Assistive Devices Center
We invite you to visit our new Assistive Devices Center in New York City to learn about assistive technology that can help you live and communicate better inside and outside your home. You'll learn about special phones with amplification and captions, a wireless headset that allows you to hear your television better, and an alarm clock that creates a vibration under your pillow (just to name a few).
For more information about the Devices Center, email us at twilliams@CHChearing.org
or phone us at (917) 305-7922.
Free group demonstrations are offered every Thursday at 2:00 pm at our NYC office at 50 Broadway. Walk-ins are welcome at this time, though always best to call ahead to confirm at (917) 305-7766.
Assistive Devices Overview
Although hearing aids are extremely useful in assisting individuals with hearing loss in their day to day activities, there are many situations in which the hearing aid alone will not provide sufficient help. The use of an assistive device may be required to help in these situations.
There are two types of Assistive Devices:
Assistive Alerting Devices
Designed to react to alarm situations and are used to let a deaf or hard of hearing person know that some condition is occurring (such as smoke alarm, door bell or baby crying).
Please read on to learn more about alerting and listening devices and to get answers to frequently asked questions.
Assistive Alerting Devices
Amplified Ring, Flashing Light or Vibration alert for Telephone, TTY (or TDD) Voice Carry Over (VCO) and Video Phone
The ability to hear a telephone ring will depend on a number of factors such as the severity of the hearing loss, the frequency of the telephone ring and the distance from the telephone to the person. If the individual does not respond to the sound of the typical telephone ring, there are telephone ringers available which have adjustable volume, pitch, and ring patterns. Very often, a lower pitch ring can make it easier to hear. If the hearing loss is severe there are devices that will cause a light to flash, a body worn unit to vibrate, or a bed-shaker to vibrate when sleeping. Most amplified telephones have options for volume, pitch and pattern as well as a small flashing light to indicate the phone ringing.
Some telephone alerting devises are part of a complete alerting system and are usually wireless making installation easy.
Doorbell, Knock and Intercom
If the doorbell, a Knock on the door or Intercom cannot be easily heard, there are a number of options that are available.
There are many wireless extra loud doorbells that are currently on the market. The doorbell is installed outside the door of the house or apartment and the receiver (bell) is plugged in to an electrical outlet located inside the home. Additional receivers can be added as required.
Another unit that is available will cause a remote receiver to either make a sound, flash a strobe light or lamp when the doorbell is pushed. In addition, some units can be made to operate with the type of intercom system often found in apartments. When the intercom buzzer is pushed at the main door of an apartment building, the sensor inside the apartment will “hear” the sound and send a signal to receivers. Generally, these types of doorbells are part of a complete alerting system and are usually wireless making installation easy.
Another type of device is one that is attached to the inside of the door and will respond to someone knocking by flashing a light. This type of device is best used in a small apartment or hotel room.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
There are two options for smoke and carbon monoxide safety. Both options can be used as part of a complete alerting system and are usually wireless making installation easy.
The first would be to make existing traditional smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors accessible by installing a sound monitoring device mounted close to the detector(s). When the detector alarm goes off, the sound monitor "hears" the sound and then sends a signal to a receiver in order to signal a bed shaker or flash a strobe light or lamp.
The second option is to use specific smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. These detectors send a signal to a receiver in order to signal a bed shaker or flash a strobe light or lamp.
Alarm Clock, Timer and Watch
There are many alarm clocks and timers available with adjustable volume and pitch, flashing light, or vibration.
There are both electrical powered and battery powered alarm clocks. Some alarms clocks are part of a complete alerting system. Generally, the electrically powered clocks are louder, a lamp can be plugged into them and tend to have stronger vibration. However, battery powered alarms can be useful when traveling.
There are small timers available that use sound, flashing light, or vibration as an alert. These are good for cooking or as a medication reminder.
There are several wrist watches available that use vibration as an alarm, on the hour alert, medication reminder or countdown timer.
