Assistive Listening Devices

Hearing aids do a great job of reconnecting users with their friends and families, but certain situations limit their effectiveness.

In these cases, an assistive listening device (ALD) can help bridge the listening gap and improve communication.

ALDs can be used as standalone devices or paired with hearing aids.

How Do Assistive Listening Devices Work?

An assistive listening device refers to any electronic component that helps a person with hearing loss to communicate. Think of an ALD as a personal amplifier. It consists of a microphone that is placed close to (or worn by) the speaker, a transmitter that sends signals to a receiver, which in turn relays the signal to the user’s ear, hearing aid, or cochlear implant. It is useful in a number of situations where those instruments alone tend to be ineffective, such as:

  • Overcoming distance. The farther you are from a sound source, the more difficult it is to perceive speech.
  • Background noise. Background noise interferes with comprehension because your brain must deal with competing sounds. With an ALD, the focus is on the speaker rather than the many distracting background sounds (air conditioning, traffic, people coughing, etc.).
  • Poor acoustics. Often, the room in which a speaker is located features poor acoustics. Open spaces, hard surfaces and lack of furnishings can result in reverberation and distortion issues.

ALDs help overcome the challenges found in these situations by turning up the volume on the microphone (positioned near or on the speaker), amplifying only those sounds you want to hear. Hearing aids do not have the ability to separate competing sounds and would therefore amplify all sounds. ALDs are most useful in classrooms and lecture halls, restaurants, churches, airports, movie theaters and other public buildings.

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