How Assistive Devices can Supplement your Listening Experience

Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States. For many people with hearing loss, hearing aids are an essential part of their journey toward better hearing. But what happens when hearing aids are just not enough? 

Some situations, such as busy restaurants, sporting events, and lectures are particularly challenging for some people, even when wearing hearing aids. Research shows that people with hearing loss need a higher signal to noise ratio than people without hearing loss. A brief test called the QuickSIN (Speech-in-noise) Test can be used by your audiologist to measure speech understanding in a realistic environment with background noise. When someone scores poorly on this test, it is a good indication they will struggle significantly in noisy environments when using hearing aids alone. This is because even the best hearing aids are not able to provide enough separation between the intended signal and the background noise in certain situations.

This is when assistive listening devices (ALDs) can bridge the gap to help people communicate more successfully, even when the environment is challenging. There are a wide variety of ALDs on the market today and the great thing is that these can often be used in conjunction with hearing aids to offer an additional boost at little to no additional cost. Some ALDs may also be used as stand-alone devices and do not require the person to have hearing aids.  

Assistive Devices designed to work with hearing aids

  1. Companion Mic: these are small wireless microphones worn by the conversation partner to amplify their voice while simultaneously reducing the volume of competing background noise. This is great for one-on-one conversations and lectures. 
  2. Bluetooth: many new hearing aid models offer compatibility with your smartphone. This essentially turns your smartphone into an ALD with the use of a free app, thereby transforming your phone into a remote control, an amplified Bluetooth headset for phone calls, and a companion mic. 
  3. TV Connector: these plug directly into any TV and allow for wireless streaming through the hearing aids. This allows the hearing aid wearer to pick the ideal volume for themselves, independent from the other people in the room. 

Assistive Devices designed to work as stand-alone options

  1. Personal Amplifiers: these are basically a small microphone with a wired headset attached that provides a boost in volume. It is most useful for one-on-one conversations and is relatively in-expensive. Keep in mind this is not the best option in situations that require you to move around, and these amplifiers are not a substitute for hearing aids. 
  2. Alerting Devices: these help you stay connected and safe in everyday and emergency situations. By using a combination of amplified sounds, visual cues,and even vibration, these devices can help keep you connected.  This includes a wire range of options from smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, to baby monitors, alarm clocks, and doorbells signalers. 
  3. Amplified Phones: these offer a variety of amplified phone signals, captions, and large print. Many amplified phone options can be obtained at little to no cost once a significant loss has been verified.   

If you’re interested in learning more about which ALDs may be best for your lifestyle and needs, talk with an expert. The audiologists at Professional Hearing Center are here to help.

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