Dating with hearing loss? Assistive listening devices can be your wingman
You find yourself in the dating world – again – but your hearing isn’t what it used be. Or perhaps you're still a part of the dating game, searching for Mr. or Mrs. Right by utilizing the Internet. Communicating by email, text and online chat is easy, but what happens when it’s time to meet face-to-face or talk on the telephone? What can you do to minimize the effects your hearing loss has on your ability to communicate? You need a wingman – and Assisted Listening Devices (ALD) may be just what you’re looking for.
What is an ALD?
Assisted Listening Devices are amplifiers that bring sound directly into the ear. People with all degrees of hearing loss can benefit from using ALDs, from those who wear hearing aids and cochlear implants to those who don’t. Each ALD has three main components: a microphone, a transmission technology and a device that receives the signal and brings the sound to the ear.
ALDs separate speech from background noise, which can be particularly important when you’re meeting a new person for the first time. Who wants to listen to the conversation at the next table when there’s a potentially interesting discussion developing with the person at yours? Some ALDs are portable and battery-powered, which makes them easy to use while watching television, traveling in the car, eating in a restaurant or interacting in small groups. And, since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, public venues such as museums, movie theaters, churches, classrooms and airports are required to provide some type of ALD.
Types of ALDs
Hearing Aid Compatible Phones
Even though getting to know a potential suitor by talking on the telephone is one of the best, safest ways to start a relationship, it isn’t the same as it used to be when we were younger. Remember the old wall-mounted telephones with the long extension cord – the ones that allowed you to take your ultra-private conversation, complete with giggling, into the other room (If you don't remember these, kudos to your youth!)? Today’s telephone technology has changed dramatically, especially if you wear hearing instruments.
Since the Federal Communications Commission created the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988, telephone manufacturers are required to be compatible with hearing aids. If you wear hearing aids, that means you can hear the person on the other end of your mobile or landline phone without interference from buzzing, whining or humming noises.
To get the most from your wireless telephone, find out what type of hearing aids you’re wearing. This will help you determine which of the following amplifiers is best suited for you.
- Acoustic coupling amplifies all sound in the immediate area, which might make it difficult to separate speech from background noise.
- Telecoil coupling blocks unwanted sounds, such as background noise, and only amplifies the desired sound, such as the voice on the other end of the telephone. Some hearing aids have a telecoil switch, which you can flip whenever you want to talk on the telephone.
If you’re not sure what type of hearing aids you have, ask your hearing healthcare professional. Not only can they tell you what features your hearing aids have, they can also show you how to use them effectively.
You’ll also want to consider using a phone with these features:
- Volume control: Not only will this help you control the volume of your conversations, it will also allow you to adjust the volume of the ringer.
- Other alerts: Some phones have features that allow the phone to flash and/or vibrate when you’re receiving a call, so you are less likely to miss those important phone calls.
- Speech to text: Also known as captioned telephones, phones with this feature allow you to read the conversation as you’re listening to it.
- Large screen phones. Many wireless phones now have larger screens, which makes it easier to read incoming text messages.
If you don’t yet wear hearing aids but find you need a little help hearing on the telephone, you might benefit from a telephone amplifier. These devices increase the volume of your telephone. Portable amplifiers attach directly to the headset and have a built in volume control. Prices on these devices range from $7 to $70 online. Your hearing healthcare professional may also be able to recommend a good manufacturer.
Hearing Loop Systems
If your relationship takes you into the theater or another public location, see if you can choose a venue with a hearing loop. These systems provide a magnetic, wireless signal that is picked up by your hearing aid when it’s operating in telecoil mode. The system consists of a microphone that picks up speech, an amplifier which processes the signal, and a wire cable that circumvents the perimeter of the venue to act as an antenna.
With your hearing aid in telecoil mode, you hear the sounds directly from the PA system’s microphone, instead of from the internal microphone in your hearing aid. This minimizes background noise and provides you with clearer sound. The better you hear, the better you’ll be able to discuss the plot and acting with your date after it ends.
Want to take in an educational lecture or tour the latest exhibit at the local art museum together? An FM system may be the perfect third wheel. These wireless, portable devices can be worn around your neck on a loop, as headphones or earphones. They work with hearing aids in telecoil mode and also for those who don’t wear hearing aids at all. Like hearing loop systems, sound is delivered directly to your ears.
Dating is difficult enough without having to worry about hearing loss getting in your way. Thanks to today’s technology, it doesn’t have to stand between you and your ability to communicate effectively. With ALDs and your hearing healthcare professional by your side, you'll soon be at the top of your dating game.