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Posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Assistive Listening Devices for Clearer Hearing

Man using bullhorn to communicate with woman holding trumpet to ear.

Poor room acoustics, a greater distance to the speaker, and background noise are all elements that can inhibit the sound quality of hearing aids. This means that a higher volume cannot make up for the interference, so understanding what is being said becomes a real chore. In these cases it helps to clarify the signal into your hearing aids by eliminating background noise and acoustical reverberations. This clearer hearing is best accomplished with an assistive listening device (ALD).

The ability of today’s hearing devices to interact with new technologies allows hard of hearing people to enjoy the same devices as everyone else without distracting background noise.

When a listening environment poses challenges for hearing aids, such as background noise or greater distance to the speaker, an auditory assistive listening device can help bridge the gap. An assistive listening device (ALD) uses assistive listening systems (ALS) to convey sound, making the sound source clear. Assistive listening systems include Bluetooth®, FM (frequency modulation), and Induction Loops. In choosing an ALD, you should know which assistive listening system your hearing aids most easily supports. Then you can figure out which ALD best fits your hearing needs. If you do not know whether your hearing aid is Bluetooth® compatible or if it has a telecoil (needed for induction loop technology) consult with your hearing health care professional.

Why use an Assistive Listening Device?

• There is a greater distance from the listener and the sound source impeding normal listening.
• Background noise is louder than the sound a listener wishes to focus upon.
• The acoustics within the room muffle or distort sounds.
• Reverberations in the structure, under foot, above or all around create distraction or disrupt sound entirely.

Assistive Listening Devices Explained

Assistive listening devices used to make sounds clearer typically consist of three parts, a microphone, transmitter, and a receiver. It's really that simple. And depending on the size of the room, function, and available technologies the number of components can be even less.

Microphone: With many ALD's a microphone is part of a transmitter that is placed near the speaker or sound source. The sound signal from the microphone is captured via the transmitter and sent to a receiver. Today there are dual microphone ALD's available that allow for omni directional (for larger areas) or directional (for smaller areas) functions, improving even more on the clarity of sounds. Smaller, personal hearing aid accessories meant to connect people at a restaurant or in a car, can be simpler. In this case, a microphone worn by the speaker transmits directly to the hearing aid eliminating the receiver--the hearing aid is the receiver.

Transmitters: A transmitter captures the sound from a microphone placed near a speaker, television, or computer. Note: In some cases, the transmitter can be connected directly to a sound source as with a television. Examples of FM transmitters would include Phonak's, Inspiro, Smartlink+, Zoomlink+, and Easylink+ or Oticon's, Amigo. Bluetooth®, like the Oticon Streamer or Phonak's iCube, can pair with a Bluetooth enabled device and stream sound data directly to hearing aids. For television, DVD, computers that are not Bluetooth® enabled, a separate system can be connected to convey the information to the Bluetooth® transmitter. For telecoil use the transmitter can be an induction loop, a wire strung around a room or public place hooked into a sound source or address system or a smaller device carried or worn on a person. (Hearing aids designed for use with telecoils often have a setting that enables them to be turned off or on.)

Receivers: Receivers collect sound from the transmitter and relay it directly to the hearing aids. Some receivers have controls on them that allow a person to higher or lower the transmitter. Receivers come in many styles and are usually worn on the body, in a pocket, or around the neck. A receiver can be already inside the hearing aids as is the case with some tele coils, FM systems, and Bluetooth®, or it can be a small device attached to the bottom of a hearing aid, or it can be a separate device that wirelessly connects to the hearing aid. A receiver can also connect to a hearing aid via a direct access input (DAI)-- a cord plugged into the back of a BTE hearing aids, a silhouette, or a neck loop.

Assistive listening devices serve an important function, allowing people with hearing loss the same accessibility to information and communication as people with average hearing. But even people with average hearing can have difficulty hearing in some settings. Poor classroom acoustics and larger and more active public venues mean that assistive listening devices are also aiding those with average hearing. If you are interested in discovering more about how to improve your hearing or boost the signal to your hearing aids with these exciting accessories, visit your audiologist or hearing healthcare professional.

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▪ The 3 different types of hearing loss
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▪ 8 different hearing aid styles
▪ Advances in digital and wireless hearing aid technology.

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