What is a cyborg? You most likely imagine a half human, half machine when you think about cyborgs, particularly if you enjoy science fiction movies (these characters are typically cleverly used to comment on the human condition). Hollywood cyborgs can seem extremely bizarre.
But the truth is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. After all, biology has been enhanced with technology.
The human condition is generally 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.
Drawbacks of hearing loss
There are definitely some disadvantages that come with hearing loss.
It’s hard to follow the plot when you go see a movie. It’s even more challenging 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 the result of hearing loss). And this can impact your life in very profound (often negative) ways.
Left untreated, the world can become pretty quiet. That’s where technology plays a role.
How can hearing loss be addressed with technology?
Generally speaking, technology that helps you have better hearing is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. Ok, it does sound a bit technical! The question might arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Where can I get assistive listening devices? What challenges will I face?
Those are all fair questions!
Mostly, we’re accustomed to thinking of technology for hearing loss in a very monolithic way: hearing aids. That’s logical, as hearing aids are a vital part of managing hearing loss. But they’re also just the start, there are many types of assistive hearing devices. And, used properly, these hearing devices can help you more fully enjoy the world around you.
What types of assistive listening devices are there?
Induction loops, also called hearing loops, use technology that sounds really complex. Here are the basics: people who wear hearing aids can hear more clearly in places with a hearing loop which are normally well marked with signage.
Essentially, hearing loops use magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Induction loops are great for:
- Locations that tend to have lots of echoes or have poor acoustics.
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other loud settings.
- Events that rely on amplified sound (like presentations or even movies).
These FM systems are like a walkie-talkie or radio. In order for this system to work, you need two elements: a transmitter (usually a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (often in the form of a hearing aid). Here are a few situations where an FM system will be useful:
- Education environments, including classrooms or conferences.
- An event where amplified sound is being used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Whenever it’s hard to hear due to a noisy environment.
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
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:
- Inside environments. Bright sunlight can interfere with the signals from an IR system. Consequently, inside venues are generally the best ones for this type of technology.
- When you’re listening to one main person speaking.
- Individuals who have cochlear implants or hearing aids.
Personal amplifiers are kind of like hearing aids, just less specialized and less powerful. Generally, they consist of a microphone and a speaker. The microphone picks up sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers come in several different types and styles, which could make them a challenging possible solution.
- These devices are good for people who have very minor hearing loss or only need amplification in select situations.
- Before you use any kind of personal amplifier, speak with us about it first.
- Your essentially putting a very loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be careful not to further damage your hearing.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along swimmingly. Sometimes there’s feedback, sometimes things become a little garbled, sometimes you can’t have a hard time getting the volume quite right.
Amplified phones are an option. 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 situation. These devices are good for:
- Families where the phone is used by numerous people.
- People who only have a hard time understanding or hearing conversations on the phone.
- People who don’t use Bluetooth enabled devices, like their phone or their hearing aid.
When something is going on, these devices (sometimes called signalers or notification devices) use loud noises, vibrations, and flashing lights to get your attention. 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 alert when something around your home or office needs your consideration.
Alerting devices are a good option for:
- Circumstances where lack of attention could be hazardous (for example, when a smoke alarm sounds).
- Anybody whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- When in the office or at home.
- Individuals who periodically take off their hearing aids (everybody needs a break now and then).
So the connection (sometimes frustrating) between your hearing aid and phone becomes evident. The feedback that happens when two speakers are put in front of each other isn’t pleasant. This is essentially what occurs when you hold a phone speaker up to a hearing aid.
That connection can be bypassed by a telecoil. You will be able to hear all of your calls without feedback as your telecoil links your hearing aid directly to your phone. They’re great for:
- Individuals who have hearing aids.
- Anybody who frequently talks on the phone.
- Anyone who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a mainstay of the way people enjoy media today. You will find captions pretty much everywhere! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a bit easier to understand.
For individuals who have hearing loss, captions will help them be able to comprehend 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 if it’s mumbled.
What are the benefits 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.
Obviously, every individual won’t get the benefit of every type of technology. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you may not require an amplifying phone, for example. If you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid, a telecoil may be useless to you.
But you have options and that’s really the point. You can personalize the type of incredible 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 movie theater or the conversation with your grandkids.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and others won’t. Call us right away so we can help you hear better!