Have you noticed that your spouse, child, friend or the person for whom you are a caregiver does not always answer the telephone when it rings. Does it worry you that may not hear a fire alarm? Does it feel as though a loved one is withdrawing from family conversations? Is the television consistently too loud?
If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, your spouse, friend or recipient of your caregiving may need one or more assistive listening devices (ALD) in their home or apartment. These devices are designed for use by persons of all ages, with or without hearing impairment, to promote safety and improve communications. They enable people to function more independently and give those around them greater amount of mind.
Assistive listening devices provide the means to be alerted to everyday sounds with or without the use of a hearing aid. Numerous types of ALDs exist. Typically, they fall into four categories: (1) devices to improve telephone communication; (2) devices for personal enjoyment of television and radio; (3) devices to enhance face-to-face communication; and (4) technology to provide greater awareness and recognition of environmental sounds and alerts.
For many, the telephone is the main mode of communication with others. Unfortunately, when most phones ring, they do not provide any visual cues. Thus, calls may go unanswered. Even when they are answered, often times amplification is sufficient to carry on a normal conversation. An amplified telephone with a ringing alerting device typically solves these problems. Amplified phones enable people with varying degrees of hearing loss to increase receiver volume and, in some cases, even clarify voices. The addition of an amplified ringer allows the ringing volume to be significantly increased. Also, the pitch of the ring can be changed to a much lower frequency that is often easier to hear. In the case of a substantially hearing impaired individual, a feature is available to easily connect the phone to a table lamp or other light to provide a flashing visual signal when the telephone rings.
A television or radio is often the main companion of many homebound and elderly individuals who, all too often, find it difficult to hear and understand dialogue without turning the volume up as loud as possible. This can create tension in the home and when the residence is an apartment, with neighbors. A television or radio amplification system using infrared transmission technology can afford a simple yet effective solution. This assistive device employs a small infrared transmitter box which is placed atop the television or radio. It sends sound directly to a personal headset which could be stereo headphones or lightweight ear buds. The more elaborate headset typically has a volume control which enables the listener to adjust the volume to a desirable level without changing the actual volume of the television or radio. The device is wireless so can go anywhere and be used with almost any TV or radio.
Individuals who relish their conversations with friends and family, but who find it increasingly difficult to hear others, should put their vanity and egos as and tested and fitted for a hearing aid. However, many people simply can not or will not wear a hearing aid. That does not mean that they need not hear others at all. If for no other reason than to be able to receive important instructions and ask questions regarding food intake, medication, pain, and discomfort, a personal listening device should be considered. It is perfect for brief yet important conversations.
Personal amplification systems are designed to be portable, so they can be used anywhere, inside or out of doors. They are great for one-on-one conversations and TV listening, and are particularly helpful in situations where sitting face-to-face is difficult (ie, in a car). Many personal amplification systems are equipped for use with a hearing aid for extra amplification. More sophisticated systems are based on FM radio transmission frequencies and are ideal for people who frequently attend lectures, meetings and other gatherings where a presenter at the front of a room and large amounts of background noise are present.
Safety is always of first concern. Visual and amplified alerting devices can alleviate some of the anxiety of leaving hearing impaired and elderly people home, alone. Alerting devices monitor a wide variety of household systems, including doorbells, telephones and fire alarms. For the sound sleeper, there's even a vibrating alarm clock. These devices sound an extremely loud and low pitched audible alert, making it easier for an individual to recognize the alarm and know that action must be taken. Also, these devices can be set to flash a light – in the case of the fire alarm a strobe light – to alert the person to potential danger.
All of these assistive listening devices are available from several manufacturers. Typically, they are easy to set-up and use. Neither fine motor coordination nor good vision are requirements. Unfortunately, most consumer electronics stores do not carry a complete line. Fortunately, ALDs can be obtained from your local Audiologist who will gladly assist in determining which devices are necessary and best, and will also train in their proper use. The name of your nearest audiologist can be found in your local phone directory or on the web at http://www.audiology.org