September 10, 2009

Ask the Audiologist

margaretBy Heather Sandy, M.A.
Audiology Consultants, P.C.

What are “Assistive Listening Devices” and how can they help me? What about amplified phones or visual indicators for alarms?

In general, an Assistive Listening Device is something that amplifies or makes clearer a signal that you are having difficulty hearing. It may be necessary to use an Assistive Device when background noise interferes, when wearing hearing aids is not practical, or when the severity of the loss prevent hearing environment sounds such as phones or alarms.

First, let’s talk about phone use. Even with hearing aids, some people have trouble on the telephone. When we are on the phone, we are not able to use visual cues (seeing someone’s face) to help us understand what is being said. If we just need the sound louder or clearer, there are amplified phones available with louder ringers, volume and tone controls or even a flashing light or vibration to alert you to a call. Sometimes a speaker-phone is a good option for hands-free use.

Cell phones are generally Hearing Aid Compatible, however there are different ratings for compatibility. You may want to check with your wireless service provider or audiologist for this information. There are a few Amplified Cellphones that are “unlocked”, meaning they can be used with the service provider of your choice. These phones are designed to be simple and user-friendly with larger displays and easy operation.

There are many different types of Alerting Devices that someone may use in their home. Loud ringers for phones, amplified alarm clocks, smoke detectors and even weather radios. Many of these devices can be connected with a system that can flash the light in a lamp to alert you to the signal. For example, when sleeping it is recommended that you do not wear your hearing aids, however this may compromise ability to hear an alerting signal. An alarm clock, doorbell, phone, smoke detector or even a baby monitor could be set up to flash lights or vibrate a device under your pillow to alert you.

Lastly, we know that hearing in a large venue, such as a place of worship or theater, can sometimes be difficult. Many theaters, auditoriums and even churches offer Assistive Listening Devices that are connected directly to the sound system. They are usually used in place of hearing aids and will require that you wear headphones. Ask when buying tickets to a movie or play if they have any assistive devices for the hearing impaired. You may be surprised how much more you enjoy the performance when you are not bothered by the background noise and struggling to hear.

These are just some of the Assistive Listening Devices available from your hearing healthcare professional. If you are frustrated by not being able to hear a specific signal or in a specific place, there just may be a simple device out there for you.