People with all types and degrees of hearing loss can benefit from an assistive listening device (ALD). Since the microphone of a typical hearing aid is worn on or behind your ear, its ability to enhance the talker-to-background noise ratio is limited. However, ALDs are designed to increase the loudness of a desired voice, such as a radio, television, or a public speaker, without increasing the background noise. This is because the microphone of the assistive listening device is placed close to the talker or device of interest, while the microphone of the hearing aid is always close to the listener.
Many types of ALDs are available for home use and large public facilities. Some ALDs include alarm clocks, TV listening systems, telephone amplifying devices, and auditorium-type assistive listening systems. Many newer devices are small, wireless, and compatible with a person’s digital hearing aids. Alarms and other home ALDs may be small devices that are placed discreetly on tables, next to the TV, or on the wall.
The ALD may be something small that is:
- Attached directly to the hearing aid.
- Activated through a program in the hearing aid.
- Worn around the neck and transmits sounds wirelessly to the hearing aids.
Candidates for ALDs
Assistive listening devices (ALDs) are not only for people who use hearing aids. Individuals with all degrees and types of hearing loss can benefit from these units. Even people with normal hearing can benefit from assistive listening devices. Some ALDs are used with hearing aids, whereas others are used without hearing aids. Suitable candidates for ALDs include individuals who:
- Suffer from mild to moderate sensorineural hearing deficit secondary to presbycusis, which is age-related hearing loss.
- Were previously exposed to loud noise over a long period of time.
- Have a genetic disorder that resulted in hearing problems.
- Suffered a head injury or ear trauma that rendered them hearing impaired.
Can you Relate to These Statements?
You may be an ideal candidate for an ALD if you relate to some or any of the following statements:
- I often have to strain to hear conversations.
- I am frustrated after struggling to carry on a conversation.
- I have to turn the television and radio up to maximum volume.
- I often accuse loved ones and friends of mumbling.
- I struggle to hear strangers who speak to me.
- I often have to ask people to repeat themselves because I don’t understand what they say.
- People accuse me of speaking loudly when I talk.
- I can hear better out of one ear than the other one.
- When someone is talking, it sounds like their words are jumbled together.
People who need ALDs are not just senior citizens. Rather, the age range varies from young children to older adults, as well as adults with disabilities. If your hearing is significantly impaired, an ALD may be just the type of assistance you need to communicate with the people around you.
Types of ALDs
There are numerous ALDs available today, from sophisticated systems used in theaters and auditoriums to small personal systems used by the individual in his or her daily life. ALDs allow a person to hear others speak and participate in conversations.
Personal Listening Systems
There are several types of personal listening systems available. All are designed to carry sound from the speaker (or other source) directly to the listener and to minimize or eliminate environmental noises. Some of these systems, such as auditory trainers, are designed for classroom or small group use. Personal frequency modulated (FM) systems and personal amplifiers are especially helpful for one-to-one conversations in places, such as automobiles, meeting rooms, and restaurants.
TV Listening Systems
TV listening systems are designed for hearing the TV, radio, or stereo without interference from surrounding noise or the need to use excessively high volume. Models of TV listening systems are available for use with or without hearing aids. These systems allow the family to set the volume of the TV, while the user adjusts only the volume of his or her own hearing requirements.
Direct Audio Input Hearing Aids
Direct audio input hearing aids are hearing devices with direct audio input connections, which are usually wires. These wires can be connected to the TV, stereo, and radio, as well as to microphones, auditory trainers, personal FM systems, and other assistive devices.
Telephone Amplifying Devices
Most, but not all, standard telephone receivers can be used with hearing aids. These phones are called “hearing aid compatible.” The option on the hearing aid to be utilized with landline phones is called the T-Coil. The T-coil is automatically activated on some hearing aids and manually activated on others. Basically, the telephone and the hearing aid’s T-coil communicate with each other electromagnetically, allowing the hearing aid to be used at a comfortable volume without feedback and with minimal background noise.
You should be able to get a hearing-aid-compatible telephone amplifying device from your phone company or almost any retail store that sells telephones. Not all hearing aids have “T” switch technology. Make sure your hearing aids have a T-coil switch before purchasing a new hearing-aid-compatible phone! There are dozens of T-coil and telephone coupling systems. Speak with your Hearing Health Care Provider to get the most appropriate system for your needs.
Modern hearing aids can be used with most cell phones. Importantly, digital hearing aids and digital phones may create constant noise or distortion. There may be significant problems for some hearing aids when used with particular cell phones. Regarding “hands free” cell phone systems, there are many from which to choose, and hearing-impaired users usually benefit maximally by using binaural hands-free systems.
Speak with your hearing specialist before you buy a cell phone or hearing aids.