Assistive Listening Devices

An assistive listening device is a portable system that allows people who are hard of hearing to separate speech from background noise, enabling them to hear more clearly. It can be used with or without hearing aids or cochlear implants, and works well in situations where those instruments are ineffective.

Hearing aids and cochlear implants are excellent at amplifying speech, but aren’t very effective at separating background noises, making it difficult for people with hearing loss to follow conversations in certain environments. The toughest listening situations include:

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  • Hearing a speaker from a distance. Sound fades over distance. The farther away the sound source, the more difficult it is to hear and understand what is being said.
  • Dealing with noisy backgrounds. Competing noise is a distraction. When others are talking, or you’re dealing with ventilation systems, shuffling papers, TVs, traffic, etc. you can have trouble discerning speech.
  • Poor acoustical environments. Sound waves bounce off hard surfaces, causing reverberation and distortion. Large, open spaces or sparsely furnished rooms are notoriously poor listening environments.

In these scenarios, turning up the volume means turning up ALL the volume, even the background noise you are trying to avoid. An ALD solves this problem by separating the competing sounds and only turning up the volume on the speaker.

Assistive listening devices are useful in group lectures and meetings, restaurants, churches, movie theaters, shopping centers, and public buildings.

Assistive listening devices include a microphone, transmitter, receiver, and listening attachment. The microphone is placed near the speaker rather than integrated into the unit as with a hearing aid, and speech is broadcast from the transmitter to the receiver and directly to the user’s ear, hearing aid, or cochlear implant. Most ALDs utilize wireless technology and are compatible with Bluetooth devices such as cell phones, computers, and TVs.