This blog is in two parts – the first part is a guest post by trained audiologist Melanie Lewis, the second part is some suggestions of our own:
Who does hearing loss affect?
Hearing impairment affects over 9 million individuals in the UK (source: RNID 2005 survey). The two most common reasons contributing to diminished hearing are age related (though slightly misleading as affects start in a person’s 40’s) and noise induced. In both cases, the level of hearing will not improve naturally and individuals depend on a growing number of sophisticated devices designed to overcome the hearing impairment using modern technology.
Hearing Loss Tech Gadget Ideas
What Goes Wrong Leading To Hearing Loss:
There are a number of organs and processes that must work to their potential in order for us to hear, see or smell. In the case of hearing, sound needs to be captured, then funneled to the brain where it is made into ‘tangible’ information that we can comprehend. Our inner ear includes tiny hair cells that are only visible under a microscope. These cells capture waves in the air (which we call ‘sound’) that are funneled via the hearing nerve to the brain. As the body matures, the quality and quantity of the hair cells is reduced leading to a challenging inability to hear certain sound frequencies. The hair cells can also become damaged (often more easily than people might believe) through exposure to harmful noise leading to noise induced hearing loss. The body is unable to repair or regrow the tiny hair cells so any management of hearing disability must depend on technological advances in science.
Digital Hearing Aids:
These digital amplification aids are available at no cost from the NHS and from private service providers offering digital hearing aids. Leading brands include Oticon, Phonak, Resound, Siemens, Starkey and Widex. The device is housed in a small lightweight plastic structure and sits inside or outside the wearer’s ear. It works by capturing waves in the air using a sensitive microphone that are then amplified using a powerful microchip. The amplified sound is transmitted directly into the ear using the receiver.
Differentiating factors between the various brands of digital hearing aids include size (with ‘discreet’ sizes normally commanding higher prices), wireless connection, Bluetooth connectivity and complexity of sound processing algorithms. While NHS hearing aids are free, model choice is limited and a waiting list may apply.
These are desk, cordless and mobile phones that have been specifically tailored for the hard of hearing. Leading brands include Doro, Geemarc and Amplicomms. The devices differ from normal phones in that they can amplify the ringer level often 10 times louder than that of a normal phone and amplify the voice of the caller to a suitable level. Differentiating factors between the various phones include caller voice amplification level, ringer volume in dB (can reach 60dB vs. 4 to 6dB on normal phones), telecoil compatibly to digital hearing aids, visual indicators and type of buttons (backlit, big button etc). Amplified phones are not usually available from the NHS, but can be bought at a reasonable price.
These aids are designed to attract the user’s attention to something that may have become inaudible and include amplified alarm clocks and amplified doorbells. They differ from normal alerting aids in their level of amplification that can reach 95dB and most importantly in the suite of other sensory triggers they offer. Devices will include visual indicators and often vibration pads that can be placed for example below the user’s pillow. Certainly in the case of most amplified doorbells, they are wireless so can be carried from room to room when the user moves around the home. Leading brands include Sonic Alert, Geemarc and Amplicomms and again, these are not usually available from the NHS.
In the case of profound hearing impairment and when ALDs (assistive listening devices featured above) are less effective, individuals will often supplement the management of their hearing loss with lip reading and British Sign Language.
If you or someone you know is concerned about their hearing ability, a visit to a local hearing centre is recommended. We hope you found this information of help.
Melanie Lewis is a trained hearing aid audiologist. She works for hearing direct, the UK’s biggest supplier deaf accessories from hearing aid batteries to personal amplification aids.
Other Hearing Aid Technology and Gadgetry
We’ve had a look around the market to find some other handy and innovative gadgets that may help if you suffer from hearing loss.
Our first interesting find was brought to our attention by a fellow Twitter user:
— Rob (@GingerRob) October 1, 2013
Apparently all digital wireless phones must now be hearing-aid compatible (HAC) and the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 feature built-in HAC making them easy to connect hearing aids to. The iPhone 5 has a HAC rating of M3, T4. The numbers next to each letter represent the compatibility ratings on a scale of 1 to 4.
The M rating is based on reduced radio-frequency interference that enables acoustic coupling with hearing aids that do not operate in telecoil mode.
The T rating is for inductive coupling with hearing aids operating in telecoil mode.
Vibrating Reminder Watches
There are quite a few vibrating reminder watches available on the market, in almost every colour and style you can think of. These watches are ideal for keeping track of daily tasks such as medication intervals, gym work outs or even for use when home cooking. This Pivotell Reminder Watch emits a discreet vibration that will alert the user but will not disturb those around them. You set set up to 12 different alarms and the vibration lasts for 5 seconds each time.
Vibrating and Light-Up Alarm Clocks
This funky looking alarm clock would be great for teenagers or young people. The stylish black finish and bright LED
screen would look great in a kid’s bedroom or in a student den! What makes the Wake ‘n’ Shake extraordinary is the vibrating pad that is attached to the clock.
By placing the pad under your pillow or next to you, the pad will vibrate when it’s time to get up – or for any other reason you decide to set the alarm. Not only this, but the Wake ‘n’ Shake can be connected directly to your home phone line, meaning you can be notified when somebody is ringing you.
Other useful features of the Wake ‘n’ Shake include a large, easy to read LED display, and the ability to also set the clock to alert you with a strobe light or an extra-loud 95dB alarm sound.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a little more subtle than the Wake ‘n’ Shake, we’ve also found the Lifemax 331 Under Pillow Vibration Alarm Clock. This handy devise is ideal for travel or at home, and simply slips under your pillow. The vibration is strong enough to wake you, but also perfect if you need to wake without waking anybody else in the house. The compact, lightweight design means you can take it anywhere with you, and as it runs on batteries there’s no need to find a power source.
Wireless Amplified Headphones
For those who love their music or want to amplify their TV or radio, these futuristic-looking headphones are the ideal solution. The Amplicomms TV150 Amplified Headset can wirelessly transmit stereo sound from almost any device you have around the home. Whether it be TV, DVD or MP3, this ergonomically designed headset fits snuggly in the ears and can transmit sound up to a massive 120dB. The powerful transmitter allows a range of up to 10 meters allowing you to freely move around the home, and they also include a built-in automatic volume control, which stops increases in noise such as TV adverts, from being too loud.
You may also enjoy a post on our other blog “Communication aids for deaf people”
If you have a favourite gadget or even something a little unusual that helps you, please let us know in the comments below.