Last-minute shoppers in Southern California looking for the perfect stocking stuffer for their loved ones who have trouble hearing should consider assistive listening devices. Less expensive than hearing aids, they provide a boost in noisy situations and are great for those who need a little extra help hearing…whether or not they have been diagnosed with hearing loss.
What’s the Difference Between Hearing Aids and ALDs?
If you automatically think of hearing aids when it comes to improving your ability to hear, we don’t blame you. These are the go-to choices for patients with hearing loss ranging from mild to severe, but there are certain situations in which hearing aids are either overkill or could use a little assistance themselves. This is where assistive listening devices (ALDs) fit in.
What are assistive listening devices?
Think of ALDs as portable devices that help improve the transmission of sound. Most are essentially hand-held amplifiers with portable microphones that improve the transmission of sound busy environments where there is a lot of competing noise. Like hearing aids, they amplify sounds, allowing those with hearing difficulties to understand speech and music more clearly.
Hearing aids are much more specific; they are programmed to a patient’s specific frequency of hearing loss, while ALDs offer a broader benefit, especially in situations where distance or poor acoustics make it hard to hear. ALDs come in several different styles and can be used as standalone devices or to give hearing aids a boost.
What are the different types of ALDs?
- FM Systems. FM systems include a microphone, transmitter and receiver, and utilize radio signals to send amplified sound directly to your hearing aids. They are helpful in public places where there is a lot of background noise, such as classrooms, restaurants, movie theaters and places of worship.
- Personal Amplifiers. Personal amplifiers are similar to FM systems, only smaller, and are meant to be used without hearing aids. They contain a built-in microphone and are most useful in smaller, more intimate settings where radio signals are less effective. They are popular for those watching television or traveling by car.
- Infrared Systems. Infrared systems are also similar to FM systems but rely on a transmitter that converts sound into infrared light and beams it to a receiver, where it is translated back into sound. Because light is unable to pass through walls, infrared systems are an excellent choice in situations where sensitive information is being conveyed and privacy is important, such as court proceedings.
- Hearing Loops. A majority of today’s hearing aids include a telecoil, a wireless receiver that picks up signals from public hearing loops (induction loops). These systems use electromagnetic energy to transmit sound that is free of background noise directly to hearing aids. There are three components to a loop system: a sound source such as a PA system, an amplifier and a loop of wire. They are located in high-traffic public places ranging from airports and movie theaters to classrooms and shopping centers.
- Alerting Devices. Not all assistive devices require “listening.” Visual alerting devices such as vibrating alarm clocks, telephones that flash when an incoming call is received and closed captioning services for the small and big screen can all help people who are hard of hearing.
An additional benefit of ALDs is their low cost, especially compared to hearing aids. Your purchase won’t break the bank and is sure to prove helpful to a loved one who could use a little hearing assistance. If you’d like more information on assistive listening devices, give your Los Angeles audiologist a call.