If you have hearing loss, you have likely integrated hearing aids into your daily life. Hearing aids are the most common treatment for hearing loss. These innovative hearing instruments offer ample support, maximum hearing capacity while participating in everyday activities. In addition to hearing aids, there are other types of technologies that support hearing in a range of settings for people with and without hearing loss. This includes assistive listening devices (ALDs) which are designed to make it easier to hear and communicate in public and private environments. ALDs include devices like amplified phones as well as technologies in public spaces that make those settings more accessible.
Types of Assistive Listening Devices
ALDs help further enhance hearing and can seamlessly work with hearing aids. There are several types of ALDs that not only benefit people with hearing loss but also people without the condition. Common types of ALDs include the following:
Hearing Loop Systems. One of the most common types of ALDs is a hearing loop system. These sound systems are in public spaces and are designed to make the audio in those settings more accessible. Hearing loop systems work by using the telecoil feature that most of today’s hearing aids come with. A source of audio in the public venue (bank, classroom, airport, etc.) like an intercom or microphone emits sound. These soundwaves are then sent to an amplifier that sends a current through wires that are typically in the floors and ceilings of that space. This current creates a magnetic field that hearing aids can tap into when the telecoil feature on the device is enabled. Hearing aids are then able to directly receive these signals and manipulate the sound in ways that meet the wearer’s specific hearing needs.
Amplified and captioned phones. Amplified phones can be beneficial for people with and without hearing loss. These phones are equipped with a range of volume settings that can be easily adjusted. People are conveniently able to increase the volume on these phones which reach higher levels without distorting the sound quality. This can make it easier to hear specific types of sound and can benefit people who struggle with hearing higher pitched sounds. Amplified phones can come with additional features like amplified ringtones and captioning. Captioned phones provided a real-time transcription of audio, this makes it easier to follow a conversation. This can be particularly useful for people with more severe types of hearing loss.
FM Systems: radiofrequency listening systems work by transmitting sound from the source of audio to the receiver (or speaker) that is in a hearing aid. In addition to connecting to hearing aids, FM systems can also work with cochlear implants, neck loops, or headphones. You have likely experienced this technology if you have taken a guided tour through a museum!
ALDs for TV: different types of ALDs help with watching TV. This includes using the telecoil option on hearing aids, streaming audio directly to hearing aids by using Bluetooth technology to wirelessly connect the devices, as well as TV-specific headphones.
Alerting Devices: there are also ALDs that are designed to amplify alertness which increases spatial awareness as well as safety. These types of devices use a range of sensory techniques – visual cues, sound amplification, vibrations – to create greater awareness of one’s environment. Examples of alerting devices include alarm clocks that use vibrations rather than sound amplification, doorbells that activate flashing lights, smoke detectors that also use lights and not just alarm sounds.
All types of ALDs are required to be accessible for people with hearing aids. This allows the audio to be directly processed by hearing aids which strengthen sound quality. Additionally, assistive listening devices work in tandem with hearing aids to enhance hearing, sound quality, and spatial awareness in various settings.
With various options of technologies designed to support hearing, navigating your options can be overwhelming. Hearing technology is expensive so learning about the specific types of devices that could best support your specific hearing needs is important. Our practice is invested in sharing resources and providing services that transform your hearing health. Call us today to learn more about ALDs and what could work best for you!