Posted on Monday, April 16, 2012

Hearing Aids: Background Noise Solutions

Orchestra in hall from far away. Large venues are easier to hear in with assistive listening devices

Thanks to recent technological advances, people with hearing loss have seen the old myths about hearing aids--big and loud with feedback problems, fall by the wayside. Today's sleek and stylish hearing aids are discreet and come with many amazing features like directional microphones and remote controls. But just as distance can impede sight, requiring people to use binoculars, there are situations in which listening, even with today's advanced hearing technologies, becomes difficult. That's why there are systems for delivering sound data that can be paired with hearing aids, compensating for poor room acoustics, greater distance to the speaker, and background noise.

Assistive listening devices (ALD) reduce the problems with distance, poor acoustics, and background noise by providing signals that can be received directly into hearing aids. There are an array of assistive listening products, but three basic types of data delivery systems or assistive listening systems (ALS): FM system, induction loop systems, or Bluetooth technology. All target speakers or announcements in larger rooms like auditoriums, airports, classrooms, and boardrooms. These systems help eliminate the problems with signal to noise ratio (SNR). SNR is a measure of the desired sound or signal in competition with background noise. The higher the sound of the signal compared to background noise the easier it is to understand. The SNR has to be higher for many people with hearing loss to comprehend speech over background noise.

Hearing aid accessories or assistive listening devices stretch the performance of a hearing aid by increasing the signal to noise ratio (SNR) helping to reduce background noise.

Personal FM system cuts background noise, by eliminating the distance from the speaker to the transmitter. FM systems use a microphone worn or placed by the speaker—say in a boardroom or classroom that transmits directly to a receiver that relates the signal to the hearing aid. This means that the subject under discussion is heard without background noise. FM devices of today are smaller and more manageable than the devices of the past. These small devices can be of great use, especially to children in the classroom. Examples of devices that use an FM delivery system include, Widex's SCOLA FM, Oticon's Amigo, and Phonak's Inspiro or EasyLink.

You can boost the signal of your hearing aids making communication in restaurants or listening in large or crowded environments easier.

An Induction Loop is a coil strung around a home, public venue, church or car that creates a magnetic field picked up by the T-coil in 90% of today's hearing aids. This magnetic field both receives and delivers speeches, announcements, and other essential information directly into the hearing aid, making distance and background noise irrelevant. (T-coils are also found in Cochlear implants). A home induction loop can be easily created linking hearing aids to television, stereo, and computer. Telephone landlines have t-coil technology installed as standard, but most cell phones would require a supplemental receiver.

Induction loops are gaining popularity in public places, helping to bridge the communication gap for the hard of hearing.

Bluetooth is the wireless transmission of sound data to a device that streams this information to your hearing aid. This device is commonly worn around the neck or in a pocket. With a streaming device hearing aids can be synced with multiple technologies like iPods, DVD player, car GPS, televisions, and computers thereby wirelessly increasing the signal to noise ratio and eliminating background noise. The Oticon Streamer is a hands free, wireless technology that allows hearing aids to be paired with work and entertainment devices by connecting to the Bluetooth technology in the hearing aid. Phonak’s iCube also wirelessly streams data from a computer, Ipod, or other technologies to your Bluetooth hearing aids. These devices and others also connect to cell phones. They all work the same as pairing your cell phone with the Bluetooth in a car audio system, but instead of playing the conversation through the car speakers, it delivers it directly into the hearing aid.

Many people who don’t wear hearing aids use an ALS in assembly areas like movie theaters, live stage productions, and auditoriums and sports arenas to make the listening task easier and more effective. United States Access Board

Sound delivery systems can also be used for people with average hearing who need to cope with difficult listening environments. These delivery systems are used by an array of products to meet consumers varying needs and preferences. On Wednesday, People Hearing Better will take a closer look at these products and their uses. If you are interested in finding out more about boosting the signal to your hearing aids when there is too much background noise, speak with your audiologist. A hearing health professional can help sort out which of these systems would best meet your financial and physical needs.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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