Hearing aids help millions of individuals with hearing loss in Louisville and around the country hear better and communicate more effectively. But there are certain situations in which amplification has its limits. In these instances, hearing impaired patients may benefit from the use of assistive listening devices.
Less Than Ideal Environments for Hearing Aids
Hearing aids work by amplifying speech, but are less effective at separating background noises. This can make it difficult to hear in certain environments. Hearing loss patients in Louisville often have trouble in the following situations:
- When the speaker is far away. Sound fades over distance; the farther away the speaker is, the harder it is to discern what is being said.
- When the acoustics are less than ideal. Large, open rooms are associated with poor acoustics. Sound waves bounce off hard surfaces, causing reverberation and distortion, which make it difficult to hear.
- When there is background noise. Noisy backgrounds are distracting. Speech, heating and air-conditioning systems, televisions, traffic, and other sounds can all interfere with your ability to hear.
Assistive listening devices, or ALDs, can help overcome these obstacles and improve your ability to hear in challenging listening situations.
Types of Assistive Listening Devices
ALDs are defined as portable systems that help people with hearing loss hear more clearly. Some are used alongside hearing aids in order to give them a boost in environments that might hamper their effectiveness, while others are meant to be used as standalone devices.
There are a variety of ALDs available. Some are designed to overcome challenges in large public facilities, and others are made for personal uses. Different categories include:
- FM Systems. These consist of a microphone, transmitter, and receiver, and rely on radio signals to transmit amplified sounds directly to your hearing aids. They are helpful in many public places where background noise is present, such as classrooms, restaurants, movie theaters, and churches.
- Personal Amplifiers. Smaller versions of FM systems, personal amplifiers feature a built-in microphone rather than the portable one used in FM systems and are best in smaller, more intimate environments where radio signals aren’t as effective. They are popular for those watching television or traveling by car.
- Infrared Systems. Infrared systems are similar in concept to FM systems, but instead of using radio waves, a transmitter converts sound into infrared light, which is beamed to a receiver and then translated back into sound. Because light cannot pass through walls, infrared systems are helpful in situations where information is best kept confidential, such as in courtrooms.
- Hearing Loops. Many hearing aids contain a telecoil, a wireless receiver that picks up signals from public hearing loops. Also known as induction loops, these systems transmit clear sound free of background noise directly to hearing aids using electromagnetic energy. They consist of a sound source such as a P.A. system, an amplifier, and a loop of wire, and are found in many public places such as airports, movie theaters, and lecture halls.
In addition to these ALDs, there are many other alerting devices that can be useful to persons with hearing loss. Vibrating alarm clocks, telephones that flash when ringing, closed captioning services, and more can all help users with hearing aids in certain situations. If your hearing aids could use a little assistance, contact your Louisville audiologist today!