What’s a cyborg? If your mind gets swept up in science fiction movies, you likely think of cyborgs as kind of half-human, half machine characters (these characters are typically cleverly used to comment on the human condition). You can get some truly wild cyborgs in Hollywood.
But the reality is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be considered a cyborg. The glasses, after all, are a technology that has been integrated into a biological process.
These technologies typically enhance the human condition. So, if you’re wearing an assistive listening device, such as a hearing aid, you’re the coolest kind of cyborg anywhere. And the best part is that the technology doesn’t stop there.
Negative aspects of hearing loss
There are absolutely some negative aspects that come with hearing loss.
It’s difficult to keep up with the plot when you go see a movie. It’s even harder to make out 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 because of hearing loss). And it can be profound (and often negative) how much your life can be impacted.
The world can become very quiet if your hearing loss is neglected. That’s where technology has a role to play.
How can hearing loss be addressed with technology?
Broadly speaking, technology that helps you hear better is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. Ok, it does sound somewhat technical! You may be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Is there someplace I can go and purchase one of these devices? Are there challenges to using assistive listening devices?
These questions are all standard.
Typically, hearing aids are what we think of when we consider hearing aid technology. 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 types of assistive listening devices are there?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology behind an induction loop sounds really complex (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here are the basics: places with hearing loops are typically 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. Here are a few examples of when an induction loop can be helpful:
- Presentations, movies, or other situations that depend on amplification.
- Locations with inferior acoustic qualities like echoes.
- Venues that tend to be loud (such as waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
These FM systems are similar to a walkie-talkie or radio. A transmitter, usually a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, like a hearing aid, are needed for this kind of system to work. FM systems are great for:
- Civil and governmental locations (for instance, in courtrooms).
- Whenever it’s difficult to hear because of a noisy environment.
- Education environments, including classrooms or conferences.
- Anybody who wants to listen to sound systems that use amplification (this includes things like a speaker during a presentation or dialogue during a movie).
There are similarities between an infrared system and an FM system. It’s composed of a receiver and an amplifier. With an IR system, the receiver is often worn around your neck (sort of like a lanyard). Here are some examples where IR systems can be useful:
- Inside settings. IR systems are frequently impacted by strong sunlight. Consequently, inside settings are usually the best ones for this type of technology.
- When you’re listening to one main person speaking.
- People with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Personal amplifiers are a lot like less specialized and less powerful versions of a hearing aid. They’re generally made of 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 could make them a confusing possible option.
- For people who only need amplification in certain situations or have very mild hearing loss, these devices would be a good choice.
- You need to be cautious, though, these devices can hasten the decline of your hearing, particularly if you aren’t careful. (You’re essentially putting a super loud speaker right inside of your ear, after all.)
- For best results, speak with us before using personal amplifiers of any type.
Hearing aids and phones often have trouble with each other. The sound can become garbled or too low in volume and sometimes there can be feedback.
One solution for this is an amplified phone. 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 need, depending on the circumstance. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- Individuals who don’t have their phone synced to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth available on either their hearing aids or their primary telephone).
- When someone has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears okay in other situations.
- When numerous people in a home use a single phone.
Often called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices utilize lights, vibration, or sometimes loud noises to get your attention when something happens. For instance, when the doorbell dings, the phone rings, or the microwave bings. This means even if you aren’t wearing your hearing aids, you’ll still be aware when something around your home or office needs your attention.
Alerting devices are an excellent option for:
- Situations where lack of attention could be hazardous (for example, when a smoke alarm sounds).
- When in the office or at home.
- People with total or near total hearing loss.
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
So the link (sometimes discouraging) between your hearing aid and phone comes to the front. When you hold a speaker up to another speaker, it produces feedback (sometimes painful feedback). This is essentially what occurs when you hold a phone speaker up to a hearing aid.
That connection can be avoided by a telecoil. You will be able to hear all of your calls without feedback as your telecoil connects your hearing aid directly to your phone. They’re great for:
- Individuals who have hearing aids.
- Individuals who don’t have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Anybody who frequently talks on the phone.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a normal way for people to enjoy media nowadays. Everybody uses captions! Why? Because they make it a little bit easier to understand what you’re watching.
For individuals with 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 if it’s mumbled.
What are the advantages of using assistive listening devices?
So where can you get assistive listening devices? This question implies a recognition of the benefits of these technologies for people who use hearing aids.
To be sure, not every solution is right for every person. For instance, you may not need an amplifier if you have a phone with good volume control. A telecoil may not even work for you if you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid.
The point is that you have possibilities. 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 grandchildren.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and some won’t. If you want to hear better, call us today!