Manufacturers of assistive listening devices (ALDs) offer a wide variety of products. Your next patient’s individual needs will dictate the best options for them. Here is a brief overview of the latest technology on the market and when and where it is best applied.
Found in many modern ALD devices, a telecoil is a small sensor or copper wire that picks up magnetic signals and converts energy to sound. They are designed to help those with moderate-to-severe hearing loss. ALDs work in combination with hearing aid-compatible devices, such as phones. They are also adept at eliminating background noise and reverberation, helping users hear public address systems in sports arenas and on public transportation.
This technology is used to help listeners better focus on the sounds coming from directly in front of them. It works best when the person is close to the source of the sound they want to hear. Many modern devices can switch between directional and omnidirectional settings automatically. However, this technology is also prone to picking up wind noise. It may not be the most appropriate choice for patients who work or play outdoors.
Also called digital feedback reduction, the aim of this technology is to help reduce or eliminate high-pitched whistling noises that ALDs can sometimes produce. Most modern devices claim to have this feature, but its effectiveness varies between devices and brands, so be aware of what manufacturers you are working with. Also, this technology tends to work best for those who still hear the lowest pitches well.
Digital Noise Reduction
This is not the same as feedback suppression. Rather, this technology aims to improve the comfort of patients by blocking out some—or all—background noise. It can make it easier to understand speech, but it isn’t a fit for all situations.
At the higher end of the ALD spectrum, many manufacturers are beginning to include Bluetooth capabilities in their devices. This allows users to stream calls or music from smartphones and tablets. It also works with Bluetooth-equipped TVs. These devices may appeal to your most “tech-savvy” patients.
Other Technology of Note
There are a few other technologies that are starting to make their way into ALDs. For example, some ALDs now have frequency-shifting capabilities. This feature helps those who struggle to hear the highest pitches. Some devices have remote microphones. These are sometimes affectionately known as “spouse mics,” in which a patient’s loved one can wear to transmit their speech directly to the ALD.
When selecting an ALD, ask the patient what types of technology they are comfortable with. Many modern devices can be controlled with a smartphone. Some are cross-platform, others are Android- or iOS-compatible only. A patient isn’t likely to switch their smartphone hardware just to work with their ALD. They may be frustrated if they discover later that the device they chose doesn’t work with their platform. Be sure you are only offering ALDs that each patient can take full advantage of.
The latest technology can be expensive. The cost of an ALD should not deter your next patient from using one. This is where a partnership with CareCredit can help. With CareCredit, you can show every patient the technology that best fits their situation. Offering a financing option ensures each patient will get the care and devices they need, no matter their budget.