicted with these characters). Hollywood cyborgs can seem extremely bizarre.
But the truth is that, technically, anybody who wears a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. After all, biology has been upgraded with technology.
The human experience is usually enhanced with these technologies. So you’re actually the coolest kind of cyborg around if you’re using an assistive listening device. And the best part is that the technology doesn’t end there.
Hearing loss drawbacks
Hearing loss undeniably comes with some disadvantages.
When you go to the movies, it can be difficult to keep up with the plot. Understanding your grandchildren is even harder (some of that is because of the age-gap, but mostly, it’s hearing loss). And this can impact your life in very profound (often negative) ways.
Left untreated, the world can get pretty quiet. That’s where technology plays a role.
How can technology help with hearing loss?
Broadly speaking, technology that helps you have better hearing is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. Ok, it does sound somewhat technical! The question might arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Where can I get assistive listening devices? What challenges will I confront?
Those are all reasonable questions!
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 managing hearing loss. But hearing aids aren’t the only kind of assistive hearing device. And, used properly, these hearing devices can help you more completely enjoy the world around you.
What are the different kinds of assistive listening devices?
Induction loops, also known as hearing loops, utilize technology that sounds really complex. Here are the basics: individuals with hearing aids can hear more clearly in areas with a hearing loop which are typically well marked with signage.
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.
- Venues that tend to be noisy (such as waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
- Places with inferior acoustic qualities like echoes.
These FM systems are like a walkie-talkie or radio. A transmitter, usually a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, such as a hearing aid, are required for this type of system to function. Here are some scenarios where an FM system will be useful:
- Education environments, like classrooms or conferences.
- Whenever it’s difficult to hear because of a noisy environment.
- An occasion where amplified sound is used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
An infrared system is similar to an FM system. It consists of a receiver and an amplifier. With an IR system, the receiver is usually worn around your neck (kind of like a lanyard). Here are some instances where IR systems can be useful:
- Inside environments. Strong sunlight can interfere with the signals from an IR system. So this type of technology works best in indoor settings.
- Individuals who use cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- Situations where there is one main speaker at a time.
Personal amplifiers are kind of like hearing aids, only less specialized and less powerful. In general, they feature a microphone and a speaker. The microphone picks up sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers might seem like a tricky option since they come in various styles and types.
- Your essentially putting a really loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be cautious not to further damage your hearing.
- For individuals who only require amplification in specific situations or have very minor hearing loss, these devices would be a practical choice.
- Before you use any type of personal amplifier, speak with us about it first.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along swimmingly. Sometimes there’s feedback, sometimes things get a bit garbled, sometimes you can’t have a hard time getting the volume quite right.
One option 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 circumstance. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- Individuals who don’t have Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
- Individuals who only have a difficult time understanding or hearing conversations over the phone.
- When multiple 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. 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 attention.
Alerting devices are an excellent option for:
- Anyone whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- Home and office spaces.
- Circumstances where lack of attention could be dangerous (for example, when a smoke alarm goes off).
- People who intermittently take off their hearing aids (everyone needs a break sometimes).
So the link (sometimes discouraging) between your hearing aid and phone comes to the front. When you put a speaker up to another speaker, it creates feedback (sometimes painful feedback). This is basically what happens when you hold a phone speaker up to a hearing aid.
A telecoil is a way to bypass that connection. It will link up your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can hear all of your conversations without interference or feedback. They’re great for:
- People who use the phone often.
- Individuals who do not have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Individuals who have hearing aids.
Nowadays, it has become fairly commonplace for people to utilize captions and subtitles to enjoy media. Everybody uses captions! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a little easier to understand.
For people 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 when it’s mumbled.
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 worthwhile to those who have hearing loss.
Clearly, every person won’t be benefited by every kind 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 kind of hearing aid, a telecoil might be useless to you.
But you have choices and that’s really the point. You can customize 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. It’s time to get back into that 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!