Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)

People with all degrees and types of hearing loss can benefit from assistive listening devices (ALDs). You may have certain communication needs that cannot be solved by the use of hearing aids alone, or you might find that only an ALD is required to meet your needs. These devices can help improve the use of the telephone, radio, and television, as well as augment the door chime, telephone bell, and alarm clock.

Assistive listening devices come in a wide range of styles including:

Personal Listening Systems
Designed to carry sound directly to the listener. Includes FM systems and personal amplifiers.

TV Listening Systems
Designed for listening to TV, radio, or stereo without interference from surrounding noise.

Direct Audio Input Hearing Aids
Can be connected to the TV, stereo, tape and/or radio, microphones, auditory trainers, and personal FM devices.

Telephone Amplifying Devices
Telephones that are “hearing aid compatible.”

Many individuals find that ALDs are most beneficial when used with their cell phone, as the combination of hearing aids and mobile phones can sometimes create frustrating results. However, more and more cell phone companies are coming out with cell phones that have lower radio frequency emissions or use innovative technologies to lessen the unwanted effects on hearing aids. It is also required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for cell phone manufacturers to make phones more compatible with hearing aids, and in some cases provide hearing aid compatible handsets.

Facts On Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)

ALDs are “binoculars for the ears” and may benefit many people with residual hearing. They are intended to augment standard public address and audio systems by providing signals that can be received directly by persons with special receivers or their own hearing aids.

A minority of hearing aid owners concurrently use ALDs. About 1 in 4 consumers use a phone amplifier, while less than 10% of hearing instrument owners are users of ALD devices for enhancing their hearing with TV, at movies, in places of worship, or in conferring.

ALDs “stretch” the performance of a hearing aid by increasing the signal to noise ratio (SNR). This is significant as SNR has to be higher for many people with hearing loss for them to hear speech over background noise ALDs reduce the effect of distance between the person with hearing loss and the sound source; override poor acoustics; and minimize background noise.

There are hard-wired ALDs and three types of wireless ALDs (audio loop, FM, and Infrared). All three types can be used with or without hearing aids, and can be used with an array of receiver attachments for consumers with varying needs and preferences. This includes neck loops, silhouette inductors, headphones, direct audio input and other linkages.Hard-wired ALDs include hand-held amplifiers with microphones, direct audio input microphones, and hard-wired systems.

Another category of assistive listening devices are the self-contained beamforming microphone arrays. Some may connect with hearing devices via the telecoil or direct audio input.
Each type of ALD has advantages and disadvantages. The type of ALD appropriate for a particular application depends on the characteristics of the setting, the nature of the program, and the intended audience.

ALDs may be installed in large areas, portable for personal use, or in the case of FM systems, built into a hearing aid.

ALDs are an example of auxiliary aids and services and reasonable accommodations required by the Americans with Disabilities act (ADA) to be provided by public facilities, state and local governments, and employers, to enable people with hearing loss to participate in their programs and services.

ALDs typically have not been covered by any public or private health insurance plans, and are not available in mainstream retail outlets. Most ALDs must be purchased through catalogs of ALD distributors or from some hearing health professionals. Access, availability and therefore awareness of ALDs by consumers is a limiting factor to their acceptance and use.

Other assistive technology that can benefit people with hearing loss include alerting devices, such as special smoke detectors, doorbells, telephone ring signalers, telephones, and alarm clocks. These may produce loud signals, visual signals, or tactile signals. Captioning and CART (Computer Assisted Realtime Transcription) also provide great benefit.

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