Assisted Listening Devices

What’s a telecoil?

A telecoil, also called a t-coil, is a coil of wire that is installed inside many hearing aids and cochlear implants to act as a miniature wireless receiver. It was originally designed to make sounds clearer to a listener over the telephone. It also is used with a variety of other assistive listening devices, such as hearing loop (or induction loop) systems Read about Hearing Loop Systems here, FM systems, infrared systems, and personal amplifiers.

The telecoil works by receiving an electromagnetic signal from the hearing loop and then turning it back into sound within the hearing aid or cochlear implant. This process eliminates much of the distracting background noise and delivers sound customized for one’s own need. For people who are hard-of-hearing who do not have a telecoil-equipped hearing aid or cochlear implant, loop receivers with headsets can provide similar benefits but without the customized or “corrected sound” feature that matches one’s hearing loss pattern.

Many cochlear implants have a telecoil built into the sound processor, or can use an external telecoil accessory with both hearing aid compatible telephones and public loop systems. A simple switch or programming maneuver performed by the user activates this function.

FM Systems

FM systems use radio signals to transmit amplified sounds. They are often used in classrooms, where the instructor wears a small microphone connected to a transmitter and the student wears the receiver, which is tuned to a specific frequency, or channel. People who have a telecoil inside their hearing aid or cochlear implant may also wear a wire around the neck (called a neckloop) or behind their aid or implant (called a silhouette inductor) to convert the signal into magnetic signals that can be picked up directly by the telecoil.

FM systems can transmit signals up to 300 feet and are able to be used in many public places. However, because radio signals are able to penetrate walls, listeners in one room may need to listen to a different channel than those in another room to avoid receiving mixed signals. Personal FM systems operate in the same way as larger scale systems and can be used to help people with hearing loss to follow one-on-one conversations.

Infrared Systems

Infrared systems use infrared light to transmit sound. A transmitter converts sound into a light signal and beams it to a receiver that is worn by a listener. The receiver decodes the infrared signal back to sound. As with FM systems, people whose hearing aids or cochlear implants have a telecoil may also wear a neckloop or silhouette inductor to convert the infrared signal into a magnetic signal, which can be picked up through their telecoil.

Unlike induction loop or FM systems, the infrared signal cannot pass through walls, making it particularly useful in courtrooms, where confidential information is often discussed, and in buildings where competing signals can be a problem, such as classrooms or movie theaters. However, infrared systems cannot be used in environments with too many competing light sources, such as outdoors or in strongly lit rooms.

Personal Amplifiers

Personal amplifiers are useful in places in which the above systems are unavailable or when watching TV, being outdoors, or traveling in a car. About the size of a cell phone, these devices increase sound levels and reduce background noise for a listener. Some have directional microphones that can be angled toward a speaker or other source of sound. As with other ALDs, the amplified sound can be picked up by a receiver that the listener is wearing, either as a headset or as earbuds.

What devices are available for communicating by telephone?

For many years, people with hearing loss have used text telephone or telecommunications devices, called TTY or TDD machines, to communicate by phone. This same technology also benefits people with speech difficulties. A TTY machine consists of a typewriter keyboard that displays typed conversations onto a readout panel or printed on paper.

Callers will either type messages to each other over the system or, if a call recipient does not have a TTY machine, use the national toll-free telecommunications relay service to communicate. Through the relay service, a communications assistant serves as a bridge between two callers, reading typed messages aloud to the person with hearing while transcribing what’s spoken into type for the person with hearing loss.

With today’s new electronic communication devices, however, TTY machines have almost become a thing of the past. People can place phone calls through the telecommunications relay service using almost any device with a keypad, including a laptop, personal digital assistant, and cell phones. Text messaging has also become a popular method of communication, skipping the relay service altogether.

 

Bluetooth technology  has become the new wave within the hearing devices world, it is a wireless communications system intended to replace the cables connecting many different types of devices, from mobile phones and headsets to heart monitors and medical equipment. As a global standard, Bluetooth technology is in billions of products worldwide, including virtually every mobile phone, laptop, tablet, new car, and more than 40 million medical devices. In 2005 the first hearing aids capable of utilizing Bluetooth technology in hearing aids were introduced.  Not long after manufacturers added Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids that were able to connect to televisions, MP 3 players, cell phones, and computers. Bluetooth technology is the most recent advancement in hearing aids. It is a way to send digital information wirelessly over short distances. Bluetooth technology works to allow two hearing aids to wirelessly communicate with each other and also allows user to connect to all sorts of devices in their home and car, like  T.V’s, lights, kitchen gadgets, a DVD player, computer, GPS, and cell phone and the list goes on. There are pros and cons however to having this type of technology in a hearing aid.

Read more about the pro’s & con’s of using the New Bluetooth Technology

What types of alerting devices are available?

Alerting or alarm devices use sound, light, vibrations, or a combination of these techniques to let someone know when a particular important event is occurring.

Clocks and wake-up alarm systems allow a person to choose to wake up to flashing lights, horns, or a gentle shaking.

Visual alert signalers monitor a variety of household devices and other alerting sounds, such as doorbells, telephones and smoke detectors. When the phone, doorbell or other event occurs, the visual alert signaler will be activated and will vibrate or flash a light to let people know. In addition, remote receivers placed around the house can alert a person from any room.

Portable vibrating pagers can let parents and caretakers know when a baby is crying. Some baby monitoring devices analyze a baby’s cry and light up a picture to indicate what the baby is fussing about.

 

Set up an appointment today to find out what devices may be helpful for you.