Assistive Listening Devices (also know as Assistive Listening Technologies) are a range of technologies that can be used by individuals with hearing loss to improve their access to common audio technologies and assist them in performing daily tasks that require them to be aware of sounds in their immediate environment – usually around the home, in the workplace or in public spaces.
Unlike other commercial hearing technologies, most Assistive Listening Devices are not wearable devices. Instead, they can be either standalone devices or features already inbuilt in other hearing technologies that interact with common household devices such as phones and TVs.
In general, Assistive Listening Devices perform two specific functions for individuals with hearing loss:
- Improving speech quality; and
- Increasing the detection of environmental sounds.
Assistive Listening Devices Can Improving Speech Quality
Assistive Listening Devices help individuals with hearing loss improve their understanding of speech by providing access to technologies that either amplify sound or create complementary sound sources. Devices like televisions, telephones and headphones can be amplified by Assistive Listening Technologies to have extended volume levels so that people with hearing loss can use them.
Hearing Aids or Cochlear Implants that utilises FM, telecoil, infrared systems and Bluetooth technologies provides other ways for wearers to receive additional sound information to their hearing devices. Often, to achieve improvements in the hearing quality of speech, these technologies require the placement of a microphone close to the sound source.
Detecting Environmental Sounds
Assistive Listening Devices in this category provide alerting and alarm systems that can be seen, heard or felt by individuals with hearing loss. Typically, they are modified forms of common household devices with some kind of additional visual and vibration alerting system and/or use specific sounds that can be heard by a person with hearing loss. Some examples in this category include smoke alarms, door bells and telephones.
Vicdeaf has smoke alarm subsidies available for the Victorian Deaf and hard of hearing community, watch the video above for more information.
The type of hearing loss you have will determine what kinds of Assistive Listening Device can help you better manage your hearing loss at home or in the workplace. In Australia, there are subsidy schemes available to help people purchase Assistive Listening Devices. If you think you might benefit from using Assistive Listening Devices, HEARnet Online recommends seeing an audiologist who can advise you on which ones could be beneficial for you.
They are only a small part of the hearing loss management journey to have better hearing. When you make a decision to use them, you should also be purchasing a relationship with a qualified hearing health professional dedicated to helping you improve your communication outcomes.
To make the most out of your Assistive Listening Device, they should be used in conjunction with a therapy program with an audiologist that assists your brain in making sense of the new information they provide.