Assistive Listening Devices
What Are Assistive Listening Devices?
Put simply, assistive listening devices (ALDs) are any devices that help a person with hearing loss to communicate more effectively. Often this takes the form of amplifying sound, but voice-to-text technology also falls under the ALD category. Some ALDs work as stand-alone devices, while others are intended to augment a set of hearing aids. Furthermore, some devices are intended to work with any or most types of hearing aids, while some are brand-specific. At Hearing Care Centers, we offer a range of ALDs to work with the hearing aids we sell. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Loop systems work with a set of T-coil-enabled headphones (usually provided on location) or hearing aids. A T-coil (or telecoil) is a type of electromagnetic receiver that was originally intended to make hearing aids work better with telephones. A loop system is a literal loop of wire that surrounds the perimeter of a room, theater, auditorium, or other space. When the wire is charged, it allows all T-coil devices within the perimeter to pick up the sound directly from the loop.
Similar to T-coil systems, FM systems are used in spaces where a more permanent loop system is not installed. They use FM radio waves, the same as the airwaves that radio stations use. A signal from (usually) a microphone is transmitted to a receiver with a small T-coil loop that can be worn around the neck.
These work a lot like FM systems, but use a beam of infrared light to transmit the signal rather than radio waves. These are especially useful where confidentiality is important, since the signal cannot pass through walls, or where too many FM signals are already in use.
Personal amplifiers are useful when the above systems are not installed or available, or when a smaller set of more portable equipment is required. Usually battery-powered, these devices resemble a personal listening device like the Sony Walkman® but contain a microphone and amplifier to boost the signal of surrounding sounds. Some are also capable of reducing background noise to some extent. While these can be handy in many situations, it should be noted that they are not an acceptable substitute for hearing aids.
For most people with hearing loss, T-coil- or Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids will allow for more effective telephone communication. However, we’re not always wearing our hearing aids, especially at night. An amplified telephone can be a good ALD to keep on the bed stand for late night phone calls or emergencies, when hearing aids are not being worn.
Hearing Aid Brand-Specific ALDs
Sometimes called “accessories,” most hearing aid brands offer specific ALDs meant to integrate with their hearing aids. The most popular of these include TV adapters and microphones.
A TV adapter plugs into the audio output of your television. Then, using your Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, you can connect wirelessly to the TV adapter. Assuming everyone in the house has the same brand of hearing aids, multiple sets can be connected at once and volume can be controlled individually via your smartphone app or remote control. This allows everyone in the house to enjoy the TV at their appropriate level! TV adapters, while marketed for use with televisions, can just as easily be connected to computer audio outputs or stereo systems for direct streaming of music or other content.
Sometimes the microphones in your hearing aids are just too far from the source you’re trying to hear, or there’s simply too much background noise. This can be the case when traveling, or in crowded spaces when you’re trying to communicate with a partner, friend or loved one. By using the microphone sold as an accessory to your hearing aids, you can effectively get your ears closer to the voice you want to hear, wherever you may be!