Hearing Assistive Technology

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There are three core types of wireless hearing assistive technology. The Hearing Loop is a wire that circles a room and is connected to the sound system. The loop transmits the sound electromagnetically. The electromagnetic signal is then picked up by the telecoil in the hearing aid or cochlear implant. To use a hearing loop, one easily flips the t-switch on the hearing aid or cochlear implant. No additional receiver or equipment is needed. Using a telecoil and hearing loop together is seamless, cost-effective, unobtrusive, and you don’t have to seek out and obtain special equipment. An infrared system uses invisible light beams to carry sound from the source to a personal receiver. (The sound source must be in the line of sight.) Different types of attachments may be connected to the personal receiver such as a neck- loop or a behind-the-ear silhouette inductor. The telecoil then picks up sound from the receiver via the attachment. An FM system works similarly, but sound is conveyed though radio waves to a personal receiver. Advantages of a Loop System v. FM System No collection or return of transmitters.  Are inconspicuous: No need to display “I am hard of hearing!” Loop systems offer an easy and invisible solution to an invisible problem, thus are much more likely to be used. Work in transient situations: They can serve the hard of hearing at ticket counters, teller windows, drive-through stations, airport gate areas, and train and subway stations–venues where other assistive listening systems are impractical. Are hearing-aid compatible. There’s no need to juggle between hearing aids and headsets (for example, when shifting from sermon to singing during worship).Preclude bothering others nearby with sounds leaking from headset. Sound broadcast through hearing aids is contained within one’s ear. Afford flexible use: Can allow either direct listening or loop broadcast modes, or both. (M) (T) MT). Deliver personalized in-the-ear sound . . . customized by one’s own hearing aids to address one’s own hearing loss. Are, for all these reasons, more likely to be used–and to be increasingly used, once installed (as people purchase future aids with T-coils). Loop systems can, thanks to portable receivers, serve everyone including all who are served by existing systems. But, given telecoils, they are much more likely to be used—and therefore to cost less, per user. Moreover, it is those who most need hearing assistance who are most likely to have telecoils.

“Loop systems provide the best sound quality [because they’re not] ‘one size fits all,’ with everyone receiving the same amplification through headphones. It simply makes so much more sense for a hearing impaired individual to receive the speech signal through their own hearing aids, which provide an appropriate frequency response for their hearing loss.”~Audiologist Lynnette C. Blaney, M.A., CCC-A

Cost When comparing loop system costs to alternative listening systems, consider what counts: cost per user. (A system that costs slightly more, but has many more eventual users, will be most cost-effective.) Also, loop systems can be used without the additional expense of purchasing and maintaining portable receivers and headsets (although many venues will purchase one or more loop receiver/headset units for possible use by those without suitable hearing aids). Bluetooth Bluetooth has several limitations. 1) Bluetooth is not built into hearing aids (it’s in the remote) because it uses too much power and would drain the hearing aid’s batteries too fast. Thus you HAVE to have a remote with you in order to use bluetooth with your hearing aids. In contrast, t-coils don’t use any extra power, and don’t require any extra stuff to be hung around your neck in order to use them either. 2) Bluetooth was designed to be paired with one other device at a time for privacy issues. Thus no one could connect to, and overhear, your phone call for example. But if you were in a church or meeting hall, if bluetooth were provided only one person in the entire church or meeting could pair to the bluetooth system—leaving all the other hard of hearing people without any help. In contrast, as many people with t-coils in their hearing aids as can pack into the looped room can use a loop system at the same time. 3) Bluetooth has a very limited range. The theoretical limit is 33 feet (10 meters), but in actual practice, I’ve not found a bluetooth device that worked reliably at more than 20 feet, if even that much. Thus, in a large room, unless you sat within 20 feet of the bluetooth transmitter, you’d not be able to hear. In contrast, if you had a loop system installed and t-coils in your hearing aids, you could sit anywhere in the looped room and hear wonderfully well.

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