Assistive listening devices

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This content was last reviewed on: October 15th, 20152015-10-15 11:20:00

Assistive listening devices enhance hearing in places like theaters and lecture halls. They also enable connections to audio sources for music and TV.

Hearing aids are designed to help individuals hear better. While they make it easier in day-to-day situations, there may be certain communication needs that cannot be solved by just using hearing aids. These situations may involve telephone, radio and the television. Special devices – assistive listening devices – have been developed to solve these problems. Assistive listening devices can help increase the loudness of a desired sound, like a television or telephone.

Amplified telephone

Amplified phones are specifically designed for people with hearing loss, allowing users to turn up the volume as necessary to hear speech clearly.

Equipped with special features, many amplified telephones can make it easier to hear high-pitched noises. In the event the individual with hearing loss is soft-spoken or struggles to hear their own speech, some telephones can amplify outgoing speech to make it easier to be heard.

Amplified telephones are available in both household and cellular models. These phones typically have additional features than basic phones, like caller ID, large number keys and speakerphone. Some phones also have the capabilities to work with a headset, photo dialing, backlit keypads, answering machine or wall mounts. Often, phones also have special alerts or noises to notify the user if it’s not hung up correctly.

Additionally, if an individual needs to utilize amplified technology at home and work, a telephone amplifier should be considered. This device works to increase the volume of the phone the person already owns. There are two types of telephone amplifiers available – in-line amplifiers that are compatible with both digital and analog phones and are best for individuals with moderate to severe hearing loss. The second type, a portable amplifier, is an option for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss and can increase sounds up to 30 decibels. These devices attach to the headset on a telephone and make it simple to make conversation louder or softer.

Hearing aid compatible phones


Since 1988, it has been required by law that hearing telephone manufacturers make models compatible with hearing aids. This generally works in two different ways, either acoustic or telecoil coupling. Acoustic coupling allows sounds around the user to be received and amplified. This type of amplification can pick up both ambient or background noise. Telecoil coupling is usually used in individuals with severe or profound hearing loss because it blocks the unwanted noise and amplifies desired sounds.

Digital or wireless phones can pose a high level of interference if the devices aren’t compatible. Electromagnetic energy is transmitted through these types of devices and can cause issues in hearing aids. A rating system has been created to determine the compatibility.

Other items to consider would be speakerphone and speech-to-text options. These types of services could help an individual with hearing loss communicate more easily or freely. To determine which cellular device is most compatible with your hearing aids, consult your audiologist and mobile service provider.

Assistive listening devices for televisions

In addition to talking on the telephone, many individuals with hearing loss can have trouble clearly understanding or hearing the television. Modern hearing aids equipped with wireless capabilities can help make it easier to adjust the television volume without turning it up too high. Individuals with these devices can stream television dialog using Bluetooth technology.

There also are television amplifiers. These devices work with and without hearing aids and do not require an earphone socket. A television amplifier doesn’t affect the overall volume of the television, so it remains an enjoyable experience for everyone watching. This device works by attaching a small microphone to the television set with Velcro. This is then connected through a wire that feeds to a set of headphones or a neckloop that is transmitted directly to the hearing aids.

Additionally, neckloops, or induction loops, can help improve the overall clarity of sound when used with a telecoil on hearing aids. Earphones or headphones that plug into a television’s earphone socket also are an option for individuals with hearing loss. TV Ears®, a wireless headset, also can be purchased to help the individual with hearing loss and their television-listening experience.

In the event an individual with hearing loss isn’t ready to purchase a device to help amplify television sounds, closed captioning is one of the most popular options to fully understand television programming. This allows individuals to understand their shows without having to adjust the volume to a level higher than others enjoying television might need.

FM Systems

An FM system is a wireless technology that makes it easier for people with hearing aids to understand what others are saying in noisy situations, like classrooms or at public events. The FM system is made up of a transmitter microphone that is used by the person speaking in front of an audience and the receiver is used by an individual with a hearing aid. FM systems are advisable for individuals who struggle to clearly understand speech in loud situations.

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