What is a cyborg? You likely imagine a half human, half machine when you think about cyborgs, especially if you enjoy science fiction movies (these characters are typically cleverly used to touch on the human condition). Hollywood cyborgs can seem extremely outlandish.
But actually, somebody wearing something as simple as a pair of glasses could be viewed as a cyborg. After all, biology has been enhanced with technology.
These technologies usually add to the human experience. Which means, if you’re using an assistive listening device, such as a hearing aid, you’re the coolest type of cyborg anywhere. And the best part is that the technology doesn’t end there.
Disadvantages of hearing loss
Hearing loss undeniably comes with some disadvantages.
It’s difficult to keep up with the plot when you go see a movie. Understanding your grandkids is even harder (some of that is because of the age-gap, but for the most part, it’s hearing loss). And this can affect your life in very profound (often negative) ways.
Left unchecked, the world can become pretty quiet. This is where technology comes in.
How can hearing loss be managed with technology?
Broadly speaking, technology that helps you hear better is lumped into the category of “assistive listening devices”. That sounds rather technical, right? You might be thinking: what are assistive listening devices? Is there somewhere I can go and buy one of these devices? What challenges will I deal with?
Those are all reasonable questions!
Typically, hearing aids are what we think of when we consider hearing aid technology. That’s logical, as hearing aids are an essential part of dealing with hearing loss. But hearing aids aren’t the only type of assistive hearing device. And you will be capable of enjoying the world around you more when you properly use these devices.
What kinds of assistive listening devices are there?
Sometimes called a “hearing loop,” the technology of an induction loop sounds pretty complex (there are electromagnetic fields involved). Here are the basics: people with 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. Here are some examples of when an induction loop can be beneficial:
- Locations that tend to have a lot of echoes or have low-quality acoustics.
- Presentations, movies, or other events that rely on amplification.
- Venues that tend to be loud (such as waiting rooms or hotel lobbies).
An FM hearing assistance system works a lot like a radio or a walkie-talkie. A transmitter, typically a speaker or microphone, and a receiver, like a hearing aid, are required for this kind of system to work. FM systems are great for:
- Whenever it’s hard to hear due to a loud environment.
- An event where amplified sound is used, including music from a speaker or sound at a movie.
- Conferences, classrooms, and other educational activities.
- Civil and governmental locations (for instance, in courtrooms).
There are similarities between an infrared system and an FM system. There’s an amplifier and a receiver. Typically, the receiver is worn around the neck with an IR system. IR hearing assistance systems are ideal for:
- When you’re listening to one primary person speaking.
- Inside environments. IR systems are frequently effected by strong sunlight. So this type of technology works best in indoor spaces.
- People who use cochlear implants or hearing aids.
Personal amplifiers are kind of like hearing aids, only less specialized and less powerful. In general, they consist of a microphone and a speaker. The sound is being amplified through the speakers after being detected by the microphone. Personal amplifiers may seem like a confusing option since they come in several styles and types.
- You need to be careful, though, these devices can hasten the decline of your hearing, especially if you aren’t careful. (You’re basically putting a super loud speaker right in your ear, after all.)
- Before you use any type 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 select situations.
Hearing aids and phones often have difficulty with each other. Sometimes you have feedback, sometimes things become a bit garbled, sometimes you can’t get the volume quite right.
Amplified phones are an option. Depending on the circumstance, these phones let you control how loud the speaker is. Here are some things that these devices are good for:
- When somebody has trouble hearing phone conversations but hears fine in other circumstances.
- Individuals who don’t have their phone connected to their Bluetooth hearing aid (or who don’t have Bluetooth offered on either their hearing aids or their primary telephone).
- When numerous people in a home use a single phone.
Sometimes called signalers or notification devices, alerting devices use lights, vibration, or sometimes loud noises to get your attention when something happens. When the microwave bings, the doorbell dings, or the phone rings, for instance. So when something around your workplace or home requires your attention, even without your hearing aids, you’ll be conscious of it.
Alerting devices are an excellent solution for:
- When you take breaks from your hearing aids.
- People with total or near total hearing loss.
- Home and office spaces.
- Situations where lack of attention could be hazardous (for instance, when a smoke alarm sounds).
Again, we come back to the sometimes frustrating connection between your telephone and your hearing aid. When you put a speaker up to another speaker, it produces feedback (sometimes painful feedback). When you hold a hearing aid next to a phone, the same thing happens.
A telecoil is a way to get around that connection. 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 good for:
- Individuals who do not have access to Bluetooth hearing aids or phones.
- Anyone who uses hearing aids.
- Anybody who regularly talks on the phone.
Closed captions (and subtitles more generally) have become a normal way for people to enjoy media today. You will find captions just about 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 combination with your hearing aids, helping you understand mumbled dialogue or ensuring you can hear your favorite show even when there’s distracting conversation nearby.
What are the advantages of using assistive listening devices?
So, now your biggest question may be: where can I purchase assistive listening devices? That’s a good question because it means you’ve recognized how all of these technologies can be advantageous to people with hearing loss.
Obviously, every individual won’t be benefited by every type of technology. If you have a cell phone with easy-to-use volume control, you might not require an amplifying phone, for example. If you don’t have the right kind of hearing aid, a telecoil might be useless to you.
The point is that you have options. You can customize the kind of incredible 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.
Hearing Assistive Technology can help you hear better in some situations but not all. If you want to hear better, call us today!