Additional Considerations in Complete Alerting Systems
There are many complete alerting systems on the market today and it is important to understand how they operate.
There is usually a base unit that has its own outlets in which you can plug in a lamp and a bed shaker. The electrical outlet of this self-contained base unit would normally be dead but becomes live (turned on) when the alarm condition occurs. For example, a base unit that also doubles as an alarm clock has both an outlet for a lamp and an outlet for a bed shaker. The lamp that is plugged into the unit should remain on and is switched on and off by the use of a switch on the base unit, and not on the lamp itself. When the base unit is triggered by either receiving a signal from a transmitter such as a doorbell, baby cry signaler or simply by the use of an alarm for waking, the lamp will flash, bed shaker will shake, or the unit will emit a sound in a specific pattern according to the condition. On some systems the lights will flash, or can be adjusted to flash in different patterns so that you can easily tell the difference between one condition and another. While other systems show on their base unit, indicator lights that will let you know exactly what the condition is. If a lamp is used for alerting, it can be used for regular lighting as well and will flash regardless if the light appears on or off.
A few points of interests: some systems use their own special lamps or strobe lights, while others require the use of the individual’s own lamps.
Some units communicate with each other by using radio transmission, while others communicate with a remote device by sending a signal over the existing electrical wiring .When using alerting devises, each transmitter and receiver should be made by the same manufacturer to ensure compatibility.
Assistive Listening Devices
Communication on the telephone may be difficult for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing for varying reasons. The issues may be volume or tonal or a combination of both.
For those that use a hearing aid, it is important to consider hearing aid compatibility. When a telephone is noted to be “hearing aid compatible,” this means that the ear piece of the phone emits a magnetic field. If a hearing aid is equipped with a telephone coil or “T-coil,” this coil is able to respond to the magnetic field, allowing the hearing aid to pickup and amplify the voice from the phone directly. This also blocks surrounding sounds while the individual uses the telephone. The T-coil feature may also be used with a variety of Assistive Listening Devices.
There are a few different types of telephone amplifiers to attach to a regular telephone as well as amplified telephones.
The different types of telephone amplifiers are a Portable Strap-on Amplifier and an In-line Telephone Amplifier. The Portable Strap-on Amplifier is a small battery operated device that can be used both with cordless and regular phones. These amplifiers are generally hearing aid compatible, however the amplifier usually has to be removed after each use – they are not usually recommended for general home or office use, but are quite useful while traveling. An In-line Amplifier is a telephone amplifier that connects the phone's handset to the phone’s base. These can only be used with phones that have a cord that can be removed between the handset and phone base. There are different kinds of In-Line amplifiers available for home or office use as well as the ability to be attached to headsets. They are either battery or electric powered. They usually have both a volume and tone adjust.
- Cell Phones and Cell Phone Accessories
The cell phone market is ever changing. Many cell phones will note that they are hearing aid or TTY compatible. Most cell phones can be used with a cell phone amplifier or phone specific neckloop. A small portable TTY or Voice Carry Over devise that can be used with a cell phone or phone is also available. In addition, most cell phones have a text message option or can be used as pagers in which you can use email, text, instant messaging as well as using the Telecommunications Relay Services.
- Amplified Telephones are generally the ideal when in need for telephone amplification.
There are many amplified telephones on the market from corded phones to cordless phones, speakerphones and phones with answering machines. Most amplified telephones have features such as volume and tone control, flashing light and loud ring and pattern of ring variations. Many of them have features such as memory and emergency one touch buttons.
- Other useful telephone adaptations
Adaptations are available for individuals that have hearing aids. Some options for using the telephone this way are, using a speaker-phone at close range, Using the telephone with a neckloop or silhouette coils and using direct audio input into the hearing aid.
Keep in mind that it is very important to try out any combination of telephones and devices before purchasing. As a suggestion, if a device is being considered and there is some uncertainly as to whether it will work with a particular telephone, bring it along to the store or demonstration center to try it out so that any issues of compatibility can be immediately addressed.
