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Assistive Listening Devices

What are Assistive Devices?

The terms assistive device or assistive technology can refer to any device that helps a person with hearing loss or a voice, speech, or language disorder to communicate. These terms often refer to devices that help a person to hear and understand what is being said more clearly or to express thoughts more easily. With the development of digital and wireless technologies, more and more devices are becoming available to help people with hearing, voice, speech, and language disorders communicate more meaningfully and participate more fully in their daily lives.

Where Can ALD’s be Used?

Theaters & Courtrooms

Classrooms & Lecture Halls

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Places of Worship

In the home 

Types of Assistive Devices

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)

These devices help amplify the sounds you want to hear, especially where there is a lot of background noise. ALDs can be used with a hearing aid or cochlear implant to help a wearer hear certain sounds better.

Alerting Devices

Alerting devices connect to a doorbell, telephone, or alarm and emit a loud sound or blinking light to let someone with hearing loss know that an event is taking place.

ALD’s work with Hearing Aids to Improve Your Quality of Life

Loop Systems

Hearing loop (or induction loop) systems use electromagnetic energy to transmit sound. A hearing loop system involves four parts:

  • A sound source, such as a public address system, microphone, or home TV or telephone
  • An amplifier
  • A thin loop of wire that encircles a room or branches out beneath carpeting
  • A receiver worn in the ears or as a headset

Amplified sound travels through the loop. It creates an electromagnetic field that is picked up directly by a hearing loop receiver or a telecoil (see sidebar), which is a miniature wireless receiver that is built into many hearing aids and cochlear implants. To pick up the signal, a listener must be wearing the receiver and be within or near the loop. Because the sound is picked up directly by the receiver, the sound is much clearer, without as much of the competing background noise associated with many listening environments. Some loop systems are portable, making it possible for people with hearing loss to improve their listening environments, as needed, as they proceed with their daily activities. A hearing loop can be connected to a public address system, a television, or any other audio source. For those who don’t have hearing aids with embedded telecoils, portable loop receivers are also available.

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.

The primary management option for permanent hearing loss is hearing aids. However, there are other devices, known as assistive listening devices (ALDs), that can help an individual detect sounds or understand speech. ALDs can be used in conjunction with hearing aids, or in some instances instead of hearing aids.

Assistive listening devices such as loop systems,  personal communicators and newer devices such as streamers and apps, are designed to improve access to speech and help individuals to communicate. Some of these devices facilitate access to music and enhance recreational pursuits such as streamers or TV amplifiers. These ALDs function by improving the signal to noise ratio, thus enhancing speech. Other ALDs alert the person with hearing loss to environmental sounds and these include alarm clocks, doorbell sensors, baby alarms and smoke detectors, which use flashing lights, vibrators or loud sounds.

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11135 S. Jog Road, Suite 2
Boynton Beach, Florida 33437

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