Assistive technology is narrowing the “communication barrier” for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. There is still a ways to go for comparability of technologies and equal access to telecommunications and information.
Assistive technology (AT) is changing rapidly and the possibilities are endless. Technology is available for alerting and notifications, telecommunications, assistive listening devices, captioning, and more. What was once common place, such as TTYs, is giving way to “texting” on Smart Phones, iPhones, and Blackberries and in some case video phones such as Sorensons and iPhones with Face-Time (live video to video) are connecting more and more people.
Overview of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Technology
Alerting /Notification Devices
Alerting or notification devices can be used by people who or deaf or heard of hearing as well as individuals with memory loss. The alert lets the person know when a sound occurs. Flashing lights, strobe lights or vibrating pagers or notification can be used for the telephone, doorbell, door knocking, alarm clock, smoke alarm, crying baby and other sounds. The individual needs to determine what sounds or alerts are most important to them based on their level of hearing and situations where they want to be alerted or notified.
Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)
An assistive listening device (ALD) can make it easier for an individual with a hearing loss to hear and understand better in a variety of settings because the sound goes directly to the listeners ears. The device transmits the sound wirelessly making it easier to hear and eliminating some of the background noise. ALDs are available for individuals with and without hearing aids and will depend on whether the aid has a telecoil (T-Coil). Larger systems are available for theaters, auditoriums, churches, and conference rooms to make listening easier.
A hearing aid is a device that can amplify sound waves in order to help a deaf or hard-of-hearing person hear sounds more clearly. Aids come in various sizes, shapes and even colors and are customized to the person. One size does not fit all. All of them include a microphone (to pick up sound), amplifier (to boost sound strength), a receiver or speaker (to deliver sound to the ear), and are powered by a battery.
Contact a licensed audiologist for a complete hearing evaluation and hearing aid fitting if an aid is recommended.
There are visual systems that can be used alone or in combination with listening devices and hearing aids. Persons who are hard of hearing or deaf, or even persons who have no hearing loss, can benefit. Examples of visual systems include the following:
• Text telephones e.g. CapTel
• Computerized speech recognition
• Closed-captioning TV
• Note taking e.g. CART