TTYs are small typewriters that allow two individuals to communicate with one another over a standard telephone line by typing text back and forth. When one party does not have a TTY, a relay operator acts as the typist during the conversation. TTYs are available in a number of configurations.
There are two types of TTYs. One has built in acoustic couplers into which a handset of a regular telephone is placed which will allow the handset of the phone to either “talk” by using an outgoing tone or “hear” an incoming tone. The second type of TTY has what is known as direct input which allows the TTY to be directly plugged into a telephone line. Some TTYs have acoustic couplers and direct input with the ability to be able to switch from one mode to the other.
TTYs are available with memory and answering machine capabilities. These TTYs can store conversations as well as greeting messages. In addition, some TTYs have a built in printer that can print the conversation as it proceeds. There are also portable TTYs available that have direct connect and can be used with cell phones. When using a portable TTY with a cell phone, please make sure that the cell phone is TTY compatible for direct connect use.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has implemented the toll free phone number of 7-1-1 for access to all Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS). TRS permits deaf or hard of hearing individuals to use the telephone system via a TTY or other device.
The use of a TTY has several conventions such as the use of the term “Go ahead” or "GA" to indicate that the person typing has finished the message and awaits a reply. The other common convention is the use of “Stop Keying” or "SK" to indicate that the person is ready to hang up.
- Some Types of services provided (Not all services are available nationwide, please check locally for specific services other than 7-1-1)
TTY: A TTY user calls a voice user by dialing 7-1-1 where a Communications Assistant (CA) places the call to the voice user and then relays the conversation by typing the spoken content for the TTY user and reading text for the voice user. TRS works in reverse for a voice user calling a person using a TTY.
VCO: A Voice Carry Over phone allows the user to use their voice and read the responses of the other party typed by a Communication Assistant by use of the Telecommunications Relay Service.
IP: Internet Protocol (IP) Relay works the same using a TTY or VCO, however it is used by through a computer connected to the Internet.
VRS: Video Relay Service (VRS) is a form of Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) that enables deaf or hard of hearing individuals who use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with voice telephone users through video equipment. The VRS user is connected with a TRS Communication Assistant (CA) so that the VRS user and the CA can see each other and communicate in signed conversation. The CA then relays the conversation to the voice phone user.
CapTel (Captioned Telephone): Phone works like any other telephone but also displays each word the caller says throughout the conversation. CapTel phone users can listen to the caller and also read the captions as they talk.
Spanish relay: Spanish relay is available for TTY, VCO and CapTel users. You can dial 711 and ask (either spoken or typed) for a Spanish speaking operator. There are also direct numbers that can be dialed that will connect directly to a Spanish speaking operator - 1-800-4356-8590, 1-800-855-2888.
Television & Radio
For many individuals, the frustration associated with watching television, may simply be one of distance. As one listens to a TV from a distance, not only does the sound signal become weaker as it travels from the television to the ears, but the acoustical characteristics of the room makes the sound less distinct.
Some TVs come with jacks into which an earphone or a transmitter can be plugged.
There are many other options including various wireless transmitters and receivers using both FM and infrared transmission.
Classroom, meeting room or lecture hall
The most common type of wireless device used in a classroom setting is an FM radio transmitter and receiver.
With an FM, the speaker wears a small transmitter with a microphone. The listener wears a small receiver that may be used with headphones or with hearing aids via a neckloop. This enables the speaker and listener to move feely without wires between them. Conference microphones are also available designed to be put in the middle of a table and pick up the voices of several people at the same time.
Theater, Cinema or House of Worship - Wide Area Systems
The types of transmission used in a wide area system are FM radio transmission, infrared transmission, and magnetic induction. All three systems transmit the sound signal which is received by individuals in the audience who are wearing special receivers that provide amplification. Please note that these different types of receivers are not interchangeable and can only be used for the particular type of system for which they have been designed.
