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Improvements for Hearing Loss Technology

While technology is better than ever for hearing loss, there’s still room for improvement. Those who have been wearing hearing aids for years love the technology…for the most part. We have more options than ever but there are some frustrations.

Public Venues: Assistive Listening Systems

Thank you for having assistive listening which is inviting for those of us with hearing loss. If you invested in a nice system, cheers to you! We appreciate you making sure we have a good experience along with everyone else. Thank you too for having prominent signage letting us know it’s there and where to go to pick up devices. Another big thank you for maintaining the devices and keeping them in working order. That’s welcoming to those with hearing loss. We are 20% of the population and we love going to places like yours.

background is blue on the left fading to green on the right. Black font on the top says Assistive Listening. Under that is the symbol for assistive listening, a blue square with an outline of an ear and a stripe running from top right to bottom left. White Hearing Loss LIVE! logo in a circle to the right.
A black box with a check mark. Black front next to it that says: Don't just check the box! Involve the HoH Community, invest in quality and satisfaction, maintain & test regularly.
@hearinglosslive

Some places bought the cheapest and easiest option and we can tell. The sound quality isn’t good and we don’t hear that much better with the ‘assistive listening’. This leaves us feeling left out so why come back? You just did it to check the box and stay out of trouble while meeting the barest minimum of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). When you hand us devices that haven’t been charged, or otherwise unmaintained, you are telling us you don’t want our business. It’s disappointing, we wanted to participate with your business. Some of us will try to educate you on the importance of maintenance but if we run into that issue again, bye-bye! You lost us.

Tokenism

When you are only checking the ADA box, it’s called “tokenism”. It’s a symbolic effort only. It’s show and tell (don’t touch!) without any benefit. This is not inclusion. In fact, it’s quite heartbreaking for those of us with hearing loss.  

A wish from Hearing Loss LIVE!: When updating an assistive listening system, ask the Hard of Hearing community what they want, if possible. There’s a variety of options with today’s technology. Some of us are knowledgeable in assistive listening systems and we have experience. If there’s a hearing loss support group in your area, ask them what their preference is. That’s super inviting! A compromise might be needed but work together with your clients who have hearing loss. Participation in the agreement process creates community. 

Movie Theater Accommodations
Hearing Loss Technology Improvements
Black background. White box with CC to the left. Font to the right of it says: Closed Captions, in a box or on a device.
White font in the middle: Maintain caption devices or push a button on a projector? Image to the right of two theater tickets popcorn and a side.
Near the bottom left font: Open captions, no box, no device on the screen. A white box to the right of that with OC in it.

As above, your staff needs regular training on assistive listening devices (ALDs). The technology is made to be inclusive. Your lack of maintenance makes it exclusive. This is a human error that can easily be avoided. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone to the movies to have our ALD run out of battery, captions be set to the wrong movie or had people who can’t find the devices. 

You know what would instantly fix this issue? Featuring open captions (OC). Push a button and the captions show up on the screen. More and more people are embracing captions so why not give it a try? Rotate captioned movies and give us some prime times. Closed caption (CC) devices got some of us back into the theater but open captions are the best. 

Connectivity Issues

Hearing aids and connectivity are better than ever AND it can be improved. Chelle is a little over a year into Bluetooth hearing aids that don’t use MFI (Made For iPhone). Here’s a few thoughts and ideas from her…

