Auditory devices include items that help with hearing and expressive communication. Hearing is more than receptive language. Hearing involves recognizing environmental sounds, noise and alerts. However, not all auditory devices help a person hear with their ears. Some devices supplement hearing with sight or feeling to achieve the same goal. Auditory devices come in a few categories that will be covered here in brief.
Hearing aides have a high degree of variability. There are behind the ear, in the ear, in the canal, completely in the canal and receiver in the canal models. All have their pros and cons. All are tuned to meet the needs of each individual’s audiogram. I will not go in depth with these models, but if you want to learn more, visit mayoclinic.org.
Many over-the-counter hearing devices exist to increase the volume of your surroundings. These devices appear to be great options. They are low cost, do not require expensive evaluations, and–for the most part–perform quite well. However, they are not recommended. Hearing aides are designed to not only help you hear sounds louder but also more clearly and prevent further hearing loss and damage. The over-the-counter devices do not offer you the clarity or the protection quality hearing aides can provide. Talk to an audiologist before making any recommendations or selections of hearing aides.
Assistive Listening Systems
Assistive Listening Systems (ALSs), or Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs), are designed to help an individual focus more on voices and cut down on signal-to-noise ratio (National Association of the Deaf, NAD.org). ALSs come in various types–such as FM, Infrared and Inductive Loop systems. These systems are used to transmit audio from a teacher, instructor or presenter to the listener in a louder and clearer manner. They can be used by individuals with varying degrees of hearing loss, and each has their own pros and cons. For more information and history on ALSs, visit NAD.org or read the book Foundations of Aural Rehabilitation, 3rd Edition by Nancy Tye-Murray.
Low, Medium, & High Tech
Low tech options are limited in this category of assistive technology. Some low tech options include vibrating alarms and light indicators. Many medium and high tech options are expensive and not always covered by insurance companies. Some helpful devices or software are sound amplification devices or applications (e.g., hearing aides, ALSs), and closed captioning on TV programs and Internet videos.For a more complete list, visit the Maryland Assistive Technology Connection Hub.
Many people might assume cochlear implants belong in the category of high tech devices. However, cochlear implants are not always considered as assistive technology by professionals. There are two reasons for this: 1. Cochlear implants are only for individuals with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, making it extremely limited in availability and benefit. 2. Cochlear implants are not covered under current IDEA mandates for device selection or maintenance by school systems.
A common auditory service is aural rehabilitation. An audiologist or speech-language pathologist helps a person adjust to auditory devices by fine tuning frequencies on aides and helping individuals recognize sounds as words, sounds, or alerts. Other services include real-time transcription, which transcribes speech into written text, word-for-word as the language is spoken. Telecommunication–once an essential communication service–has seen great improvements over the last 20 years. Previously, telecommunication systems such teletypewriting devices were used for phone conversations between the deaf/Deaf/hard-of-hearing and hearing individuals. This has been made obsolete with text messaging and video chatting apps such as FaceTime.