What’s 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 usually cleverly utilized to comment on the human condition). Hollywood cyborgs can seem wildly outlandish.
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.
These technologies typically enhance the human experience. Which means, if you’re wearing an assistive listening device, like a hearing aid, you’re the coolest type of cyborg anywhere. And the best thing is that the technology doesn’t stop there.
Hearing loss drawbacks
There are absolutely some negative aspects that come with hearing loss.
When you go to see a movie, it can be hard to follow along with the plot. Understanding your grandkids is even harder (some of that is attributable to the age-gap, but for the most part, it’s hearing loss). And this can impact your life in extremely profound (often negative) ways.
Left unchecked, the world can get pretty quiet. That’s where technology has a role to play.
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”. That sounds rather technical, right? The question might arise: exactly what are assistive listening devices? Is there somewhere I can go and buy one of these devices? What challenges will I confront?
These questions are all normal.
Typically, hearing aids are what we think of when we think about hearing aid technology. Because hearing aids are an essential part of dealing with 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 fully enjoy the world around you.
What kinds of assistive listening devices are there?
Induction loops, also called hearing loops, utilize technology that sounds really complex. This is what you need to know: people who wear hearing aids can hear more clearly in places 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 helpful:
- Venues that tend to be loud (such as waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
- Venues that tend to have lots of echoes or have low-quality acoustics.
- Events that rely on amplified sound (including presentations or even movies).
These FM systems are similar to a walkie-talkie or radio. A transmitter, typically a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, such as a hearing aid, are needed for this type of system to work. Here are a few situations where an FM system will be useful:
- Courtrooms and other government or civil places.
- Anyplace that is loud and noisy, particularly where that noise makes it challenging to hear.
- Anyone who wants to listen to sound systems that use amplification (this includes things like a speaker during a presentation or dialogue during a movie).
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational events.
An infrared system is similar to an FM system. There’s an amplifier and a receiver. Usually, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. Here are some examples where IR systems can be useful:
- Individuals who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- Situations where there is one main speaker at a time.
- Inside settings. IR systems are frequently effected by strong sunlight. So this type of technology works best in inside spaces.
Personal amplifiers are sort of like hearing aids, just less specialized and less powerful. Generally, they feature a microphone and a speaker. The microphone picks up sounds and amplifies them through a speaker. Personal amplifiers come in numerous different types and styles, which might make them a challenging possible solution.
- You need to be cautious, though, these devices can expedite the decline of your hearing, especially if you aren’t careful. (You’re essentially putting a super loud speaker right inside of your ear, after all.)
- These devices are good for individuals who have very slight hearing loss or only need amplification in select situations.
- Before you use any type of personal amplifier, consult us about it first.
Phones and hearing aids don’t always get along very well. The sound can become garbled or too low in volume and sometimes there can be feedback.
Amplified phones are a solution. These devices give you control over the volume of the phone’s speaker, so you can make it as loud or quiet as you need, depending on the situation. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- Individuals who only have a difficult time hearing or understanding conversations on the phone.
- Families where the phone is used by several people.
- People who don’t have their phone connected to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth available on either their hearing aids or their principal telephone).
When something is going on, these devices (sometimes called signalers or notification devices) use loud noises, vibrations, and blinking lights to get your attention. When the microwave bings, the doorbell dings, or the phone rings, for example. This means even if you aren’t wearing your hearing aids, you’ll still be aware when something around your home or office requires your consideration.
Alerting devices are a good solution for:
- Situations where lack of attention could be hazardous (for example, when a smoke alarm sounds).
- Those with complete or nearly complete hearing loss.
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
- Home and office spaces.
Again, we come back to the sometimes frustrating link between your telephone and your hearing aid. When you hold a speaker up to another speaker, it creates feedback (sometimes painful feedback). This is basically what happens when you put a phone speaker up to a hearing aid.
A telecoil is a way to bypass that connection. You will be capable of hearing all of your calls without feedback as your telecoil links your hearing aid directly to your phone. They’re good for:
- Anybody who uses hearing aids.
- Those who do not have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- People who talk on the phone often.
Closed captions (and subtitles more generally) have become a mainstay of the way people enjoy media today. Everybody uses captions! Why? Because they make it a little easier to understand what you’re watching.
For individuals with hearing loss, captions will help them be able to understand what they’re watching even with noisy conversations around them and can work together 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? This question indicates a recognition of the benefits of these technologies for individuals who use hearing aids.
Clearly, every individual won’t be benefited by every kind of technology. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you might not require an amplifying phone, for example. A telecoil might not even work for you if you don’t have the right type of hearing aid.
The point is that you have possibilities. 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 understand the dialogue at the movie theater or the conversation with your grandchildren.
Some situations will call for assistive listening technology and others won’t. Call us as soon as possible so we can help you hear better!