“What are Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) and who benefits from them?” Claire asked.
ALDs are any device which helps overcome hearing loss. They improve the ability to hear in a variety of settings. They also refer to any device which assists with hearing loss or a voice speech or language disorder to communicate. The term includes hearing aids or amplification devices, augmentive and alternative communication devices, alerting devices, infrared systems, personal amplifiers and closed captioning services. With the advancing digital and wireless technologies, more devices are becoming commonplace and available for public use. They assist many in making communication more meaningful and available, thus improving their daily lives.
ALDs are often thought of as hearing aids, cochlear implants or BAHA (osseointegrated bone anchored hearing assistive devices). But they may also be personal sound amplifying products (PSAPs). These are devices that the consumer utilizes as an amplifier for the television or hunting. Allow me to explain PSAPs. These devices are referred to as “hearables”. You purchase them through an Audiologist or over the counter (OTC) at general stores. Because the cost of hearing aids is a great investment, some consumers turn to PSAPs. These devices are worn by individuals with mild hearing loss of those who only want to hear the TV better or as an amplifier for sounds while hunting. The attack/release time on the hunting PSAPs is normally very rapid, thus acting as a hearing protector when the gun blast occurs and a hearing aid or amplifier at other times. As an Audiologist, I assist patients with the decision of PSAPs versus hearing aids.
Augmentive and alternative communication devices help individuals who have difficulties expressing themselves. These devices can range from basic picture boards to synthesized speech from texting. They are often utilized by individuals who have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, stokes or voice related traumas as examples. A speech language pathologist assists the patient with the correct device and use. She/he also assists with funding sources and qualifications.
Alerting devices are any device which emits a loud sound, vibration, flashing lights, etc. to allow the hearing impaired individual to be aware an event is taking place. They are connected to doorbells, telephones, alarms, use in pillows or next to beds.
Infrared systems use infrared light to transmit sound rather than radio signals. The light is converted from the transmitter into a receiver worn by the listener. This type of system is often used with television. The infrared system is like the loop or alerting systems because the signal (light beam) cannot pass through walls or in buildings with competing environments such as outdoor lights. FM systems are similar as both assist people whose hearing aids or cochlear implants use a neckloop or silhouette inductor to convert information to the listener.
Personal amplifiers are most useful in areas which the above mentioned systems are unavailable or while traveling. They are about the size of a flip cell phone and assist in improving the signal to noise ratio (SNR). In other words, they help with the increasing of sounds in front (signal) and decrease the sounds in back or background (noise). Directional microphones help with the angle thus improving the SNR. As with all ALDs they can be worn as hearing aids, earphones or earbuds.
Everyone can benefit from ALDs from the one using it to the recipient. Hearing aids are the most common ALDs on the market.
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Patricia Larson Shields, AuD FAAA MA CCC-SP/L is a doctor of audiology with her degree from The School of Audiology of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in February, 2003. She has been in business in Mitchell, SD since September, 1991.