There are a variety of receivers that are available with both FM and Infrared systems. Some are headset receivers that can be used alone while others are designed to be used with hearing aids that are equipped with telephone switches. In the case of an induction loop system, for individuals wearing hearing aids with telephone switches, no special receiver is required. However, for those not wearing hearing aids or those wearing hearing aids which are not equipped with a telephone switch, use of a special induction receiver would be necessary in order to receive amplified sound.
Although mandated by law, there may be instances where theaters don’t stock enough receivers. Many individuals find it convenient to purchase their own receivers because they can also be used at home for TV viewing when used in conjunction with an appropriate transmitter or room induction loop.
An individual with a moderate hearing loss may benefit from a receiver headset, while an individual with a more severe loss may benefit from using a neckloop, a wide area or room induction system, or direct audio input with their hearing aids since they are able to obtain the high amplification that they may require directly from their hearing aids.
Most hearing aid users have a difficult time understanding conversation when in a noisy environment. There are a few ways of dealing with noisy situations. Some hearing aid users are able to plug an extra microphone into their hearing aid(s) or use a personal communicator also known as a personal listener. These are small microphone/amplifier combinations, which can be used with a variety of headsets or with a neckloop in conjunction with hearings aids
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do we need Assistive Listening Devices?
While the efficacy of modern hearing aids has long been established, many hearing aid users will still experience difficulty hearing in various situations. For these individuals as well as for individuals who do not wear hearing aids, an appropriate assistive listening device (ALD) can provide valuable help to hear in many different situations and environments.
What types of ALDs (Assistive Listening Devices) are there?
There are two categories of ALD: alerting devices and listening devices. An alerting (or alarm) device indicates that something important is occurring (smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, alarm clock, door bell, baby monitor). An alerting device can indicate that something important is happening by producing extra loud sound, light, vibration or a combination of some or all of these.
A listening device facilitates the reception and understanding of sound and spoken language. These types of ALDs are used for the telephone, television, movies, theater, museum tours, lectures, and noisy situations.
I have trouble hearing my doorbell but live in apartment and don't want to get an extra loud bell because this might disturb my neighbors. What can I do?
A common problem with doorbells is that the bell cannot be heard in a distant room. There are wireless doorbell systems in which the sound producing element (or receiver) can be placed at a location far away from the doorbell (or transmitter) such as a bedroom, basement or attic. In addition, it is possible to use multiple receivers that can produce sound in more than one location at the same time which can make it possible to hear the doorbell in different locations within the same house or apartment. Additionally, flashing light ALDs can also be used with remote receivers. These receivers can be plugged into other outlets in the house or apartment and have an outlet into which a lamp can be plugged. When the main unit is activated, the remote units will also be activated causing the lights that are plugged into them to flash.
I can’t hear a regular alarm clock. What is available to help me wake up?
There are extra loud alarm clocks that can be used with a flashing light and/or a bed shaker. In addition, there is a small battery operated vibrating alarm clock that can be placed under the pillow or mattress and is especially useful for people who travel.
If I want to have a remote unit flash a light when the phone or doorbell rings and the light flashes, how do I tell whether the my phone is ringing or there is someone at the door?
The rhythm of the flashing will be very different depending on whether the telephone is ringing or there is someone at the door. This way, it is very easy to tell them apart. Also, there are some alerting systems that will show on their base unit an indicator light that will let you know exactly what the condition is.
Are there alarm devices that can be used with body worn receivers?
Body worn receivers are available which will vibrate and indicate the nature of the alarm condition. In addition, there are units specially designed to be used by people that are deaf-blind.
What are some smoke alarm ALD issues?
There are two options for smoke and carbon monoxide safety. Both options can be used as part of a complete alerting system and are usually wireless making installation easy.
The first would be to make existing traditional smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors accessible by installing a sound monitoring device mounted close to the detector(s). When the detector sounds it’s alarm, the sound monitor "hears" the sound of the detector and will then send a signal to a receiver in order to signal a bed shaker or flash a strobe light or lamp.
The second option is to use specific smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. These detectors will show on their base unit, indicator lights that will let you know exactly what the condition is.
