Assistive hearing technology: The Hearing Journal

WHAT IS A HAT?

Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) is a term that covers assistive listening devices, alerting devices and telephone equipment that provide greater access to the source of sound and greater access to communication for people with hearing loss. These devices and systems often supplement information coming from a hearing aid, cochlear implant, or other personal hearing device, although some HATs can be used even if you don’t use personal hearing devices at all. HAT serves to enhance the listening experience to get as much information as possible from whoever is speaking and from the environment.

WHAT ARE ASSISTIVE SYSTEMS AND HEARING DEVICES?

Assistive listening systems and devices allow the person with hearing loss to pick up sound from the source and bring it directly to the ear, mitigating the effects of distance and ambient noise and reverberation.

What is the difference between a wiretapping system and a device? The systems are designed to handle larger spaces, are often installed, and can provide one signal to many people. An assistive listening device is usually used for one-to-one conversations and is often a wired device such as a personal amplifier.

IF YOU JUST PURCHASED A HEARING AID, WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU NEED ANOTHER HEARING DEVICE?

As wonderful as hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other hearing devices are, they can’t do everything. Hearing in noise is especially difficult for hearing aids, which work best in one-on-one conversations. As Dr. Cynthia Compton-Conley noted:

assistive listening systems [act] as “Ear Binoculars”. Just as binoculars capture a distant, hard-to-see image and bring it closer to your eyes so you can see it more easily; placing a microphone near the speaker’s mouth picks up the desired speech and sends it directly to the listener’s ears before it travels across the room, loses energy, and is degraded by noise and echo.

Listening systems include those that have been around for a long time, such as hearing loops, FM (also called RF) systems, and infrared (IR) listening systems. The difference between these three is that the signal (one’s voice) is carried to the receiver using different technologies. Each must use a microphone to pick up the sound, each uses its own technology to carry the sound, and then each connects to a receiver – a telecoil in a hearing aid for hearing loops or through headphones or neck (for hearing aids with telecoils) that connect to the FM or IR receiver.

Listening systems are going through a period of intense innovation and experimentation. Cutting-edge technologies such as Wi-Fi and new Bluetooth systems are about to become available to provide another way to carry the signal to a receiver that will connect to hearing aids. Keep an eye out for new developments and test as much as possible to find systems that work well for you.

WHAT IS A “WARNING DEVICE?”

Warning devices are technologies that use audible signals and/or tactile or visual signals to replace devices that provide sound that is too soft or loud in a way that is difficult to hear. These devices can produce a loud sound or a sound that varies in pitch so that it is easier to hear, such as a cell phone signal. They can shake like an alarm clock that wakes you up with a vibration. Or provide a video instead of a sound like the doorbell ‘Ring’. Or they can flash like a smoke alarm strobe.

TELEPHONES

Over time, phones have become more accessible to the hearing impaired. Dedicated desk phones can boost the volume to a level you can live with. Internet Protocol Captioned Relay Service (IP CTS) provides a hearing-only service that allows you to read what you cannot hear on specially designed phones or mobile phone applications.

Mobile phone manufacturers seem to be racing to provide the most affordable products possible. From hearing aid compatible mobile phones with a Bluetooth (BT) connection directly to your hearing aid, to multiple cameras that allow you to video chat, to those that provide captioning within the phone itself, these products contribute to a better , more clearly a phone conversation.

WHERE CAN I FIND A HAT?

Unfortunately, there are very few storefronts offering HAT. What we have are mail order and internet based stores that sell much of this equipment online. All you have to do to find them is search the web under “hearing loss products”. Without a doubt, you’ll find a number of options for purchasing the type of equipment you need to make your life a little easier when you have hearing loss.

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