Mar 12, 2018 6:04 PM
Hearing Aids don't always work.
While hearing aids are still the front line treatment for hearing loss, there are limitations to their effectiveness. Background noise, listening to people at a distance, telephone, television — these situations present special challenges to nearly all people, but, especially the hearing impaired.
Fortunately, there are many solutions that can help people with diminished hearing that can be used both with and without hearing aids.
“The very first, and most important thing to do is to get a hearing evaluation. Hearing loss usually varies in the way it presents. In order to help your hearing, you must first know where your hearing needs help.” says Dan Rochel, owner of Hearswell in Isanti.
The volume control is not your only option on television. Tuning your TV and stereo frequency response can produce more clarity. Most people have hearing loss that is more severe in the higher pitched sounds than in the lower pitches. If this is the case, turn up the treble and turn down the bass. If you have a TV larger than 13”, made after 1993, you also have text captioning abilities. As of 2014, your remote will have a special button to turn this ability on and off easily.
Some phones also allow you to adjust the frequency response to match your hearing deficit, which can be very helpful. If not, there are many solutions for telephones available. All phone lines have a surcharge on them called Telecommunications Relay Service or TRS. These dollars go towards different types of phone systems for the hearing impaired and other disabilities. These can range from the from extra loud to text captioning. There is even a three digit code to connect users up to some of these services: 711. There is no charge to the user. Of course with the increased use of cell phones, 'texting' has become ubiquitous, and has been a fantastic help to people with severe hearing loss.
In situations where there is background noise, or reverberation, there are also helpful strategies. In most of these areas, avoid the middle of the room. This is where reverberation, or echo, is most pronounced, and is usually where there will be the most background noise. Particular room acoustics, and amplifier placement can change this rule of thumb dramatically, so sometimes you have to experiment to find the best location for better hearing.
“The above tactics can be helpful to anyone who's having trouble hearing in a given situation.” says Rochel, “and with the exception of some forms of TRS service, they do not require special instruments.”
Of course these strategies are also available to people who are lucky enough to have hearing aids. However, the addition of hearing aids into the mix dramatically increases the resources available to the hearing impaired. For instance, many hearing aids have a mechanism called a tele-coil built into them. A tele-coil, or t-coil, is a small copper coil used to boost the magnetic signals from the telephone handset.
Over the last few years, many hearing aids have been designed to connect directly to devices such as TV’s, computers, tablets, and cell phones. Since the sound a hearing aid wearer receives is tuned for their particular hearing loss, this greatly improves the clarity and reduces the background interference for the listener. Remote microphones are another popular hearing aid. These are used in any instance where a listener is trying to zero in on a particular sound source, such as a spouse in a crowded restaurant, or a teacher in a classroom. These are simply a microphone that can broadcast to a hearing aid for up to 100 feet. The mic can be a small lapel pin, or the listeners own cell phone.
Tele-coils have been available in hearing aids for decades. In many parts of the world, public spaces are “looped”. This means that the building’s PA system is hooked up to a transmitter that emits a magnetic signal that can be picked up by a hearing aid with a t-coil. Technically these are called ‘audio induction loops’. Over the last decade or so, these have started to become the international standard. Here in the USA, they have not caught on as rapidly, mainly because of higher initial cost. While we Minnesotans are a little behind our neighbors in Wisconsin and Michigan, soon we should be catching up. By statute, new construction of public buildings in MN will include these ‘loops’. Right now, there are many churches and public built-ins that have loops.
At Hearswell in Isanti, they don’t just sell hearing aids. “We are in the business of helping people hear better, utilizing whatever tactics or technologies we can” said Dan Rochel of Hearswell. The Minnesota Department of Human Services estimates that up to 14% of the population, or 750,000 people have hearing loss. If you have questions about what you can do to help yourself or a loved one hear better, call Hearswell.