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Kathryn Stover, AuD
Hearing Assistive Technology
Virginia Head & Neck Surgeons, PC

Hearing Assistive Technology

Hearing assistive technology (HAT) devices are mechanical aids that enhance the function of impaired hearing ability. If you have difficulty hearing, HATs can greatly improve your quality of life. Whether or not you wear hearing aids, there are many HAT options to choose from.

Examples Of Traditional Devices

FM System A personal listening system that consists of a microphone, used by a speaker (such as a teacher in a classroom), that transmits sound to the receiver worn by the hearing impaired listener. The receiver can send the sound either directly to the listener's ear or directly to a hearing aid.

Telecoil (T-coil) A small coil of wire, placed within a hearing instrument by the manufacturer during the production process, designed to pick up a magnetic signal. When the t-coil is enabled, the hearing instrument can pick up direct electromagnetic signals from most telephones and wired or “looped” areas such as churches, theatres, and public buildings. A t-coil is helpful in noisy situations because the hearing aid microphone is turned off.

TV Ears A wireless headset that allows the user to listen to the television at a louder volume without changing the loudness for other listeners in the room. A small box connects to the television and transmits an infrared signal to the headset worn by the listener. The volume control is located on the headset for easy volume adjustments by the user.

Visual, Tactile and Amplified Devices There are a variety of HATs that assist the hearing impaired around the home. Some examples are amplified telephones, loud or flashing doorbells and house alarms, vibrating/flashing wake-up alarms, flashing baby monitors, etc.

Examples Of New Technology Devices

Wireless Streamer Usually worn around the neck, it facilitates wireless communication between hearing aids and telephones, televisions, as well as any Bluetooth audio device (such as cell phones, iPods and computers). The sound is delivered directly to hearing instruments, enhancing the use of hearing aids in any listening environment.

Mobile Devices Tablet computers (iPad), smart phones, and iPods/MP3 devices can be used as hearing assistive devices when utilized with appropriate downloadable applications. One can select an application to increase the incoming sound to a louder volume, convert speech into a visual signal, or use video streaming for both audio and visual input.

Amplification applications, such as EarTrumpet and iHearClear, can turn a mobile device into a portable, personal listening device. Environmental sounds and speech volumes can be raised to the listener's comfort. The sound quality of these applications can vary greatly and excessive volume levels can damage hearing. Therefore, amplification applications should preferably be reviewed by an audiologist before use.

Visual applications, such as Dragon Dictation, convert speech to text and are very helpful when speech cannot be made audible.

Telecommunication applications, such as FaceTime or Skype, use audio-visual connectivity. The user benefits both from seeing the speaker's face as well as hearing the speaker's voice.

For more information on hearing assistive technology contact a certified audiologist.

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