What are Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)?
You may have certain communication needs that cannot be solved by just using hearing aids. These situations may involve telephone, radio, television, or the inability to hear the door chime, telephone bell, and alarm clock. Special devices have been developed to solve these problems. Like hearing aids, assistive listening devices and alerting devices make sounds louder. Typically, a hearing aid makes all sounds in the environment louder. Assistive listening devices and alerting devices can increase the loudness of a specific desired sound, like a radio or television, a public speaker, or an alarm system, or may make an auditory alarm (such as a smoke signal) into a visual alarm (such as a strobe light).
Are ALDs only for people using 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 hearing aids; some are used without hearing aids.
What types of ALDs exist?
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 sound 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-on-one conversations in places such as automobiles, meeting rooms, and restaurants.
TV Listening Systems: These are designed for listening to TV, radio, or stereos without interference from surrounding noise or the need to use very high volume. Models are available for use with or without hearing aids. TV listening systems allow the family to set the volume of the TV, while the user adjusts only the volume of his or her own listening system.
Direct Audio Input Hearing Aids: These are hearing aids with direct audio input connections, usually using wires, which can be connected to the TV, stereo, tape, and/or radio as well as to microphones, auditory trainers, personal FM systems and other assistive devices.
Telephone Amplifying Devices: Most, but not all, standard telephone receivers are useful with hearing aids. These phones are called ” hearing aid compatible.” The option on the hearing aid is called the T-Coil. The T-coil is automatically activated on some hearing aids and manually activated on others. Basically, the telephone and the hearing aid’s T-coil communicate with each other electromagnetically, allowing the hearing aid to be used at a comfortable volume without feedback and with minimal background noise. You should be able to get hearing-aid-compatible phones from your telephone company or almost any retail store that sells telephones. Not all hearing aids have a “T” switch. Make sure your hearing aids have a T switch before purchasing a new hearing aid compatible phone! There are literally dozens of T-coil and telephone coupling systems. Speak with your audiologist to get the most appropriate system for your needs.
Cell Phones: Most hearing aids can be used with most cell phones. Importantly, digital hearing aids and digital phones may create constant noise or distortion. There may be significant problems for some hearing aids when used with particular cell phones! The best person to address this problem is your audiologist — speak with your audiologist BEFORE you buy a cell phone or hearing aids! Regarding “hands free” systems, there are many to choose from and hearing impaired users usually benefit maximally by using binaural hands free systems or headsets with loudness controls in tandem with telephone systems.