Hearing loss affects more than 466 million people worldwide, and the number is still growing. Not restricted to older people, hearing loss can strike at any age, especially in those that have been exposed to loud noises, changing their lives forever. Thankfully, we now live in a technological age, and so although often scary, there are now a number of apps and devices available to help those with hearing loss to lead normal lives.
Here are 5 cool ways that assistive technology is aiding the hearing loss community:
1. Hearing aid apps
Hearing aids can dramatically improve the lives of those who use them, improving the clarity and volume of sound to compensate for the person’s hearing loss.
Over the year’s hearing aids have changed dramatically, and now come with a range of controls and settings that give each user the most custom experience.
With more people than ever now using smart-phones, hearing aid manufacturers have begun designing their own hearing aid apps that allow hearing aid users to control their devices, monitor their battery and even communicate with a Hearing Instrument Specialist all from their mobile phone.
The invention of hearing aid apps has significantly improved the user experience for those with hearing aids and has made them far more appealing to a younger generation.
2. Alerting devices
Alerting devices use sound, vibration, light or a combination of all three, to alert an individual to an event, such as their doorbell or the phone ringing or an alarm going off.
Over the years these devices have got cleverer, more efficient and more portable to help those with hearing loss with a number of difficult scenarios.
Portable vibrating devices can now detect a babies cry to notify a parent or caregiver if a baby is in distress, and some have even been designed to understand the various different styles of a babies cry to help the caregiver understand if the baby is crying because it is hungry, in pain, tired or bored.
3. Hearing loops
Hearing loops have been around for a while, but thanks to advancements in technology they are now better than ever.
A hearing loop system, also sometimes called an induction loop, can connect a person’s hearing aid directly to a microphone at an event, in class or at home, ensuring that someone who is hard of hearing can hear what is going on even if there is a lot of background noise.
Frequency modulated (FM) systems provide a similar solution, using radio waves to transmit a signal directly from a given microphone to a receiving hearing aid regardless of distance.
4. Augmentative communication devices
For the deaf or hard of hearing, communication can be a difficult task, but tablets and smartphones are helping to remove this barrier by allowing individuals to type or use pictures when communicating with one another.
At a very simple level, people can text effortlessly, and many services now offer text alternatives rather than requiring people to phone.
Especially in cases where speech is also impaired, smartphones and tablets have revolutionized communication and improved voice technology means that in some cases their written words can be transformed into seamless speech to be shared with others when giving a presentation or simply conversing in a group.
5. Cochlear implants
Finally, we have cochlear implants, which although last on our list are perhaps one of the greatest inventions ever created for the hard of hearing community.
A cochlear implant is a tiny electronic device that bypasses damaged parts of the ear to help restore the hearing in those who have even severe hearing loss from inner ear damage and who aren’t helped by hearing aids.
Whereas hearing aids amplify sound, cochlear implants bypass damaged parts of the ear altogether and deliver the sound directly to the auditory nerve.
The implanted cochlear device connects to something called a sound processor that sits behind the person’s ear, which receives the sound and sends it to the cochlear implant.
Although the cochlear implant is a fantastic invention it doesn’t exactly replicate normal hearing and the sounds a person hears through their cochlear implant can be a little different from those that they are used to. It typically takes about a year for someone to get used to their implant but after this time, they can make serious gains with the understanding of speech that was previously impossible for them.
It’s clear that technology has already helped millions of people to hear more clearly or in some cases to hear for the very first time and with technology improving every day, this is just the tip of the iceberg.