Hearing loss affects approximately 20 percent of Americans -- more than 48 million people. Being hard of hearing means it’s not only harder to hear the things you want to hear -- it’s more difficult to separate out the things you don’t want to hear. Hearing loss occurs due to the death of hair cells in the ear that amplify sound. When these cells die, it makes it more difficult for people to hear in noisy environments and areas with a lot of background noise. Fortunately, advancements in hearing technology have made significant strides in recent years, making life easier than ever for the hard of hearing.
Common Products for the Hard of Hearing
One of the biggest problems for the hard of hearing is separating speech from other types of noise. For people with this condition, it’s not enough to merely amplify sound -- that doesn’t separate the desired sound from the unwanted noise. To best improve the signal-to-noise ratio, we sometimes recommend an assistive listening device, or ALD.
An ALD transmits the desired sounds into the user’s ear in a number of ways -- either through a wire, or wirelessly via FM transmission or (in newer models) Bluetooth connectivity. FM transmission is often used for children in classroom scenarios, where a teacher will have a remote microphone and the signal will be transmitted to the listening device. Audio signal can also be transmitted via infrared light -- a technology that’s often used in a movie theater to compensate for other noises.
People who need to increase the signal-to-noise ratio, but don’t have hearing loss can wear an FM receiver, which is a device that looks like a hearing aid, but isn’t. This is often used by children with central auditory problems.
Another type of assistive device is what is known as an “alerting device,” which takes an auditory signal and either amplifies it or changes it to another kind of signal (tactile or visual). Common types of alerting devices include:
- Alarm clocks vibrate the bed instead of making noise (or are louder than normal)
- Smoke alarms with bright flashing strobe lights
- Doorbells and telephone ringers that cause a lamp to flash
- Complex systems that connect to a wristband that will vibrate when devices such as a baby monitor activate in the house
Tips and Recommendations
If you are experiencing issues with your hearing, chances are good your audiologist can find a solution. There are a wide variety of products available, you should not hesitate to mention any problems you are having to your audiologist. Many people neglect to mention hearing issues and miss out on what could be a simple solution.