What will you do differently tonight when you can hear and speak more clearly?
Hearing loss affects people in many circumstances. If hearing and speaking problems in everyday situations have turned you into a recluse, we want to help you break out of your shell. Today’s powerful, but discrete assistive listening devices are helping people like you with hearing loss reconnect with so much that they have been missing.
With the development of digital and wireless technologies, more and more devices are becoming available to help people with voice, speech, listening, and language disorders communicate more meaningfully and participate more fully in their daily lives. If you’re not familiar with assistive listening devices, we hope this comprehensive overview will answer any questions you may have.
What Are Assistive Listening Devices?
The terms “assistive listening device” and “assistive technology” can refer to any device that helps a person with hearing loss or a voice, speech, or language disorder to communicate. These terms may refer to devices that help a person to hear and understand what is being said more clearly, as well as express thoughts more easily.
What Types of Assistive Listening Devices are Available
Amplification consultants use a variety of names to describe assistive devices, determined by the key intended function of the device:
- Assistive listening devices (ALDs) help amplify the sounds you want to hear, especially where there’s a lot of background noise. ALDs can be used with a hearing aid or cochlear implant to help a wearer hear certain sounds better.
- Augmentative and alternative communication devices (AAC) help people with communication disorders to express themselves. These devices can range from a simple picture board to a computer program that synthesizes speech from text.
- Alerting devices connect to a doorbell, telephone, or alarm that emits a loud sound or blinking light to let someone with hearing loss know that an event is taking place.
Are There Assistive Listening Devices for Large Facilities?
Several types of ALDs are available to improve sound transmission in public places for people with hearing loss. Some are designed for large facilities such as classrooms, theaters, places of worship, and airports. ALD systems for large facilities include frequency-modulated (FM) systems, infrared systems, and hearing loop systems.
This logo informs people that a public area is looped.
Other Types of Assistive Listening Devices
Some types of assistive listening devices, such as a telecoil, are intended for personal use in small settings and for one-on-one conversations. They can all be used with or without hearing aids or a cochlear implant.
- FM System
- Infrared System
- Personal Amplifiers
What Types of Device Facilitate Communicating Face to Face?
The simplest AAC device is a picture board or touch screen. People who are unable to communicate verbally point to pictures or symbols of typical items and activities to express their needs. For example, a person might touch the image of a glass to ask for a drink. Many picture boards can be customized and expanded based on a person’s age, education, occupation, and interests.
Keyboards, touch screens, and sometimes a person’s limited speech may be used to communicate desired words, making communicating more precise. Some devices employ a text display. The display panel typically faces outward so that two people can exchange information while facing each other. Spelling and word prediction software can make it faster and easier to enter information.
Speech-generating devices take assisted communication into the 21st Century, translating words or pictures into speech. Some models allow users to choose from several different voices, such as male or female, child or adult, and even some regional accents.
Other advancements in speech-generating technology include those devices that employ a vocabulary of pre-recorded words and others that have an unlimited vocabulary, synthesizing speech as words are typed in. Software programs that convert personal computers into speaking devices are also available.
What Devices Facilitate Communicating by Phone?
For many years, people with hearing loss have used text telephone or telecommunications devices, called TTY or TDD machines, to communicate by phone. This same technology also benefits people with speech difficulties.
A TTY machine consists of a typewriter keyboard that displays typed conversations onto a readout panel or printed on paper. Callers will either type messages to each other over the system or, if a call recipient does not have a TTY machine, use the national toll-free telecommunications relay service at 711 to communicate.
Through the relay service, a communications assistant serves as a bridge between two callers, reading typed messages aloud to the person with hearing while transcribing what’s spoken into type for the person with hearing loss.
With today’s new electronic communication devices, however, TTY machines have almost become a thing of the past. People can place phone calls through the telecommunications relay service using almost any device with a keypad, including a laptop, personal digital assistant, and cell phone.
Text messaging has also become a popular method of communication, skipping the relay service altogether.
Another system uses voice recognition software and an extensive library of video clips depicting American Sign Language to translate a signer’s words into text or computer-generated speech in real time. It is also able to translate spoken words back into sign language or text.
Finally, for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, captioned telephones allow you to carry on a spoken conversation, while providing a transcript of the other person’s words on a readout panel or computer screen as back-up.
What Types of Alerting Devices Are Available?
Alerting or alarm devices use sound, light, vibrations, or a combination of these techniques to let someone know when a particular event is occurring. Clocks and wake-up alarm systems allow a person to choose to wake up to flashing lights, horns, or a gentle shaking.
- Visual alert signalers monitor a variety of household devices and other sounds, such as doorbells and telephones. When the phone rings, the visual alert signaler will be activated and will vibrate or flash a light to let people know. In addition, remote receivers placed around the house can alert a person from any room.
- Portable vibrating pagers can let parents and caretakers know when a baby is crying. Some baby monitoring devices analyze a baby’s cry and light up a picture to indicate if the baby sounds hungry, bored, or sleepy.
There are so many wonderful options to help you hear and communicate better. Let us show you!
Discover how assistive listening devices can help you better deal with your hearing loss.