There is now a considerable range of products available to enable you to maintain contact with the world, despite hearing loss. This is a round-up of some of the most commonly available products: please send us an email if you are looking for anything in particular that you can’t find here – or if you come across something particularly useful that you think we should include.
Hearing aid technology has improved markedly – particularly with the use of digital rather than analogue sound processing, which enables the sound to be adjusted more accurately, to suit both the listener’s individual requirements, and the circumstances in which they are listening – on the phone, in a busy street, etc. Some digital aids adjust automatically to take account of different conditions.
Digital hearing aids are available in two main types – behind the ear, or BTE(left) where a mould sits inside your ear, connected to the main body of the aid which rests behind the ear; and in the ear, ITE, (right) or in the ear canal, ITC, where the entire aid fits inside the ear. People with very severe hearing loss or narrow ear canals may not be able to use these.
You can now buy disposable hearing aids, which fit right inside the ear canal, and are replaced when the battery runs out – about every 10 weeks. They come in fixed sizes, however, so don’t suit everybody.
A domestic induction loop is a smaller scale version of the loop systems used in public spaces such as theatres and conference centres. A cable encircles the room, and is fed by a loop amplifier (left), which picks up the sound signal either by means of a microphone or by being directly connected to the sound source. A magnetic field is produced which corresponds to the sound produced, without the impact of the room’s acoustic quirks or any other noise. Within the loop, a person can pick up this sound with their hearing aid switched to the ‘T’ setting. Domestic-scale induction loops are also available for use in cars.
A system such as the Comfort Contego (shown right) which comprises a digital wireless transmitter and receiver with neckloop enhances and improves the quality of sound from a variety of sources in the home, workplace and leisure environments. Both the transmitter and receiver have built-in microphone with zoom function to eliminate background noise. The unit can be used to pick up sound from a single source, such as a television or PC, or in omni-directional mode to hear, for example, speakers in different parts of a conference room.
Telephones and Mobile Phones
The telephone is a lifeline that need not be lost as hearing is impaired. Solutions available include telephones with built-in amplification; extra loud ringer, vibrating or flashing light alert; amplifiers to be used with an existing phone. Many amplified phones also have large buttons and other features to assist those with impaired vision or dexterity.
Bluetooth neckloops and ear hooks can be used with a compatible mobile phone to provide hands-free communication for hearing aid users. Hooks positioned right by the hearing aid provide excellent volume and clarity.
Neckloops can be used with landline phones as well as mobiles. A single wire connects the units, and they can enable even people with severe hearing loss to communicate by phone.
Alerts and Alarms
Missing a caller because you didn’t hear the door bell is a familiar experience for many with hearing impairment. The newest door bell alert systems are wireless, so that they can be installed without causing disruption, and have extra loud chimes, often combined with a flashing light or vibrating alert. A portable receiver can easily be carried about the house or garden so that no visitors are missed.
This smoke alarm system for deafened people (right) combines the familiar smoke detector which is mounted on the ceiling, with a vibrating pad, flashing strobe light and control box. The pad and light respond to the smoke detector to give a vibrating and visual alert, as well as the usual audible warning.
A flashing light phone alert (left) gives the option of a clearly visible flashing light and/or extra loud ring to signal an incoming phone call. This unit is combined with a remote doorbell alert. It can also be used with a vibrating pad if required.
A neat alarm clock to place under the pillow – it vibrates to let you know when it’s time to wake up. (left) This model also has an audible alarm, and other features such as a backlit screen, temperature display and ‘snooze’ feature. The jumbo alarm on the right combines features for visually and hearing impaired, and can be used to wake you in a variety of ways with a vibrating pad, flashing light and alarm.