For those struggling with hearing loss or impairments, it takes extra effort to understand others and communicate with them.
Having an impairment can cause further issues beyond the act of listening. Hearing impairments may make individuals feel more socially isolated, unsafe, or less inclined to try new things or be in busy, public areas. That’s why hearing-impaired communication devices are vital to have.
As with all new technological innovations, hearing impaired devices are constantly being reinvented, designed, and constructed to be more effective and discreet.
What Devices Will Help with Hearing Impairment?
There are various types of hearing impairment devices for those struggling with hearing loss. Furthermore, there are signaling devices and different types of technology to help hearing-impaired individuals. Some of the different types of devices are listed below.
Small electronic devices worn in or around the ear, called hearing aids, are designed to be used by those who need hearing assistance. The pieces act as amplification devices—they make the noise surrounding the user louder and clearer.
With the use of a microphone, noise is captured, amplified, and transmitted in real-time to the user. Many have built-in technology to cancel unwanted, surrounding noise, and amplify the desired noises or voices.
Hearing aids can come in different styles, sizes, and builds. Individuals can purchase canal hearing aids that fit directly in the wearer’s ear canal. They are designed for each specific user. Other options include behind-the-ear devices and in-the-ear devices. Depending on the brand and manufacturer, hearing aids can come with different settings and uses.
For example, a OTC hearing aid may have multiple settings to amplify sound at different volumes. Some devices let the user specify the environment they are in. This forces the hearing aids to filter the background noises differently as the user could be in a loud environment, outside, or in a quiet, calm place. Depending on the location, the hearing aid will block various sounds, and transmit only certain signals.
Assistive Listening Systems for Hearing Impaired
Assistive devices range by the product’s design, location of use, intention of use, and mechanism. All of these listening devices are suitable for people who have hearing aids and those who do not have hearing aids.
The group of devices includes hearing impaired devices for home, public settings, and classroom settings. Rather than just one individual benefiting, various people in the setting can benefit from these devices.
Hearing loops are one style of assistive listening systems that uses a wire that surrounds a whole room. For example, a public setting may have one of these systems. A speaker’s voice is amplified through the loop, and individuals wearing a receiver or aid can pick up the amplification.
The hearing loop uses magnetic induction to transmit a wireless signal. The benefit of hearing loop technology is that they are inconspicuous, high-quality, and cost-effective solutions.
An FM system is commonly seen in a classroom setting. The teacher will wear a microphone to pick up their voice, and the system transmits it to whoever has an associated hearing device. A student, or students, wearing a hearing impairment device can receive a louder and clearer sound.
The individual wearing a receiver can be utilizing an implant, hearing aid, or other. FM Systems are advantageous lightweight, portable, and discrete, making them ideal to be transported to different settings. Different FM systems come with different technology and different accessories. Some may utilize a microphone, whereas others might utilize an audio source with a plug.
Personal amplifiers, another common hearing device, help one user by amplifying sound. The user typically has a small box that will pick up sound, reduce background noise, amplify, and transmit a signal to the user. The person may pick up the sound with a headset or some type of earpiece.
The last type of assistive listening device is an infrared system. This tool converts sound to light signals and transmits it to a receiver. The technology is like the FM system, as multiple people can pick up the resultant sound.
Assistive Devices for Hearing Impaired
Personal listening devices can help individuals communicate easier in one-on-one conversations. The devices assist only the user who has the device, unlike the assistive listening systems. These tools typically have a microphone to capture sound, and technology used to filter out unwanted background noise.
The devices may transmit the sound differently, based on the brand of the device. The individual speaking may talk directly into the microphone to give the clearest sound to the listener.
This type of hearing device doesn’t quite help one hear sounds or people talking. Rather, it alerts the individual with a hearing impairment when an event occurs. Often, these alerting devices are used for precautionary measures, like when a smoke alarm is triggered.
However, an alerting device can send the user a signal when the doorbell rings, an alarm goes off, a phone rings, or some other occurrence. The different types of alerts include vibration, light flashes, or a loud noise or ring. This equipment is ideal to have in a home where someone with difficulty hearing lives.
Hearing Impaired Devices for Cell Phones
Today, all smartphones built to be hearing aid compatible. In fact, in the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission has required all smartphones to be compatible with hearing aid devices and hearing technology.
Furthermore, most, if not all, cellphones have features to amplify sounds, whether coming from a phone call or an external application. Various apps have been created to assist those with hearing impaired as well.
Some apps make phone calls easier for those with hearing impairments by translating the speech to text. Many of these apps, like Live Transcribe, suggest using an external microphone to assist in picking up the sound better.
These speech to text apps for hearing impaired are useful for different scenarios—some require you to hold a button down to get text, which means its more suitable for short uses. Other devices work continuously, as long as the microphone is picking up speech, and thus it is ideal for a conference when individuals speak longer.
Hearing-impaired phone devices are ideal for those who need assistance throughout the day. These devices can help people hear quiet noises, phone calls, intercom messages, and much more. They make communicating with others less of a struggle, allow easier listening, and, often, they’re discrete. These smartphone applications make the lives of those with hearing impairments easier.
Hearing Impaired Bluetooth Devices
Bluetooth devices are all over the market today. Bluetooth speakers, headphones, tiny earbuds, and other devices are constantly being innovated. Previously, those who used hearing aids were at a disadvantage when they wanted to use something like Bluetooth headphones. The users had to take out their hearing aids to use headphones.
Now, technology has been made to pair hearing aids directly to various electronic devices like phones, computers, and tablets. Thus, signals can be streamed over Bluetooth from the device to the hearing aids. This has significantly changed the game for those with hearing impairments. No longer do they have to remove their hearing aids to use headphones.
Some hearing aids may require the use of a streamer—a listening device that is compatible with other electronic devices. It’s used as an intermediary between the hearing aids and the other electronic device.
The streamer is worn by the user and picks up a Bluetooth signal from whatever it’s connected to and then transmits the signal to the hearing aid via FM signal or electromagnet field, just like the hearing loop technology.
Deaf Devices for Hearing Impaired
For those with complete hearing loss, amplification may not be enough to communicate. Rather, a type to text, or telecommunications device is needed. Just like with new smartphone apps, these devices can translate speech into text. However, they’re used separately from a smartphone. They might not be as common anymore, but they do work wonderfully in a home setting.
TDDs are used in conjugation with other compatible devices. Individuals must make calls from one TDD to another. When someone talks into one of the TDDs a textual message is presented to the individual who is deaf or hearing impaired. The devices require a phone line and internet connection to function.
AAC Devices for Hearing Impaired
AAC devices are augmentative and alternative communication devices. Although they are not directly for those with hearing impairments, they may be of assistance. They allow more effective communication when individuals struggle with general communication. They have been around for a while, but recently they have become more user friendly.
AAC devices make use of various methods of communication such as semantic messaging, alphabet-based communication, and picture communication. The semantic method involves a series of symbols to communicate.
Alphabet-based systems require users to spell out messages. Picture systems allow users to communicate based on images. Many devices may utilize all the above to assist those with communication problems.
There are many types of hearing impaired devices. Some serve individuals only, whereas others are meant for more than one person to utilize. To find the best hearing impaired device, speaking to an audiologist can always help.