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 (the human condition is frequently cleverly depicted with these characters). 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 upgraded with technology.
These technologies usually add to the human condition. So you’re actually the coolest kind of cyborg around if you’re using an assistive listening device. And the best thing is that the technology doesn’t stop there.
Hearing loss negative aspects
Hearing loss certainly comes with some disadvantages.
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 idea what K-pop is, and you never will, but mostly it’s the result of hearing loss). And this can impact your life in extremely profound (often negative) ways.
The world can become really quiet if your hearing loss is ignored. That’s where technology plays a role.
How can technology help with hearing loss?
Broadly speaking, technology that helps you hear better is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. Ok, it does sound a bit technical! You may be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Is there someplace I can go and purchase one of these devices? What challenges will I confront?
Those are all reasonable questions!
Mostly, we’re used to regarding technology for hearing loss in a very monolithic way: hearing aids. That’s reasonable, as hearing aids are a vital part of treating hearing loss. But they’re also just the start, there are numerous kinds of assistive hearing devices. And you will be capable of enjoying the world around you more when you correctly use these devices.
What kinds of assistive listening devices are there?
Often called a “hearing loop,” the technology of an induction loop sounds really complex (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here are the basics: locations with hearing loops are normally well marked with signage and they can help those with hearing aids hear more clearly, even in noisy areas.
A speaker will sound more clear due to the magnetic fields in a hearing loop. Here are some examples of when an induction loop can be helpful:
- Events that rely on amplified sound (including presentations or even movies).
- Lobbies, waiting rooms, and other noisy places.
- Spots that tend to have lots of echoes or have low-quality 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 a few situations where an FM system will be useful:
- Civil and governmental environments (for instance, in courtrooms).
- Education environments, like 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).
- Anyplace that is loud and noisy, especially where that noise makes it difficult to hear.
There are similarities between an infrared system and an FM system. It consists of a receiver and an amplifier. Typically, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. Here are some instances where IR systems can be useful:
- Inside environments. Strong sunlight can interfere with the signals from an IR system. So this type of technology works best in inside spaces.
- Individuals who use cochlear implants or hearing aids.
- Situations where there’s one main speaker at a time.
Personal amplifiers are kind of like hearing aids, but less specialized and less powerful. In general, they feature a microphone and a speaker. The sound is being amplified through the speakers after being picked up by the microphone. Personal amplifiers might seem like a tricky solution since they come in several styles and types.
- These devices are good for people who have very minor hearing loss or only need amplification in select situations.
- For best outcomes, speak with us before using personal amplifiers of any kind.
- Your essentially putting a really loud speaker right inside of your ear so you need to be cautious not to further damage your hearing.
Hearing aids and phones often have trouble with one another. Sometimes you have feedback, sometimes things get a little garbled, sometimes you can’t get the volume quite right.
Amplified phones are an option. Depending on the situation, these phones allow you to control how loud the speaker is. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- 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 primary telephone).
- Families where the phone is used by several people.
- Individuals who only have a hard time hearing or understanding conversations on the phone.
When something is going on, these devices (sometimes called signalers or notification devices) use loud noises, vibrations, and flashing lights to get your attention. When the microwave bings, the doorbell dings, or the phone rings, for instance. This means even if you aren’t using your hearing aids, you’ll still be alert when something around your home or office needs your consideration.
Alerting devices are an excellent solution for:
- Individuals who intermittently remove their hearing aids (everybody needs a break now and then).
- Anybody whose hearing is totally or nearly totally gone.
- When alarm sounds like a smoke detector could create a dangerous situation.
- Home and office spaces.
So the connection (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). When you hold a hearing aid close to a phone, the same thing happens.
That connection can be bypassed by a telecoil. It will link up your hearing aid to your phone directly, so you can listen to all of your conversations without interference or feedback. They’re good for:
- Individuals who do not have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Anyone who frequently talks on the phone.
- Individuals who have hearing aids.
These days, it has become rather commonplace for people to utilize captions and subtitles to enjoy media. Everybody uses captions! Why? Because they make what you’re watching a bit easier to understand.
When you have hearing loss, captions can work in conjunction with your hearing aids, helping you understand mumbled dialogue or making sure you can follow your favorite show even when there’s distracting conversation near you.
The advantages of using assistive listening devices
So, now your greatest question may be: where can I buy assistive listening devices? That’s a good question because it means you’ve recognized how all of these technologies can be advantageous to those who have hearing loss.
Clearly, every individual won’t get the benefit of every kind of technology. For instance, you may 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. After you start personalizing your journey toward being an awesome cyborg, you will be ready to get the most out of your life. So you can more easily hear the dialogue at the movies 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!