ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE HEARING IMPAIRED
Hearing impairments are the most common form of chronic physical disability in the US. Hearing loss may be mild or severe; it may be present at birth, occur throughout life and during later years. A hearing loss may present substantial educational, vocational and social barriers or be a minor inconvenience.
Access to sound is a crucial factor in education and employment. Individuals should be given preferential seating and always sit near a speaker and have good lighting to take advantage of visual access.
The most important device is the individuals' hearing aids. These should be used during all waking hours for formal communication and for all the incidental language and information that occurs unpredictably.
Several companies make hearing aids. An audiologist should be consulted prior to any purchases. They will match the hearing aid to the type and level of hearing loss.
An alternative to the hearing aid is an auditory trainer, which channels the speakers' voice directly to the individual as though the speaker was standing next to the individual at all times. This may be a separate piece of equipment or it may "boot" wirelessly directly to the individual's own hearing aids.
Another possibility is the sound field system - a microphone (transmitter), an amplifier, and speakers. The speaker wears a microphone, sending his/her voice to the amplifier which arrives to the individual through speakers. While a sound field system brings enhanced sound to individuals, it also has the effect of a public address system. Classmates and co-workers may find their attention turning to the change in the sound of the speaker's voice.
A cochlear implant is a medically implanted device which translates sound from the environment to the acoustic nerve. Its popularity is increasing with continued advances in its capacity for use with a wider audience. Implantation has been restricted to deaf people since the implant destroys any residual hearing in the cochlea.
A Closed Caption (CC) device projects text on a television screen to read when speech may not be understandable through hearing alone. All TV sets on sale now have the closed caption capability built in, and the service itself is provided free of charge by the television industry. To use this system, the viewer must activate a visual display that is coded on the signal of the program.
Personal & TV Listening Systems
Enjoy crisp, clear sound without having to turn up the TV to maximum volume. The latest wireless technology provides direct sound with adjustable volume and without distracting background noise.
Large area personal listening systems provide assisted listening in schools, churches, or meeting facilities.
Telephones & Ringers
Hear conversations with improved clarity and amplification by using telephones that have built-in volume and frequency adjustments, or make an existing telephone louder by adding an auxiliary amplifier or replacement handset.
Amplified telephone ringers allow customized selection of volume and frequency for those who may have difficulty in hearing the phone ring.
TTY/TDDs - "Text Telephones"
Communication for hearing and speech-impaired persons is now as easy as dialing the phone and typing a text conversation with the use of a TTY. A teletypewriter (TTY), also known as a telephone device for the deaf (TDD), allows a person who does not hear well enough to talk on the phone to communicate his/her message through text. A small device resembling a typewriter couples to the telephone and transmits the text as typed by the user. The person at the other end must have a similar device.
Colorado Relay Service is a Federal program in which a hearing person transmits messages between a hearing impaired person and a hearing person who does not have a TTY or TDD. An operator reads text from a TTY/TDD and types back to that person. He/she also voices on the telephone to the other person who does not have this device. Sign language might also be used with a video camera. While this particular agency is in Colorado, the service is mandated by Federal Law and is available in all states in some form.
Visual or vibrating systems provide signals to alert for messages, doors, phone, fire, baby, wake-up alarm, and medications.
Sometimes speech is so difficult to understand that an augmentative communication device might be needed. This can take the form of palm spelling, voicing by computer, machine, or other devices. Individuals with multiple handicaps might also benefit. Technological advances are multiplying the range of choices.
The latest internet devices are set up for soundless communication. A hand-held communication device from Wyndtell is intended particularly for the hearing impaired, but can be used by anyone. It fits in a pocket, has a full keyboard, and works with TTYs. It vibrates to notify the owner to check communication, which might be a page, e-mail, a fax (receipt only), text to voice, or voice to text. It is a very versatile device for hearing impaired or communication impaired people.
Vendors:ADCO Hearing Products, Inc.
Resources:Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf