The technology available for people with hearing loss is constantly expanding, and even hearing aids themselves have advanced dramatically in recent years.
Hearing loss can alter the way we experience and interact with our environment. From conversations with family and friends to work and hobbies, hearing aids make all of these interactions easier for those with treatable sensorineural hearing loss. However, when hearing aids aren’t an option or aren’t enough, there are assistive listening devices or ALDs, that can help.
Hearing Aid Technology
There are three main ways that hearing aids can receive outside information from something other than the microphone built within them. These methods can be used to improve sound in areas where hearing aids aren’t enough.
- Bluetooth– Bluetooth technology is included in many phones and music-listening devices. Hearing aids now have the option of Bluetooth technology as well. This means that when using a cellphone with hearing aids (both with Bluetooth), the user can relay the sounds to their hearing device. This is very helpful, as using phones or headphones with hearing aids can be challenging.
- Telecoil- Telecoils or t-coils are small copper wires inside your hearing aids. Many large public spaces such as movie theaters, airports, and concerts may use a system called a loop system. Loop systems are similar to Bluetooth in that they transmit sound into your hearing device, however loop systems are used in public spaces for multiple people rather than individually in your own device(s). A copper wire is looped around the venue to transmit sound to the telecoil in your hearing device. Many hearing aids have telecoils, however they do need to be activated by your hearing health provider.
- Direct Audio Input (DAI)- DAI is used less frequently today with the advancement of other technology like Bluetooth and telecoils. DAI is a way to directly connect an external device to your hearing aid, such as a music-playing device or television.
Assistive Listening Devices
There are many ALDs available for use in the home as well as in public places. They can work with some of the technology that comes with hearing aids as well as on their own without a hearing aid.
- FM/DM systems– FM/DM systems can be used with or without hearing aids. The speaker wears a microphone, usually around their neck, and the listener wears a receiver. The receiver can be transmitting the sound either into hearing devices or headphones for the non-hearing aid wearer. These are used effectively in classroom or meeting settings as well as in a noisy environment such as a restaurant to help reduce background noise for the listener.
- Alerting devices– These are not just important, but in some cases they can be lifesaving. They are commonly used items such as alarm clocks and doorbell accessories that are made for the hearing impaired. They use amplified sounds, lights, or vibrations in the home to alert the user. Similarly, there are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that are made for the hearing impaired using strobe lights and amplified noises.
- Captions- Subtitles are commonly used on televisions by the hearing impaired. There are caption glasses and devices that can be used at movie theaters as well as open caption options at some movie theaters. There are also caption-enabled phones that can be used in the home. Caption-enabled apps on cell phones can be used not only for calls but also for in-person conversations.
- Telephones- Telephones, both landlines and cell phones, have many ways to assist the hearing impaired. In addition to caption-enabled phones, they also have amplified phones that can specifically amplify higher pitches, which are the most commonly affected by age-related hearing loss. It is now law that all cell phones or smartphones must be hearing aid compatible. Furthermore, both amplified phones and cell phones have the ability to set a flashing light alert instead of just ringing for a call or text.
Hearing loss can make connecting to people and the environment around us more difficult, but hearing aids and assistive listening devices can make a big difference. If you are interested in learning more about the options available to you, we’re here to help! Contact us today to schedule a consultation.