Hearing Assistive Technology

Explosive advancements in technology in recent years have dramatically improved communication and quality of life for people living with hearing loss.
Hearing aids, assistive devices, captioning, computer technology, personal communication devices and enhanced telephone capabilities are technical options that contribute to effective communication in all areas of life. The following is a short overview of the types of technology available today.

Hearing Aids

For most people, hearing aids are the first and most important step to better communication. They are available in a wide range of styles, sizes and capabilities. While the internet provides useful information, hearing aids are custom-built for the user, based on their hearing level, lifestyle and individual needs. For this reason, they should be obtained through qualified hearing health practitioners. Family doctors can provide referrals to an audiologist, but many hearing clinics do not require a referral and can be contacted directly to book a hearing assessment.

For information on financial assistance provided by some provincial subsidies, visit www.chha.ca and click on Hearing Aid Subsidies.

Telephone Technology:

  • Telephone Features – Many telephones offer volume control, volume boosts, tone control, light flashers and loud ringers that benefit people who have difficulty using the phone. Captioned and video telephone service is not available in Canada.
  • Compatibility with Hearing Aids – Hearing aids equipped with a telecoil can work with compatible phones (landline or cellular) using neckloops or wireless technology that allow clearer conversations. Ask your hearing aid provider for more information.
  • Teletypewriter (TTY) is a keyboard-operated device that that uses a phone line to connect two or more people, either directly or through a provincial telephone relay service. The telephone operator translates verbal messages into text for the TTY user and text messages into speech for the hearing person.
  • Text and Email MessagingComputers, cellphones and other personal devices have revolutionized communication for deaf and hard of hearing people, by allowing direct, non-spoken communication.

FM, Infrared, induction loop and personal communication systems direct a speaker’s voice into the ear or the hearing aid of the person with hearing loss. The systems can be used individually or in a group. Using a transmitter and a receiver, these systems bridge the distance between the speaker and listener, blocking out most of the background noise and reverberation that can interfere with clear speech understanding.

Safety alerting devices provide peace of mind to people with hearing loss in the home, office or when travelling by using visual or sensory means. Systems react with flashing lights or vibrations to telephones, doorbells, fire and smoke alarms, crying babies, or motion sensors.

Captioning is print interpretation (text) of auditory messages such as speech and other sounds that allows the person with hearing loss to understand conversation or environmental sounds.In addition to TV and DVDs, captioning enables people with hearing loss to enjoy movies and museum displays, emergency information in airports, etc. Televisions manufactured after 1993 have built-in closed captioning, which means the captioning can be turned on or off. Captioning differs from DVD subtitles, which translate only the spoken component, and not the sound effects.

Real time or Computer-Assisted Real Time (CART) captioning is used in meetings or at lectures and is provided by a court reporter-trained professional, who provides verbatim text of the spoken word in real time, which can be viewed on a computer or projected onto a screen.