Original content found on the Hearing Care Blog
For the most part, recent advancements in hearing aid technology have made it easier for more people who struggle with hearing loss to communicate. Hearing aids themselves have become smaller and more adaptable to most types of hearing loss, but sometimes hearing aids are still not enough. As people continue to live longer, more vibrant lives, they may find that they have to be able to effectively listen and communicate in more diverse situations. Poor environmental acoustics, heavy background noise, listening at a distance, classrooms, boardrooms, and other difficult listening environments can sometimes overwhelm the capabilities of even the most sophisticated hearing aids and dramatically affect their efficiency. Hearing Assistive Technologies (HATs) are a great solution in these difficult environments where hearing aids need a little help of their own.
What are HATs?
Hearing Assistive Technologies (HATs) are devices that can be used with or without hearing aids to help with daily communication. These devices make hearing and listening easier for people that may struggle with hearing and understanding speech, particularly in diverse listening environments. The various HATs can be used to help improve many situations, such as face-to-face communication and reception of electronic media, such as telephone, radio and television.
The most recent additions to the broad range of HATs are devices that add wireless connectivity options to hearing aid systems. Nearly every hearing aid manufacturer has developed some sort of connectivity package, and most use one of three methods: Bluetooth, near field magnetic induction, or radio signals in either the very low or very high frequencies. These systems allow hearing aid users to connect their hearing aids directly to phones, TVs, music players, and microphones to improve the performance of the hearing aids. Most of these systems require an adaptor device for the hearing aids, such as a remote or streamer, and a microphone or transmitter adaptor to attach to an audio source. The advantages of such systems are that the wearer can set his or her own volume for television and radio, listen to phone conversations in both ears, and eliminate most background noise in one-on-one communication. Connectivity packages can sometimes be intimidating for patients who are not technologically savvy, as they can include quite a few extra gadgets.
Induction Loop Systems
Induction loop systems are most widely used in large-scale settings, such as airports and auditoriums. They have the ability to magnetically transmit a signal directly to a personal headset or a telecoil in a hearing aid. Venues that employ induction loops typically display a notification symbol to inform patrons of the loop’s availability. Induction systems and telecoils can also be used in the home on a smaller scale to improve hearing while using a telephone or watching television. For in-home applications, the induction loop can sometimes be a more cost-effective and user-friendly connectivity option than other systems. In order to use an induction loop system, a hearing aid must be equipped with a telecoil and programmed for its use.
Personal Frequency Modulated Systems
Personal Frequency Modulated (FM) systems can be utilized in a variety of situations in which communication is critical, including boardrooms, classrooms, and one-on-one communication. FM systems are similar to induction loop systems but are typically used on a smaller scale. These devices reduce the effects that reverberation and background noise can have on the transmission of a speech signal. The FM system consists of a microphone and transmitter worn by the speaker and a receiver device used by a listener. This receiver can either be a personal headset or a boot on the bottom of an FM-compatible BTE or RIC hearing aid. FM systems are very reliable and often have better sound quality than other systems, but they also tend to be more cost-prohibitive.
An appropriately chosen and programmed HAT system can be a very helpful component of any hearing treatment solution, particularly when a person’s lifestyle needs include situations that can easily overwhelm the capabilities of hearing aids to reduce noise and enhance speech. Just like hearing aids, HAT systems should be customized by a qualified hearing professional to meet a patient’s lifestyle needs. To learn more about HAT systems, call our office and schedule an appointment.