An Intro to Assistive Listening Devices
Even with your innovative and powerful hearing aid, there are some situations where you may need a little help. In larger venues, performance arenas, public transportation hubs, or conference halls, there are devices to enhance your hearing experience. As required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), public spaces are required to provide accessibility for those who are hard of hearing. These devices, dubbed “binoculars for the ears,” are assistive listening devices (ALD), and they come in several different forms, including solutions for your home to deliver sound more efficiently and clearly from your television or stereo.
Induction Hearing Loops
Induction loops are copper wire that is installed into the ceiling or floor surrounding a venue. This wire picks up an electromagnetic signal sent from the venue’s PA system and transmits the sound directly to you. Most hearing aids are equipped with a telecoil (T-coil), which allows you to loop directly into the system. For those without hearing aids, venues with induction loops offer personal headsets or neck loops. Induction loops are also available for install in houses, which allows sound from TVs and stereos to be delivered directly to your hearing aid. Induction loops are found internationally, mostly in public spaces such as transportation hubs, concert halls, auditoriums, and houses of worship.
FM Systems / Infrared
FM ALDs utilize radio broadcast waves to amplify sound to the listener, while infrared ALDs utilize light waves. In public venues, you can pick up a neck loop device that picks up sound from the FM or infrared signals. These are commonly found at larger public venues such as concert halls and movie theaters. FM and infrared ALDs are also used for home entertainment systems. In private settings, infrared signals are preferred, as FM signals can be picked up by a radio waves traveling through walls.
Personal amplifiers are useful in settings with challenging acoustics making it difficult for you to hear sounds within close proximity. They are also used for home entertainment systems. These devices are equipped with a microphone, a volume control, and a listening unit, whether it is headphones or a neck loop. Personal amplifiers are effective in cutting out background noise when delivering sound, making them a great option for a dinner conversation at a busy restaurant.
Bluetooth is a versatile technology that has been adapted for ALD use. Certain ALD manufacturers offer devices that connect to home entertainment systems and deliver sound directly to a Bluetooth-equipped hearing aid, headphones or neck loops. Additionally, Bluetooth can be used to connect hearing aids to smart phones, which allows for clearer phone conversations as well as a treasure trove of useful apps. The iPhone has an app which works as a personal amplifier ALD: the speakers of the phone act as receivers picking up sound that is close to you and sending it directly to your hearing aid via Bluetooth. This option is also useful, as iPhone and Android both offer apps that allow you to control your hearing aid’s volume, and adjust your hearing aid’s programs with ease. Some apps use geo-tagging, which remember your settings in specific locations, and automatically adjusts your hearing aids as you enter the space.