Background is blue on the left fading into green on the right. White Hearing Loss LIVE! logo upper left of 3 leaves inside a circle with the words Hearing Loss LIVE! underneath. Image shows a computer monitor on the left with arrows up to a smartphone image. On the right is an image of a gray hearing aids with arrows to the computer, smartphone and a map of apps in white below. Black font reads: Maybe we need options to turn off specific connections? @hearinglosslive
Hearing Loss Technology Improvements
  • Connection happens fairly fast once paired, sometimes too fast and without my knowledge. Certain devices hijack my hearing aids such as the iPad upstairs while I’m downstairs. All of a sudden my hearing aids cut out of my environment and I hear a “ding” and then I’m back in my environment. I connected it to it the other day but not today so it surprises me. A pop up banner in my phone asking me if I want to connect to that device before doing so would be nice.
  • My hearing aids connect to 2 devices at a time, my phone and my computer. As I’ve said, sometimes I’m unknowingly connected to two devices and can’t figure out why I can’t hear on the computer. Frustration sets in as I go down the checklist to figure out why I can’t hear. Oh, I connected to that iPad upstairs. I can turn it off in my phone but it might connect to my hearing aids again later if it gets a chance. I trudge upstairs to turn off the Bluetooth there.
  • Certain apps will hijack my hearing aids. If I want to check my weather, my environment disappears as long as I have the app on. I don’t know why because I don’t hear any sound through the app. I wish each app had a button with an option to turn off the Bluetooth. Same for another few apps. It drives me crazy.
  • Connecting to my computer via Bluetooth is a nice option, but I prefer hearing on my computer through my Roger On. When hearing through my Bluetooth connection to my computer, sound can fade in and out depending on which way I turn my head. Sound is more consistent with my Roger On.  
More Control in Our Hearing Aid Apps

While I’m on the subject, let’s talk about getting a little more control in our hearing aid apps. I’d love to be able to turn off the beginning chimes I hear in my aids when I turn them on. Maybe some people like them but I don’t need them. Instead, I have to ask my audiologist to do it for me. Also, I like to take a hearing aid out now and then; my ear is itching, I need to change the battery or I need a break. The hearing aid that is still in my ear will constantly chime to let me know one hearing aid is out. How annoying! Again, I have to go to my AuD to get that taken care of. It could just be an easy slide button in my hearing aid app, for individual preferences. 

Let’s Talk About Technology

Here’s some of the hearing loss technology issues we heard last night at our monthly workshop:

  • We talked about battery vs rechargeable hearing aids, the pros and cons. What we heard was that the rechargeable hearing aids don’t last all day long for Bluetooth streaming. At some point they have to pull out their hearing aids to charge for an hour. 
  • Us old timers find the AI feature in hearing aids and CIs a little frustrating. It can be a pain in the rear to keep a preferred program on specific environments.
  • Bluetooth assistive listening won’t be out until 2025. They are working on direct links, sidestepping the need for an app but it’s not there yet and may not be for another few years. Bluetooth and WiFi assistive listening systems won’t magically appear suddenly. Most likely, venues will use what they have first and when they go to update, they might go with these systems. 
  • Companion microphones were brought up again. It seems a lot of audiologists tell us we don’t need one. (We are dropping our heads in disbelief. Shame on them.) Companion microphones extend our hearing aid use in many ways: Cars are challenging places to hear and the companion mics definitely help us hear. Just because we are adults doesn’t mean we don’t attend classes or lectures somewhere. The mic helps here. They help in restaurants and other noisy environments. If you think you might want one, insist on it and ask about a return policy just in case. Most people who get one find they use it often.

What are your suggestions for hearing loss technology improvements? What’s on your wish list?

One reply on “Improvements for Hearing Loss Technology”

Excellent article. Technology is not given enough attention for people with HL, as evidenced by your example of Audiologists not promoting Partner Mics. Any time I give a presentation, there is always a section on ALD’s and how they complement the HA’s. HA’s can only do so much – mostly amplify, though my Audi has given me Programs in my Phonak app that helps me her better in noisy situations.

I have the same issues you mention about losing the bluetooth connection when certain games or apps are being played on the phone. I wish there was something in the App setting to turn it off.

The other comment I agree with is using the Roger On on my Mac. I listen to music all day while on my Mac and the sound through the Roger is clearer than the Bluetooth option. Plus the Roger is consistent, never cuts out. The other thing is that I have to turn off the Bluetooth connection on my iPhone 1st before I can connect my Mac to the HA’s thru Bluetooth.

It is a great time to have HL because of the Technology. When I lost my hearing 20 years ago, there was nothing other than the HA. And it will only get better, but that doesn’t mean we should stop advocating.

Thank you for all you do through Hearing Loss Live. I eagerly await your weekly emails as I always learn something from them. Keep up the great work. Hopefully I get to meet some of you in Phoenix.

Mike – Chester County PA

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