What are assistive listening devices and why do they matter?
Individuals with a hearing loss sometimes have more difficulty hearing basic technology
Even things that are a part of regular daily life, like telephones ringing or alarm clocks buzzing. Assistive Listening Devices are designed to help those with impaired hearing receive alerts or hear better by amplifying the sounds they create.
Amplified alarm clocks sound off at a higher volume than typical alarm clocks, and they sometimes offer a tactile sensation that helps wake individuals with hearing loss. A typical alarm clock tends to be somewhat loud at about 80 decibels. But those with a moderate or severe hearing loss may not be able to hear sounds that loud without the help of hearing aids, which are usually not worn while sleeping. Amplified alarm clocks can feature up to 110 decibels of sound or more, as well as a physical vibration, to make sure you wake up when you want to.
Amplified phones make life easier for those who sometimes miss their phone calls due to the low volume of the ringer. Those with hearing aids can also sometimes find it difficult to talk on a phone while wearing their hearing devices. Phones that are amplified can make life easier on the speaker by increasing volume through the receiver. On most amplified phones, this volume adjustment can be controlled and can raise the volume 35 decibels or more.
Many amplified phones also come with “emergency memory” — settings that allow you to call people remotely if you’re in an emergency situation. Most phones will come with an adjustable ringer and tone that can be set to your listening and volume preference.
These devices boost the volume of a landline telephone to help individuals with hearing loss communicate better. Many devices offer tone control, which helps with clarity while reducing background noise, and are compatible for most corded home and office phones. The volume boost is typically up to 40 decibels or more in some cases.
Portable telephone amplifiers are also available for those who travel often but still need a boost in volume and clarity during conversation.
Fire alarms are a critical safety component in any household, particularly for those who may have difficulty hearing. Many amplified fire alarms emit tones up to 90 decibels or more and may flash when activated. Some fire alarms come with a flashing wireless component that an individual can keep near their bedside that, in conjunction with the tone, will alert a sleeping person. Some alarms also offer physical notifications that shake or vibrate the bed when necessary, as an additional safety measure.
Personal Sound Amplifiers
Personal sound amplifiers are sometimes similar to hearing aids in style but are not customized to fit the unique contours of your ears or your unique hearing loss. Personal sound amplifiers also sometimes look like older pocket tape players that attach to a belt loop and use mini earphones.
Because these amplifiers are not FDA approved and are not fit to your specific type of hearing loss (high frequency, low frequency, etc.), most personal amplifiers work by amplifying all sounds. While this may help individuals hear the sounds that they can’t hear without amplification, these devices will also amplify sounds that an individual can normally hear, which could make those sounds uncomfortably loud and may lead to hearing damage. Wearers are urged to use caution.
TV Listening Systems
For the hearing impaired, there are several products that make TV listening situations easy. These systems allow a user to listen to TV without disturbing others and are ideal for late-night watching.
Many hearing aids come equipped with a device called a telecoil (or T-coil), which can pick up sounds from systems that use induction loops. These magnetic loops connect wirelessly with the T-coil in your hearing aids to create a personalized, in-ear sound that is already set to your hearing aids’ programming. These systems are available for installation in your own home, and they are great for households with multiple hearing aid users.
If headphones are the preferred method for listening to television, wireless sets are available. Some cover the entire ear, allowing the user to wear their hearing aids and hear sounds that are specific to their unique hearing loss. Other styles are worn more like a doctor’s stethoscope, with smaller speakers that sit directly in the ear. In most cases, this would require the wearer to remove their hearing aids.
There are also closed-caption boxes that decode dialog and display it on your television, allowing for both listening and viewing, to ensure total understanding.