Hearing Assistive Technology
This section includes:
- Overview of Hearing Assistive Technology
- Assistive Listening Devices & Systems
- Receiving sound with Assistive Listening Devices
- Personal Amplification
- FM Sound Systems
- Infra–red Sound Systems
- Audio Loop Systems
- Additional Information on Assistive Listening Equipment
- Making a purchase
The Latest in Hearing Assistive Technology!
We now include information about the latest Hearing Assistive Technology. See our Other Devices section for more!
Hearing Assistive Technology makes sound accessible to people with a hearing loss. This may be accomplished through amplification of sound or accessing other senses to convey meaning (such as lights and vibrations). Where there is a challenge to listening, such as in large groups, hearing assistive technology sends amplified sound directly to the listener’s ear. Alert sounds, such as doorbells, telephone rings, smoke detectors, and pagers are made accessible through flashing lights and vibrators worn on or near the body. Computers offer the promise of automatically translating the spoken word into readable text (currently in the development phase). Through technology, people with hearing loss are gaining improved access to the information hearing people have always taken for granted.
For an overview of Hearing Assistive Technology in slide show format see Other Devices for People with Hearing Loss.
Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are designed to improve communication for people with hearing loss in situations where hearing aids alone are inadequate. In groups, or in noisy environments, sound is diffused, reverberates, and may be drowned out by other competing sounds. For people with a hearing loss, this makes listening almost impossible. Assistive listening devices carry the sound across distance and over background sounds. The desired sound is sent directly into the listener’s ears. Instead of hearing from across the room, sound is heard as if the speaker is right next to the listener at the same time background sounds are silenced.
The following is a brief summary of the different kinds of equipment available.
Note: A T–coil (also called a telecoil, T–switch, or telephone setting) installed in the user’s hearing aid or cochlear implant will facilitate the use of assistive equipment. Without a t–coil, additional headsets or ear buds are required. With a t–coil, amplified signals pass through the user’s hearing aids, and are converted into sound for the listener. Hearing aids are precisely adjusted for the user’s unique hearing needs.
Sounds are received either through a headset, ear speaker or earbud to the unaided ears. When hearing aids are worn, an earbud will not work, but a headset or ear speaker may be used over an in–the–ear, or canal hearing aid. With behind the ear hearing aids, a neckloop or a silhouette is used with the hearing aid(s) on the T–switch (telecoil).
Neckloop: A neckloop is a small induction loop worn over the head and around the neck. A headset jack plugs into the headphone output in assistive devices or radios, computers, TV’s etc. You must have the T–switch turned ON in the hearing aid or cochler receiver to use a neckloop.
Silhouette: A silhouette looks like a flat behind the ear hearing aid with no earmold, and is an induction system for hearing aids and cochlear implants with telecoils. It provides a much stronger signal to the hearing aid or cochlear implant than a neckloop (due to the close proximity). This may be the only effective device for someone with a profound loss. Requires the T–switch to be turned ON to function.
A small personal amplifier is most often used for one–to–one communication or TV listening. These devices are an inexpensive (about $200) method of boosting sound 20 to 25 dB. A small portable microphone is connected by wire to a receiver worn by the person with hearing loss. Headphones or earphones receive the sound and transmit to the ears. A neckloop or silhouette transmits the sound to a T–coil in the hearing aid. The device can also be coupled with a telephone. These devices reduce the interference of background noise, carrying the desired sound directly to the ear.
FM systems work in much the same way as commercial FM radio. The system sends the auditory message through FM radio waves from a wireless transmitter directly to a small receiver worn by the listener with hearing loss. These systems can be utilized as an independent unit or connected to PA systems. FM is equally effective indoors or outdoors. Systems can be very portable or permanently installed. FM signals travel through walls and are therefore not appropriate for confidential communication. Receivers can be used with neckloops or silhouettes in conjunction with t–coil equipped hearing aids and cochlear implants or using headsets or ear buds for those without t–coils.
An infra–red system transmits sound via invisible infrared light waves to individual wireless receivers. Natural light light may interfere with the transmission of some IR frequencies (below 250 Khz) and therefore these units cannot be used in direct sunlight. Infra–red systems allow for more privacy than FM systems because the light signal does not travel through walls. An Infra–red system may be used with an unlimited number of receivers and has excellent sound quality. The receivers are lightweight and can be connected to headphones, neckloops or silhouettes or used with t–coil equipped hearing aids or cochlear implants.
An audio or induction loop system transmits sound through a wire loop that surrounds the listening area. The electric current that flows through the loop creates an electromagnetic field that can be received and then amplified by a hearing aid or cochlear implant equipped with a telecoil (T–Coil). As with other assistive listening devices, ear buds or a headset may also be used along with a telecoil receiver. Audio loop systems can be permanently installed in meeting rooms or portable systems can be setup as needed. For more information regarding audio loop and the Loop America initiative see: http://www.hearingloop.org
The Access Board consumer publication on Assistive Listening Equipment:
National Center for Hearing Assistive Technology:
If you are new to assistive listening equipment, it may be difficult to sort out the options that are best for you. A discussion with your audiologist may help to determine equipment particularly compatible with your hearing aids. Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH) has trained local chapter members as Hearing Technology Resource Specialists. These specialists may have equipment available to demonstrate and can make recommendations.
Several companies sell assistive listening equipment. We have listed a few for your convenience. Click here for a list of Where to Purchase Hearing Assistive Technology. (Note: Company listings on this web page are not intended as an endorsement or otherwise, either by inclusion or exclusion. This list is intended simply for the information and convenience of the reader.)
Assistive Listening Devices can range from $200 to $3,000+ for individual portable devices. Affording this equipment may be a challenge for some. The following resources can assist with funding:
Michigan Rehabilitation Services: If a hearing loss is interfering with your ability to obtain employment or to work at your present job, contact Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS). If Assistive Listening Equipment is required to adequately perform your job, MRS may provide funding. Find the MRS office near you by calling (800) 605–6722 voice or (888) 605–6722 TTY.
Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund: The Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund provides low cost loans for hearing assistive technology as well as other technological accommodations. For more information see: http://www.michiganloanfunds.org