Assistive listening devices can help people with all degrees and types of hearing loss. You may have certain communication needs that cannot be solved by the use of hearing aids alone. These situations may involve the use of the telephone, radio, television, and the inability to hear the door chime, telephone bell, and alarm clock.
With the current technology of hearing aids, these ALDs are Bluetooth compatible and will communicate directly with your hearing aids. They can include streamers which allow you to use your hearing aids as “hands-free” headsets with your cell phones (Note: iPhones can pair directly to many hearing aids), remote microphones which will send someone’s voice directly into your hearing aids, and TVLinks which will enable you to hear and understand your TV shows better.
Other special devices can make sounds louder. Typically, hearing aids amplify the important speech frequencies while assistive listening devices can minimize or eliminate environmental noises or bring important speech information directly to your ears.
Various kinds of older assistive listening devices are listed below:
Telephone Amplifying Devices or Special Phones
California residents have the option to participate in a phone program through the California Telephone Access Program. With proper certification of your hearing loss, you might be eligible to receive a free ALD for your home. Those across the country with hearing impairment might also find assistance through the federal CaptionCall program.
Personal Listening Systems
These systems are designed to carry sounds directly to the listener and include FM systems and personal amplifiers.
TV Listening Systems
These systems are designed for listening to TV, radio, or stereo without interference from surrounding noise.
Direct Audio Input Hearing Aids
These devices can be connected to the TV, stereo, tape and/or radio, microphones, auditory trainers, and personal FM devices.
Facts About Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)
ALDs are “binoculars for the ears” and may benefit many people with residual hearing. They are intended to augment standard public address and audio systems by providing signals that can be received directly by persons with special receivers or their own hearing aids.
A minority of hearing aid owners concurrently use ALDs. About 1 in 4 consumers use a phone amplifier, while less than 10% of hearing instrument owners are users of ALD devices for enhancing their hearing with TV, at movies, in places of worship, or in conferring.
ALDs “stretch” the performance of hearing aids by improving the signal to noise ratio (SNR). This is significant as SNR has to be higher for many people with hearing loss for them to understand speech in background noise. ALDs reduce the effect of distance between the person with hearing loss and the sound source, override poor acoustics, and minimize background noise.
ALDs are an example of auxiliary aids and services and reasonable accommodations required by the Americans with Disabilities act (ADA) to be provided by public facilities, state and local governments, and employers, to enable people with hearing loss to participate in their programs and services.
ALDs typically have not been covered by any public or private health insurance plans, and are not available in mainstream retail outlets. Most ALDs must be purchased through catalogs of ALD distributors or from hearing health professionals. Access, availability and awareness of ALDs by consumers is a limiting factor to their acceptance and use.
Each type of ALD has advantages and disadvantages. The type of ALD appropriate for a particular application depends on the characteristics of the setting, the nature of the program, and the intended audience.
ALDs may be installed in large areas, portable for personal use, or in the case of FM systems, built into a hearing aid.
Other assistive technology that can benefit people with hearing loss include alerting devices, such as special smoke detectors, doorbells, telephone ring signalers, telephones, and alarm clocks. These may produce loud signals, visual signals, or tactile signals. Captioning and CART (Computer Assisted Realtime Transcription) also provide great benefit.