What’s a cyborg? If your mind gets swept up in science fiction movies, you probably think of cyborgs as sort of half-human, half machine characters (the human condition is frequently cleverly depicted with these characters). Hollywood cyborgs can seem wildly bizarre.
But the truth is that, technically, anyone who wears a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. The glasses, in fact, are a technology that has been integrated into a biological process.
The human experience is generally enhanced using these technologies. So you’re actually the coolest type of cyborg around if you’re using an assistive listening device. And the best thing is that the technology doesn’t end there.
Disadvantages of hearing loss
Hearing loss undeniably comes with some negatives.
It’s difficult to keep up with the plot when you go see a movie. It’s even harder to understand what your grandkids are talking about (part of this is because you have no idea what K-pop is, and you never will, but mostly it’s due to hearing loss). And this can affect your life in very profound (often negative) ways.
Left unchecked, the world can become pretty quiet. That’s where technology has a role to play.
How can hearing loss be addressed with technology?
“Assistive listening device” is the general category that any device which helps your hearing is put into. That sounds pretty technical, right? You might be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Is there somewhere I can go and purchase one of these devices? What challenges will I deal with?
Those are all reasonable questions!
Mostly, we’re used to thinking of technology for hearing loss in a rather monolithic way: hearing aids. That’s logical, as hearing aids are a vital part of managing hearing loss. But they’re also just the beginning, there are numerous types of assistive hearing devices. And you will be able to enjoy the world around you more when you correctly utilize these devices.
What kinds of assistive listening devices are there?
Sometimes called a “hearing loop,” the technology of an induction loop sounds really complex (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here’s what you need to know: people who wear hearing aids can hear more clearly in places with a hearing loop which are normally well marked with signage.
Basically, hearing loops utilize magnetic fields to make a speaker’s voice more clear. Induction loops are great for:
- Events that rely on amplified sound (such as presentations or even movies).
- Venues that tend to be loud (including waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
- Locations that tend to have lots of echoes or have poor acoustics.
An FM hearing assistance system works a lot like a radio or a walkie-talkie. In order for this system to work, you need two elements: a transmitter (normally a microphone or sound system) and a receiver (usually in the form of a hearing aid). Here are some situations where an FM system will be useful:
- Whenever it’s difficult to hear due to a loud environment.
- Anybody who wants to listen to amplified sound systems (this includes things like a speaker during a presentation or dialogue during a movie).
- Courtrooms and other government or civil buildings.
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational activities.
There are similarities between an infrared system and an FM system. You have an amplifier and a receiver. Usually, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. IR hearing assistance systems are great for:
- Indoor environments. IR systems are often impacted by strong sunlight. As a result, inside settings are generally the best ones for this sort of technology.
- People who have cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- When you’re listening to one main person talking.
Personal amplifiers are kind of like hearing aids, only less specialized and less powerful. They’re generally made of a speaker and a microphone. The sound is being amplified through the speakers after being detected by the microphone. Personal amplifiers come in numerous different styles and types, which may make them a confusing possible solution.
- You need to be careful, though, these devices can hasten the decline of your hearing, particularly if you aren’t careful. (You’re basically putting a super loud speaker right in your ear, after all.)
- Before you use any kind of personal amplifier, consult us about it first.
- These devices are good for people who have very minor hearing loss or only require amplification in specific situations.
Hearing aids and phones sometimes have difficulty with each other. Sometimes there’s feedback, sometimes things get a little garbled, sometimes you can’t get 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 situation. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- When multiple people in a home use a single phone.
- People who don’t have their phone synced to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth offered on either their hearing aids or their principal telephone).
- When somebody has difficulty hearing phone conversations but hears okay in other circumstances.
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 requires your consideration.
Alerting devices are a good solution for:
- Circumstances where lack of attention could be dangerous (for instance, when a smoke alarm goes off).
- Home and office spaces.
- Individuals who intermittently remove their hearing aids (everyone needs a break sometimes).
- Anybody whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
So the link (sometimes frustrating) between your hearing aid and phone comes to the front. The feedback that happens when two speakers are put in front of each other is not pleasant. This is essentially what happens when you hold a phone speaker up to a hearing aid.
That connection can be avoided by a telecoil. It will connect your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can hear all of your conversations without noise or feedback. They’re good for:
- Anybody who isn’t connected to Bluetooth in any way.
- Individuals who have hearing aids.
- People who use the phone often.
Closed captions (and subtitles more broadly) have become a mainstay of the way people enjoy media nowadays. You will find captions pretty much everywhere! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a little easier to understand.
When you’re dealing with hearing loss, captions can work in conjunction with your hearing aids, helping you understand mumbled dialogue or making sure you can hear your favorite show even when there’s distracting conversation near you.
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 advantageous to people who have hearing loss.
To be sure, not every strategy is right for every person. For example, you might not need an amplifier if you have a phone with reliable volume control. A telecoil may not even work for you if you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid.
But you have choices and that’s really the point. You can customize the kind of amazing 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 grandchildren.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in some situations but not all. If you want to hear better, call us today!