Assistive Listening Technology

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 18,273
    Barbara Kelley with the Hearing Loss Association of America discusses types of assistive listening systems, both personal and public.

    Barbara Kelley: Hi, I'm Barbara Kelley with the Hearing Loss Association of America. I would like to tell you a little bit about personal assistive listening devices. Have you ever had difficulty hearing or understanding in meetings, the classroom or in restaurants? If so, a personal assistive listening device might be right for you.

    Hearing aids and cochlear implants have limitations in noisy venues, but assistive listening devices can make conversation possible when the listening conditions are less than ideal. Even the most sophisticated hearing aids can't separate the sounds you want to hear from the sounds coming from a distant source like a stage or movie screen.

    When we listen, our brain keys into the difference in loudness between the speech we want to hear and all other sounds in the environment, this is called the signal-to-noise ratio. And when all conditions are favorable speech is much louder than background noise, so we can easily understand conversation.

    Assistive listening devices help you understand speech in difficult situations. These technologies, which include hearing loops, FM and infrared devices work in conjunction with hearing aids and cochlear implants.

    However, people without hearing aids can also use them. Depending on the technology you just need a headset to connect to the device. Hearing aids and cochlear implants connect to assistive listening devices using several methods.

    The least expensive and most user-friendly is the telecoil which is built into almost every hearing aid or cochlear implant and requires no additional accessories. If you're buying a hearing aid for the first time, be sure to ask your audiologist to include a telecoil, so you can use hearing aid compatible phones and assistive listening devices.

    The telecoil is small wireless antenna link sounds from a source like a TV or another person's voice and delivers customized sounds to the listener. If your hearing aid doesn't have a telecoil, you will need a headset plugged into a loop receiver to achieve the same effect.

    Some hearing aids and cochlear implants can accept a direct audio input which connects you directly to the audio source for a clearer sound. Many newer hearing aids are equipped with a wireless technology called NFMI that lets the hearing aids work with Bluetooth equipped audio sources like phones, televisions, GPS units and personal music players.

    For some hearing aids and cochlear implants very small FM radio receivers allow for optimized signal-to-noise ratio from as far away as 100 feet. There are several different kinds of personal assistive listening devices all with different capabilities, so be sure to talk to your audiologist or hearing aid specialist or check out online mail-order companies about what works for you.