Hearing Assistive Technology: Beyond the Hearing Aid
Hearing aids may not solve all of your communication problems. You may still have difficulty hearing the television, your alarm clock, a knock on the door, callers on the telephone, events in an auditorium, or communication in an extremely noisy situation. Assistive devices can be useful in these circumstances.
Are there different types of assistive devices for the hearing impaired?
There are two main types of devices: assistive listening devices and alerting devices. Assistive listening devices help with listening. Alerting devices signal the presence of a sound.
Assistive listening devices
There are several types of assistive listening devices designed for different types of situations. Here are a few:
Hearing in background noise
- FM/infrared (IR) system: An FM or IR system can reduce the communication difficulties caused by background noise. An FM system brings the talker's voice directly to you, as if the talker were sitting directly in front of you without the interference of background noise. They can help you hear in noisy places when there is too much distance between you and the speaker, or when you are in a room with poor acoustics.
Hearing the television
- TV listener: This device allows you to listen to the television (or radio) at a louder volume without turning up the television’s volume. A microphone is placed directly in front of the speaker or plugged directly into the television. The signal is then transmitted wirelessly to a receiver worn by the listener. The sound is delivered to the ears by headphones, ear buds (small earpieces), or other devices connected to a receiver. A volume control is adjusted by the wearer to a comfortable level. You are encouraged also to make use of the closed captioning (CC) option on your TV.
Hearing the telephone
- Telephone amplifier: A number of devices are available that can be attached to your telephone to help you hear conversations by increasing the volume of the incoming voice.
- Amplified telephone: You can also purchase a specially designed telephone that not only amplifies sound but also enhances the higher frequencies (pitches), which are important for understanding speech.
Hearing is not only used for communication--it allows you to stay in touch with your environment. Alerting devices can inform you of a number of important warning signals, such as the sounds of the doorbell, telephone, smoke and fire alarms, or an alarm clock. The ability to recognize these signals is important not only for your safety and independence, but for the safety of others around you.
Here are a few different types of alerting devices:
- Fire/smoke alarms: Sometimes, even with hearing aids, it is difficult to hear the signal of a smoke alarm. Additionally, while sleeping you will not be wearing your hearing aids and your hearing loss may prevent you from hearing your smoke alarm. An alerting smoke alarm may alter the characteristics of the alarm’s sound (i.e., loudness or pitch), or utilize a strobe light or vibration to alert you to the alarm.
- Doorbells: Modifications to doorbells include louder chimes or visual alerts, such as a lamp flashing to let you know that the doorbell has rung. These modifications can be made through simple attachments to your doorbell and the alerting device chosen.
- Telephones: Attachments to the telephone or amplified telephones may allow you to modify the telephone ringer so you can be alerted when it rings. Common adjustments that can be made are ringer volume, pitch, and pattern to maximize your ability to hear the phone ring. There are also attachments that may allow for you to plug the ringer into a light to get a visual alert.
- Alarm clocks: There are amplified alarm clocks that allow for a volume and pitch adjustment of the tone of the alarm to make it more audible for your hearing loss. Additionally, a small vibrator can be placed under your pillow or a light can be flashed to wake you up in the morning when your alarm goes off.