Just as their name implies, hearing aids can help you hear. But sometimes hearing aids aren’t enough. Sometimes your hearing aids need an extra boost to help you hear your best.
Assistive Listening Devices Boost Hearing Aid Abilities
If your hearing aids are current and quality technology fit by a doctoral-level audiologist using real-ear measurement, but you still have problems hearing, then you may be a candidate for assistive listening devices (ALDs) or Hearing Assistive Technologies (HATs).
ALDs/HATs are often helpful in environments where hearing is a challenge, especially in restaurants, large classroom settings or rooms with poor acoustics.
Types of ALDs Available
Fortunately, in 2019, there is a wide range of assistive technologies available. Here are five that are commonly used, but there are even more available. Be sure to talk with your audiologist if you feel your hearing aids could use a “boost.” Your audiologist is an expert in both hearing aids, and assistive listening technology, and can make recommendations for your specific needs.
Bluetooth hearing aids can wirelessly connect your hearing aids with many Bluetooth-enabled electronic devices. The advantages of Bluetooth are many. With direct streaming, it limits competing background noise and allows you to fully enjoy the sounds you really want to hear. Most hearing aid wearers get the greatest benefit when watching TV, talking on the phone, or listening to music. There are even Bluetooth accessories that allow hearing aids without Bluetooth capability to function with Bluetooth-enabled devices (examples include Widex ComDex, Phonak iCom, and ReSound Phone clip).
A personal amplifier is basically a small box with a mic and a listening cord attached to it. Newer versions are all worn at ear-level (such as the Bose HearPhones™). These are most useful for one-on-one, in-person conversations. The corded devices allow the person you are speaking with to attach the mic to their clothing so you can plug it into your personal amplifier and hear more clearly, which can reduce some background noise. The newer ear-level worn personal amplifiers may work with smartphone applications. One advantage of personal amplifiers is that they are relatively inexpensive. Personal amplifiers are not as useful for situations that require you to move around a lot. In addition, they are not as “aesthetic” because of their larger size and lack flexibility in customizing physical and acoustic settings.
Frequency modulation, or FM systems, use radio waves to transmit sound from the sound source to a receiver worn by a person who is hearing impaired. The FM system can be used with behind-the-ear hearing aids with special accessories and receivers that pick up sound directly from a microphone. The microphone can be set up in front of the person speaking or worn around the speaker’s neck.
FM systems are useful in many places, including:
- Nursing homes
- Community or retirement centers
They are also used in theaters, places of worship, museums, public meeting places, corporate conference rooms, and convention centers.
A high-tech option that affords maximum privacy, infrared systems are like FM systems except that instead of radio waves, they transmit sounds using light waves. Since the light waves do not pass through walls, they are useful for situations in which privacy is needed, such as doctors’ offices and court proceedings, etc. Though they are often used for watching TV or in theaters, they have one major disadvantage: any object or person that comes between the listener and the emitter causes the signal to be blocked. Sunlight can also interfere with the signal, making these systems useful for specific situations.
Induction Loop Systems
Those with t-coils in their hearing aids have another option: an induction loop system, which uses an electromagnetic field to carry the sound to the user’s ears. In this system, a loop of insulated wire, which can range from a small loop worn around the neck to a loop that encircles an entire room, is connected to a power source, an amplifier and a microphone. Loop systems are inexpensive as well as versatile, useful for a single t-coil hearing aid user or a group. Mobility is not an issue, as the user is not physically connected to the system; even non-hearing aid users can use the loop system with headphones or a receiver system.