Assistive Listening Devices
(Source: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
Like a hearing aid, an assistive listening device make sounds louder. Typically, a hearing aid makes all sounds in the environment louder. An assistive listening device can increase the loudness of a desired sound (a radio or television, a public speaker, an actor or actress, someone talking in a noisy place) without increasing the loudness of the background noises.
Are assistive listening devices only for people with hearing aids?
No. People with all degrees and types of hearing loss -- even people with normal hearing -- can benefit from assistive listening devices. Some assistive listening devices are used with a hearing aid. Some can be used without a hearing aid.
What kinds of assistive listening devices are available?
There are many assistive listening devices available today, from sophisticated systems used in theaters and auditoriums to small personal systems. Various kinds of assistive listening devices are listed below.
PERSONAL LISTENING SYSTEMS: There are several types of personal listening systems available. All are designed to carry sound from the speaker (or other source) directly to the listener and to minimize or eliminate environmental noises. Some of these systems, such as auditory trainers, are designed for classroom or small group use. Others, such as personal FM systems and personal amplifiers, are especially helpful for one-to-one conversations in places such as automobiles, meeting rooms, and restaurants.
TV LISTENING SYSTEMS: are designed for listening to TV, radio, or stereo without interference from surrounding noise or the need to use very high volume. Models are available for use with or without hearing aids.
DIRECT AUDIO INPUT HEARING AIDS: are hearing aids with audio input connections which can be connected to TV, stereo, tape, and radio as well as to microphones, auditory trainers, personal FM systems and other assistive devices.
TELEPHONE AMPLIFYING DEVICES: Many, but not all, standard telephone receivers come with an amplifying coil. This coil is activated when the telephone receiver is picked up by a person whose hearing aid is in the "T" position. This position allows the aid to be used at a comfortable volume without feedback and with minimal background noise. These phones are called "hearing-aid compatible," and you should be able to get one from your telephone company. Not all hearing aids have a "T" switch so make sure that your aid has one before asking for a hearing aid compatible phone.
In addition there are specially designed telephone receivers which amplify sound. Or, special amplifying devices can be purchased that attach to a regular telephone receiver. Most of these devices have volume control dials. Some are recommended only for use where all household members have hearing loss. Some return to standard sound levels automatically and can be used in homes for people with or without hearing loss.
Where can I find an assistive listening device?
AUDITORIUM TYPE ASSISTIVE LISTENING SYSTEMS: Many major auditoriums and theaters, churches, synagogues, and other public places are equipped with special sound systems for people with hearing loss. Essentially, they consist of a transmitting system which uses one of a variety of method to send sound signals to an individual receiver. (Sometimes there is a rental fee for the receiver.) Some systems must be used with a hearing aid; other systems can be used with or without a hearing aid.
If you are considering assistive listening devices for personal use, such as personal FM systems and personal amplifiers, you should seek the help of an audiologist who has expertise in working with assistive listening devices to determine which device is best for you. An audiologist is a professional specially trained to identify and help people with hearing problems. The audiologist you select should hold a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) in Audiology from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). In many states a license is also required.