Understanding Assistive Listening Devices

Hearing devices have greatly helped those facing hearing loss in their daily lives, but despite the advances hearing aids and cochlear implants have made, there are certain situations or environments where such instruments may lack the full capability to pick up certain sounds.

Hearing devices often have a limited effective rang and have difficulty separating background noises from sounds you may want to hear. Environment also impacts hearing ability. Open spaces with bare walls and floors often reverberate acoustics, all contributing to the effectiveness of hearing certain sounds.

The good news is that there are special devices called Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) that help people using hearing aids capture certain sounds that are difficult to pick up.

What are Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) and Why Would You Need One?

Assistive Listening Devices are specifically designed to help people hear better in a variety of difficult listening situations. ALDs are able to help overcome background noises, minimize the negative impact and sound distortions of distance from the sound source, and also reduce reverberations.

So how does it exactly work? An ALD’s core function is to improve the signal to noise ratio for the listener. What this means is that specific desired sounds, or signals, are amplified, while undesired, interfering sounds, or noises, are reduced.

The wide variety of ALDs on the market today, all of which have their own advantages in varying situations, help improve the hearing aid experience. The following section breaks down the different types of ALDs and their functions.

Top Assisted Listening Devices on the Market Today

With a surprisingly vast array of ALDs, many are geared towards very specific needs. Some of these devices work specifically with certain hearing aids, while others are stand-alone. The most common types of ALDs include: Personal Amplifiers, Hearing Loops, FM Systems, Infrared Systems, and Sound Field Systems.

  • Personal Amplifiers are small boxes with a microphone and listening cord attached to it. The speaker attaches a microphone to their clothing which then allows the listener to plug it into their personal amplifier and hear more clearly. This option is generally best used for one-on-one conversations as the connected cord limits mobility. These options are advantageous as they are inexpensive, going as low as $200 a unit.
  • Hearing Loops consist of a copper wire that are placed in a room, counter, or similar space which is then connected to a sound system via a special “loop driver”. An electromagnetic field is created that links to telecoils in hearing aids and cochlear implants. People simply can switch their hearing instruments to the telecoil program and they automatically receive clear sound directly to their ears.
  • FM Systems use radio broadcast technology to bring sounds directly to your ears. They are wireless systems where a user wears a portable receiver allowing them to listen to the speaker. The speaker has a microphone transmitter that allows you to hear from up to 150 feet away. This option is great for mobility as it allows the user to move around. FM systems are ideal for classroom settings or outdoor activities.
  • Infrared Systems are similar to FM systems, but instead of radio waves, they transmit sounds using light waves. With infrared systems, users are granted maximum privacy as light waves are unable to travel to walls or other tangible barriers. As such, infrared systems are great in settings like doctors’ offices or courtrooms. The signal can be disrupted if someone or something comes in between the listener and emitter, and sunlight often causes signal programs as well.
  • Sound Field Systems use an FM transmitter and portable speakers that are positioned around a specific environment. The speech or music is then projected throughout the space allowing those to hear comfortably. Sound field systems improve the signal to noise ratio so that the impacts of echo and distance between speaker and listener are reduced. This option does not require listeners to wear receivers, rather sounds are amplified 10 to 12 decibels higher to allow for better amplification.

If you feel your hearing aids could use a boost in certain situations, whether at the theater, in the classroom or just watching TV, talk to your hearing care provider at Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center.  We can help you decide which ALD is right for your needs!

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