Beyond the Hearing Aid: Hearing Assistance
Hearing aids may not solve all of your communication problems.
You may still have difficulty hearing the television, your alarm clock, a knock
on the door, callers on the telephone, events in an auditorium, or communication
in an extremely noisy situation. Assistive devices can be useful in these
Are there different types of assistive devices for the hearing impaired?
There are two main types of devices: assistive listening devices
and alerting devices. Assistive listening devices help with listening. Alerting
devices signal the presence of a sound.
Assistive listening devices
There are several types of assistive listening devices designed
for different types of situations. Here are a few:
Hearing in background noise
- FM/infrared (IR) system: An FM or IR system can reduce the
communication difficulties caused by background noise. An FM system brings
the talker's voice directly to you, as if the talker were sitting directly
in front of you without the interference of background noise. They can help
you hear in noisy places when there is too much distance between you and the
speaker, or when you are in a room with poor acoustics.
Hearing the television
- TV listener: This device allows you to listen to the television (or
radio) at a louder volume without turning up the television’s volume. A
microphone is placed directly in front of the speaker or plugged directly
into the television. The signal is then transmitted wirelessly to a receiver
worn by the listener. The sound is delivered to the ears by headphones, ear
buds (small earpieces), or other devices connected to a receiver. A volume
control is adjusted by the wearer to a comfortable level. You are encouraged
also to make use of the closed captioning (CC) option on your TV.
Hearing the telephone
- Telephone amplifier: A number of devices are available that can be
attached to your telephone to help you hear conversations by increasing the
volume of the incoming voice.
- Amplified telephone: You can also purchase a specially designed
telephone that not only amplifies sound but also enhances the higher
frequencies (pitches), which are important for understanding speech.
Hearing is not only used for communication, it allows you to
stay in touch with your environment. Alerting devices can inform you of a number
of important warning signals, such as the sounds of the doorbell, telephone,
smoke and fire alarms, or an alarm clock. The ability to recognize these signals
is important not only for your safety and independence, but for the safety of
others around you. Here are a few different types of alerting devices:
- Fire/smoke alarms: Sometimes, even with hearing aids, it is
difficult to hear the signal of a smoke alarm. Additionally, while sleeping
you will not be wearing your hearing aids and your hearing loss may prevent
you from hearing your smoke alarm. An alerting smoke alarm may alter the
characteristics of the alarm’s sound (i.e., loudness or pitch), or utilize a
strobe light or vibration to alert you to the alarm.
- Doorbells: Modifications to doorbells include louder chimes or
visual alerts, such as a lamp flashing to let you know that the doorbell has
rung. These modifications can be made through simple attachments to your
doorbell and the alerting device chosen.
- Telephones: Attachments to the telephone or amplified telephones may
allow you to modify the telephone ringer so you can be alerted when it
rings. Common adjustments that can be made are ringer volume, pitch, and
pattern to maximize your ability to hear the phone ring. There are also
attachments that may allow for you to plug the ringer into a light to get a
- Alarm clocks: There are amplified alarm clocks that allow for a
volume and pitch adjustment of the tone of the alarm to make it more audible
for your hearing loss. Additionally, a small vibrator can be placed under
your pillow or a light can be flashed to wake you up in the morning when
your alarm goes off.
Where can I find these devices?
The Hearing Assistance Technology Center, located within the
Head and Neck Institute Section of Audiology (Desk A71), provides a place where
you and your family and friends can view, sample, and purchase a variety of
assistive devices. The center is an interactive, "homelike" setting where you,
along with an audiologist, can experiment with different devices to find the one
that works best for you.
Call 216.444.6691 to arrange an appointment to view and try out
the devices that may assist you in obtaining better hearing in all situations.
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