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ABCs to Better Hearing

 

(IR) Systems

One of the most common Hearing Assistance Technology (HAT) devices in the Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) category is an InfraRed (IR) system to watch TV.

It consists of two parts: a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter is usually placed on top of the TV or close to it. There are facilities to connect the transmitter directly to the TV. For older TVs however, a small button microphone is included that can be attached with velcro tape where the sound comes out.

There are two types of receivers: stethoscope (stetho) or pendant. The stetho is for users who do not wear hearing aids, or their aid is not equipped with a telephone coil (telecoil). With aids equipped with a telecoil, the pendant type can be used with a neck loop, headset, or silhouette. When using a silhouette or neck loop, the user merely switches the hearing aid to the “T” position and plugs the other end into the receiver. The sound from the TV bypasses the air space and come directly into the ears. The volume is user controlled regardless of the TV volume. Thus, the TV can be set at normal volume while the IR receiver can be adjusted to the user's comfort level.

Bright sunlight may interfere with IR Systems that operate at the lower frequency range, creating a buzz or hum in the receiver. Some other lighting such as fluorescent lights with electronic ballast or mercury vapour light may also cause interference.

 

Adapted Telephones and Miscellaneous Devices

There are amplified telephones especially designed for the hearing impaired. Depending on the model, incoming volume can be increased up to 50dB over the standard level without distortion. The ringer can be adjusted to a very loud level. Some models have an audio output jack for a headset, neck loop, or silhouette.

An inexpensive device called an Inline Amplifier may be connected to any telephone, except cordless and cell. This device allows the user to increase the incoming volume in addition to the regular standard volume on the phone. Some models allow further increase by depressing a button.  It is portable and runs on batteries or AC adaptor.

For people with difficulty hearing the alarm clock, there are special portable alarm clocks that not only buzz but wake you with a gentle vibration if placed under the pillow. It is ideal for people who travel.

Other inexpensive devices are small timers and/or stopwatches that vibrate when the set time expires. These are handy for parking meters, exercising, cooking, or boiling a kettle of water.

 

Neck Loop

A neck loop is a piece of insulated soft wire shaped in the form of a closed loop and worn like a necklace. The other end is plugged into an audio receiver such as an IR receiver, Walkman, personal telephone amplifier, or any other audio source.

The user merely switches the hearing aid to the “T” position to activate the telephone coil. The sound, instead of being sent to the headset goes to the neck loop and transferred to the hearing aid through the principle of magnetic induction. Thus, the sound goes directly into the ear bypassing the air space and reducing or eliminating unwanted background noise. Neck loops are not recommended for people with pacemakers. 

 

Silhouette

A silhouette works on the same principle as the neck loop – by magnetic induction. It is a wire encapsulated in hard plastic shaped in the form of a thin hook. It is placed behind the ear between the head and a BTE hearing aid with a telephone coil. The other end is plugged into an audio receiver with a thin cable. The volume is much louder than a neck loop since the silhouette is placed right next to the hearing aid in the “T” position. Silhouettes may be safe for pacemaker wearers as the magnetic field is further away. However, it is strongly advised to obtain a medical opinion before use. 

 

Government Assistance for Hearing Aids and Assistive Devices

Some of these HAT devices are paid by the Quebec Government through RAMQ (Medicare). Your hearing loss must be at a certain level; in the better ear. To find out if you qualify, see a certified audiologist who will administer a hearing test to determine the hearing loss. Most hospitals have an Audiology Department where the test can be performed. 

The Government also pays, if you qualify, an entry level digital hearing aid every 6 years, and any required repairs during that time. Certain exceptions are made for full time students, children, and adults still in the work force. 

Required documents

  1. A recent audiogram (hearing test less than 1 year) conducted by an audiologist;
  2. A recommendation for devices from the audiologist; and
  3. A certificate from an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) doctor attesting to a permanent hearing loss.

 

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