I'd like to get a louder telephone - what's out there?
There are a number of possibilities - you may be able to make your present telephone louder by adding an amplifier. There are complete telephones available with built in amplification. These usually have other useful features as well such as a tone control, an extra loud ring and a flashing light.
What is a T coil?
T coil, T-Switch or Telephone coil is small coil of wire within a hearing aid that is activated by a switch on the hearing aid. A T coil allows a hearing aid to pick up a phone signal directly. It also prevents feedback and cuts out surrounding noise when making a phone call. A telephone whose ear piece emits a magnetic field that can be easily picked up by a hearing aid T coil is called “hearing aid compatible.” The T coil can also be used to easily and conveniently enable a hearing aid to work with various other types of ALDs.
Can I do anything to make my existing phone louder?
There is a portable snap on telephone amplifier which can be used with virtually any telephone however it may have to be attached and then removed each time the phone is used so that the phone can hang up properly. In-line telephone amplifiers are also available, which can be used with corded phones that do not have a keypad in the handset. These can be attached to just about any phone and can be left in place.
What about cordless phones?
There are cordless phones with built in extra amplification that are available. In addition, some of them have jacks that can be used with a hands free accessory. Some models also have a special jack into which special accessories such as a neckloop can be plugged into.
I travel a lot and sometimes have trouble using local telephones - any suggestions? Many travelers find the portable snap on telephone amplifiers very useful. In addition, this device can also be used to turn a non hearing aid compatible telephone into one that is hearing aid compatible.
What is a TTY?
A TTY (or TDD) is a device by means of which an individual can type to someone at the other end of the phone line who also has a TTY and can then read the response that has been typed back.
What if I want to communicate with a TTY user but don't have a TTY?
You can go through the national relay system and speak to relay operator (called a communication assistant or CA). The CA types (or relays) the information to the TTY user. The TTY user’s typed response is then read back to the hearing caller by the CA.
I might consider using a TTY but can't type.
Many hard of hearing people who can no longer use a conventional telephone are using a TTY with the relay system in a manner known as voice carry over or VCO. When used in this way, the TTY user talks and the relay operator types their end of the conversation. When it comes time for the TTY user to respond, he or she can just speak the way they normally would and their voice is then heard directly by the party at the other end. There are VCO telephones available that are specially designed to do this.
Can I use a cell phone with my hearing aid?
There are certain digital cell phones that work well with hearing aids with t-switches. For some, cell phones may cause interference, but there are accessories available such as hearing aid compatible hands free attachments or special neckloop or silhouette coils that reduce or eliminating this interference.
My neighbors complain that I have my television on too loud. What can I do?
One solution is to watch your favorite show with real time captioning. If you own a television purchased after 1994, the set will have captioning capabilities. If you own an older television, you can get an external decoder which will let you see the captions.
For those with a moderate hearing loss, infrared transmitters and receivers or the use of a personal listener with an extension for the microphone work well.
I wear a hearing aid and have a particularly difficult time in noisy situations - what can I do?
Anything that will bring the speaker closer to your hearing aid will significantly improve this situation. An external microphone used with direct audio input (DAI) is highly recommended. If the hearing aid is not equipped with a DAI the use of a personal listener can be used with or without hearing aids.
What Devices are available at the Theater or the Movies?
Wireless headsets (either infrared or FM) are usually available at theaters. Some individuals choose to buy their own headsets or receivers to be used at home as well. In addition to various listening systems, some movie theaters and some live theater present special performances or showings that are captioned.
I use a cochlear implant - what can I do connect to external devices?
There are special cords known as patch cords that are available. Patch cords allow you to connect a telephone or other device directly to your cochlear implant processor if it has an external audio input jack.
Where can I see and try different ALDs?
The Center for Hearing and Communication has a free device demonstration every Thursday from 2:00pm-3:30pm at our office at 50 Broadway in New York City. Walk-ins are welcome at this time. You can also schedule a private consultation by contacting our appointment desk at (917) 305-7766.