Hearing aids help you hear better, but they do not “fix” your hearing. Therefore, in certain situations, you may need an extra helping hand along with your hearing aids. At the movies, the airport, concerts, classrooms, and other places where the sound is typically coming from a loudspeaker can cause a significant decrease the sound quality. Assistive listening devices, or ALDs, “are essentially amplifiers that bring sound closer to the ear” (healthyhearing.com). ALDs are able to make the noises you want to hear loud, which generally cuts out the unwanted noise like people talking or the sound being unclear due to the loudspeaker condition. There are many different types of ALDs that are suitable for different ages and scenarios. Let’s focus on the five main kinds of ALDs:
- Personal Amplifiers: This is a microphone, that is connected to your hearing aid, placed on the person you're talking to. This allows you to directly hear what they are saying, which makes personal amplifiers great for an intimate conversation. Personal amplifiers are generally small, easy to use for any hearing aid user or other person in the conversation, and inexpensive. A drawback of personal amplifiers is that they work within a limited distance. You typically have to stay in a fixed position.
- FM systems: This uses radio broadcast technology to bring the sound you want to hear directly to your ears”. FM systems are very similar to personal amplifiers in that the receiver portion attaches to the main source of sound, so you are getting the exact sound. However, unlike a personal amplifier, most FM systems cover on average 150 feet. Using the FM system, you can move around your location while still precisely hearing the sound. They are very popular for students in the classroom setting. A drawback of the FM system - typically cost around $700.
- Infrared Systems: Can transmit sound by using light waves. The light waves in infrared systems are not able to go through walls, so they are useful in situations that require medical or legal privacy. A drawback of infrared systems that that if something is blocking the signal between the user and the speaker, it will not work. Too much sunlight can also weaken the infrared system.
- Induction Loop Systems: Uses an electromagnetic field to carry the sound to the user’s ears. The loop systems only work with hearing aid users who have a t-coil in their aids. Depending on where you are will dictate how the loop will look. Sometimes a looped system can be as little as a necklace worn around the speaker or indirectly hidden in a room’s foundation so that the whole room is looped. Buildings and rooms being looped are becoming more popular. A drawback of a looped system is that it does rely on if and how properly a building in looped.
- Bluetooth: The newest ALD on our list is bluetooth. You are able to take the music, videos, phone call, or whatever sound you are listening to on your phone and connect it to your hearing aids through Bluetooth. A drawback of Bluetooth connectivity is that the distance it works in ranges only about 20 feet. (healthyhearing.com)
Depending on your day-to-day activities, figure out if one or more assistive listening devices would be right for you to work with your hearing aids!