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A buyer’s guide for assistive listening devices
Listening to the television and radio, using a telephone, or even answering the doorbell are things some people take for granted, but if you are hard of hearing these things are a real struggle. Assistive Listening Devices (ALD) can help. Here, we will look at how to choose the best device for your needs.
Many people who are hard of hearing often wear hearing aids to help listen in their everyday life. But these might not always work very well, especially if you are driving or are in a noisy restaurant. Hearing aids, unfortunately, are not 100% perfect and may you need an additional device such as an Assistive Listening Device to help hear clearly. Using the two together will be a significant improvement.
Benefits of Assistive Listening Devices
Assisted Listening Devices have several benefits for those who are hard of hearing:
- Lots of devices to choose from. From phone amplifiers to TV listeners, there are devices to improve your everyday life. You can even get baby monitors and smoke alarms.
- ALDs bring distant sounds to your ears, so it almost appears that someone is talking into both of yours at the same time, making sound that much clearer.
- ALDs cut out background noise. Microphones are much closer to the speaker’s mouth than other devices, so you only pick up the sounds going into the microphone, not anything else. Meetings, restaurants and parties become much more enjoyable with an ALD.
- Many ALDs are portable. You can take a personal amplifier wherever you go, even on holiday.
There are some downsides to ALDs which users need to be aware of:
- Some ALDs can be expensive.
- Battery powered devices may need frequent battery changes.
- You may still need to use a hearing aid with them.
Types of ALDs available
There are several kinds of ALDs available to buy. They use several types of technology to help you listen. No technology is completely perfect and you may find some types work better than others. Choose one suited to your needs, budget and accommodation/situation. Technologies available include personal amplifiers, radio systems, induction loop systems and Bluetooth systems.
- Personal amplifiers are small portable devices which amplify ambient sound e.g. in the cinema, group conversations and watching TV. These amplifiers can be used with an induction loop system for the hard of hearing in public spaces – you don’t even need to use your hearing aid. If you are in a meeting or personal conversation, you can also clip a lapel microphone to the person you are speaking to, plug it into your personal amplifier, attach a neck loop and listen to the person through the t-coils in your hearing aids. This helps to cut out any background noise. The downside to this is that you are wired together and can’t move around easily.
- Radio systems use radio waves to send sound to your device. Because they have no wires, you have greater freedom of movement and range. You can sit at the back of a lecture theatre, for example, and listen to the lecturer. You do need to ensure the speaker will wear your transmitter/microphone. You can also buy TV amplifiers which use radio technology and are ideal if you don’t want to trip over any wires. Doorbells, telephones and alarms are other devices which use this technology.
- Induction Loop systems use magnetic fields to send sound from the speaker to your ears. These are often the most affordable devices. You need to have a hearing aid which has t-coils to use them.
You can buy neck loops to wear around your neck for personal use and install a room loop to help hear the TV. With these loops, you can hear it anywhere in the room.
- Bluetooth systems use Bluetooth technology to listen to devices even if they are in your pocket or bag. They are perfect for use with mobile phones and laptops.
- Whilst not a technology, telephone amplifiers are available to help increase the caller’s voice.
ALDs can improve the quality of life for the hard of hearing. The range of devices available can help listening wherever you are and make everyday tasks accessible once more.