Hearing aids are great! They help people improve their hearing and minimize communication difficulties. Although, I will be first to admit that hearing aids will not always markedly improve some situations that us as audiologists and the patients would like. Many of these situations involve a lot of background noise or high reverberation. I’m here to tell you–there are things that can be done to help hear in these situations!
One thing that can help with understanding of speech particularly in public places is looping. Looping allows hearing aids to use their telecoil to hear the play, enjoy the musical, understand the sermon, or catch the punch line in a movie via a universal magnetic signal instead of the hearing aid microphones. By using the telecoil feature, the signal is heard directly in the patient’s hearing aid. This improves the signal to noise ratio leading to an improved signal quality. The good news about looping is that a telecoil costs no additional money to patients. If you frequent a public place with looping available, ask your audiologist to activate your telecoil. If you currently do not wear amplification but are noticing hearing loss, make an appointment with an audiologist for a hearing test. If hearing aids are recommended, make sure to ask which models have the telecoil available.
What places are looped? The Illinois Academy of Audiology has a list of places in Illinois. If you are a hearing aid wearer, be sure to look for this sign, as it is the universal sign for looping. With an increasing demand for looping as well as more awareness, more public places than ever are looped.
What if your hearing aid does not have a telecoil or if the public place you attend does not have looping–do not worry there are other solutions for you! Many hearing aids now have accessories such as mini microphones that use wireless communication to improve the signal to noise ratio when at distances as well. For a few hundred dollars, you can expect to listen easier when at lectures, church, and meetings.
There are also personal FM systems that can be used in addition to the hearing aid to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. These can be quite expensive but definitely the most effective in boosting the signal-to-noise ratio.
Hearing aid users do not get frustrated in public! Instead, encourage public places you frequent to consider adding a loop. Speak with your audiologist about wireless accessories that can help in difficult situations.