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Assistive Listening Systems and Your Hearing Prerogative

With over 48 million Americans across the country and an astounding 466 million worldwide suffering from disabling hearing loss, staying up to date with advancing technology and new laws and regulations may be the difference between accessing your right to hear in public and private settings or struggling to receive the help you’re entitled to. Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), everyone has the right to hear in public places, making sure that if public address systems are used, an assistive listening system (ALS) is available for those with hearing loss as well. With numerous types of ALS systems available, technology has made it much easier to increase your quality of life while in public settings, whether they help eliminate background noise, or are discretely hidden to aid you without needing to use and return noticeable devices.

What Type of ALS’ Are There?

Fortunately, finding venues with an ALS should be simple thanks to ADA guidelines. To abide by the ADA’s Standards for Accessible Design, venues must have signs that properly show that they utilize assistive listening systems by displaying the blue international symbol, and numerous types of systems must be made available upon request with strict standards, right down to the size of audio jacks.

1. Hearing Loops

The most widely used and preferred ALS, hearing loops are a discretely hidden wire that surrounds a seating area that plugs into an amplifier and PA system. The loop then converts sound from the PA system into an electromagnetic signal that is received and translated into sound by telecoils found in most hearing aids.

 2. WiFi Systems

Though these do not follow ADA guidelines and are not an acceptable ALS system in the eyes of the law, WiFi systems are becoming increasingly popular with the rise of smartphones and tablets. While audio is streaming, sound is delivered through a WiFi connection to an appropriate app on your smartphone or tablet. Unfortunately, this requires attendants to use their own device as a receiver, failing to reach the ADA’s requirement of equal access.

3. RF Systems

Requiring a receiver that you must borrow from the venue, RF systems are becoming less popular for more convenient and user-friendly listening systems. Utilizing radio frequencies, RF systems transmit sound to receivers and earbuds like a personal radio. Though the ADA Compatibility Mandate required RF systems to be upgraded in 2012, they are still drastically lacking in technology compared to other systems.

You Have A Right To Hear

Assistive listening systems are increasing the quality of life for the millions of users with hearing loss by fulfilling their right to hear. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, whether it be concert halls, transportation hubs, or places of worship, systems such as the Hearing Loop or WiFi are ensuring that hearing loss will not stop you from participating in the joyful activities of your daily life. Whether you wear hearing aids or are struggling with untreated hearing loss, it’s important to know your rights when it comes to hearing in public places.

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The Most Useful ALD Technology Available Today

Young woman with hearing aid using smartphone indoors

Assistive listening devices (ALDs), also acknowledged as assistive listening systems (ALS) are amplifiers that bring sound directly to the ear. These assistive devices can help you communicate better in one-on-one conversations. ALDs separate sounds, most notably speech, from background noise. People with a hearing impairment require a volume increase to achieve the same level of understanding as those without a hearing problem, and an ALD provides this boost in volume without making the sound too loud for everyone else. If you do not use a hearing aid or have a cochlear implant but need an occasional sound boost, an ALD can increase the volume level for you as well.

Multiple Uses

An ALD is appropriate for people with all degrees of hearing loss ranging from mild to profound. Hearing aid users, people with cochlear implants and individuals who use neither a hearing aid or cochlear implant will find an ALD useful. ALDs amplify sound for those without a device and stretch sound for hearing aid and cochlear implant users. ALDs aid listening in three ways:

  • Minimize background noise
  • Reduce the distance between a sound source and the receiver
  • Override poor acoustics

ALDs work well in places of entertainment, workplace, educational settings, and personal use. Here are five ADLs that can improve your listening experience.

Personal Amplifiers

This small box is ideal for one-on-one conversations. These devices allow the person to whom you are speaking to attach a microphone to their clothing while you plug the cord into your amplifier. The result is amplified conversation without background noise. The devices are small and relatively inexpensive.

Infrared Systems

These systems transmit sound via light waves. As the light waves will not penetrate walls, these systems are particularly useful for private situations such as doctor visits and court proceedings. They also work well at theatres and for television viewing.

FM Systems

These ALDs offer mobility. The devices use radio broadcast technology to deliver sounds directly to your ears. This wireless system allows you to hear sounds from up to 150 feet away from the sound source. This system is an excellent choice for educational settings and outdoor activities.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth technology enables two devices such as a cell phone and a wireless hearing aid with streamer to communicate with each other. It provides a secure connection without interference and allows a user to switch back and forth between multiple devices.

Induction Loop Systems

This system utilizes an electromagnetic field of insulated wire to transport sound to a user’s ears. Versatile and inexpensive, this mobile system can find use among the non-hearing aid wearers by the use of headphones or a receiver system.

Boost The Volume

If you wear hearing aids and feel like a boost in volume in certain situations is needed, an ALD might be right for you. Even if you do not use a hearing aid or have a cochlear implant, an ALD can increase the volume while you watch TV, attend a class, or enjoy the theatre. Speak with your hearing healthcare professional today to determine if an ALD is right for you.