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Assistive Listening Technology

An Assistive listening device (ALD) is used to improve hearing ability for people in a variety of situations where they are unable to distinguish speech in noise. Often in a noisy or crowded room it is almost impossible for an individual who is hard of hearing to distinguish one voice among many.

Hearing assistive technology systems (HATS) can help people hear better in many situations where hearing aids are of limited benefit. All HATS, large and small, frequency modulated (FM), infrared (IR), or induction loop systems (IL), are based on the same principle: they all bridge the distance between the sound source and the listener. They are all capable of considerably enhancing a hearing-impaired person’s speech perception. They can all provide improved auditory access in many challenging acoustic situations for people with hearing loss.

The problem is that hearing-impaired people are not fully informed about their existence, are not sufficiently motivated to try them, or are unable to afford them—particularly personal FM systems. Audiologists may think that they are informing their clients about hearing assistive technologies, but these perceptions are not necessarily shared by the clients themselves. For example, in 2002, Prendergast and Kelly reported that 84% of 110 audiologists surveyed reported that they provided their clients with advice on HATS. However, in a survey of 942 hearing aid users, only about 30% of them reported receiving this information from their hearing aid dispensers (Stika, Ross, & Ceuvas, 2002). In other words, their perceptions conflicted with the intent of the dispensing audiologists (who, undoubtedly, sincerely believed that this information had been presented to their clients). In this context, however, the only pertinent consideration is what a hearing aid user recalls. Good intentions don’t count.

Our challenge as a profession is to be sure that we get the message across. Much more can be done to help and educate hearing-impaired people than just dispensing hearing aids. The logical place to provide this information, education, and assistance in using and obtaining hearing assistive technologies (such as warning and signaling devices) is during the hearing aid selection process. Ideally, clients are scheduled for group follow-ups (either a hearing aid orientation program or a short-term Aural Rehabilitation program). Regardless of what we call it, one of the goals of such a program is to introduce clients to the various kinds of hearing assistive technologies now available. We must affirm the fact that the evaluation, selection, and dispensing of all types of hearing assistive technologies is part of our scope of practice.

Reference: Online

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