Assistive technology can be used in lieu of or in conjunction with hearing aids to enhance the listening experience. The following provides some insight to the available technologies from infants to adults.
A new infant’s only mode of communication is crying. She cries when hungry, tired and so on. But what if one or both parents are unable to hear her cries? Conventional baby monitors allow parents to listen to the baby making sounds. For those who are unable to discern these sounds because of a hearing loss, there are baby monitors that will pick up the baby’s cries and send it to a receiver that vibrates to alert the parents.
Teenagers and college students want to stay connected to their peers and the world around them. Today’s digital hearing aids can wirelessly stream via bluetooth or induction coil neck loops which connect to cell phones, iPods and computers. Vibrating alarm clocks and watches, door monitors and strobing smoke detectors foster emerging independence for deaf or hard of hearing teens, and allow college students to maintain their independence while away at school.
In the work environment, telephone amplifiers or neck loops improve phone communication. Alarm clocks offering louder ring tones, adjustable alarm tones and bed shakers, and vibrating watches help ensure that a professional is on time for work or a meeting. Special products like amplified stethoscopes are available for health professionals.
Aside from improving personal communication, older adults most often report that they would like to hear better over the phone and understand the TV. A variety of amplified telephones - from corded to cordless - are available to improve conversations. Not hearing the phone ring is often a concern expressed by friends and loved ones who are worried about an individual's safety and well-being.
Understanding the television depends upon an individual’s hearing loss and factors such as
- Whether they use hearing aids
- The distance from the speaker
- Type of programming (commercials are always easier to hear and understand than other programs)
- Whether the dialect is the same as the listener
- Speed of the speech to name a few.
Since the early 1990s, all 13-inch televisions must be enabled for closed captioning. Turning the captioning on can help improve comprehension when some or all of the speech is difficult to discern. TV listening devices involve a transmitting device that connects with the TV and wirelessly sends the signal to a headset. TV listening devices help bridge the distance gap between the TV and the listener.
The most important speech sounds for understanding are very weak sounds that do not travel far. By sending the audible signal to the ear, the quality of the sound remains intact, thus improving the ability to hear. Captioning in conjunction with hearing aids or TV listening devices helps maximize understanding.