2011-11-30 / Seniors

Savvy Senior Assistive Listening Devices Help Seniors Hear Better

Dear Savvy Senior,
What can you tell me about assistive listening devices? My husband is hearing impaired but doesn’t like wearing his hearing aids, so I’m wondering if some of these devices can help.
Loud Talking Spouse
Dear Loud:

Assistive listening devices (ALDs) are very useful products that can help hearing-impaired people, with and without hearing aids, hear better. Here’s what you should know.

Listening Helpers
ALDs are electronic amplifying devices that will let the user adjust the volume and tone so that he can hear and understand the television, telephone or other people speaking. It’s also important to know that these devices work best for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, you don’t need a prescription to buy them and they usually aren’t covered by insurance or Medicare. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of ALDs that can help.

Telephone Amplifiers: To improve hearing over the telephone, there are a number of handset and in-line amplifiers you can add to your regular phone, or you can purchase an amplified telephone. Most amplified phones allow you to adjust the volume and tone for better clarity and they usually come with extra loud ringers and flashing ring indicators to alert you when a call is coming in. Clarity, www.clarityproducts.com, 800-426-3738), and ClearSounds, www.clearsounds.com, 888-965-9043, make a variety of products with prices ranging from $30 up to around $300. Other sites to shop at are www.harriscomm.com, www.teltex.com and www.soundbytes.com. Check to see if your state has a specialized telecommunications equipment program  such as www.tedpa.org, which provides free amplified phones.

If the amplified products don’t do the trick, another option is caption phones. These are telephones that have a built-in screen that will let the hearing impaired listen to the caller as well as read written, word-for-word captions of everything the caller is saying. Go to www.captel.com or 800-233-9130, and click on your state to learn more.

TV Listening Systems: If hearing the television is a problem, a TV listening device will increase the volume and adjust the tone without blasting. The best devices available today are wireless infrared systems that come with a headset. Many of these devices work with radios and stereos, too. Some systems offer a small speaker that can be placed by a chair, and many work with T-coil enabled hearing aids. TV Ears, www.tvears.com, 888-883-3277, is one of the best products sold today, with prices starting at $100.

Personal Listening Devices: Depending on one’s needs, there are many different types of listening devices on the market, in all price ranges that can help. For one-on-one and small group conversations, a pocket-sized amplifier that comes with a small microphone and ear buds may do. For a wider range of hearing capabilities, consider FM listening devices. These are wireless products that can boost hearing in many difficult listening situations, including auditoriums and lecture halls. FM devices come with a small microphone and transmitter placed on or by the person speaking, and the listener wears a receiver that may be used with ear buds, earphones, or with T-coil enabled hearing aids when worn with a neck loop. Two good sites for locating these types of products are www.harriscomm.com and www.independentliving.com. 

Alerting Devices: There are also a variety of alerting devices that can help people who have trouble hearing the doorbell, alarm clock, telephone or smoke detector. These products use flashing lights, special multi-tone ringers or vibrating devices as a means to alert them. You can find these items at many of the Web sites previously listed, along with www.sonicalert.com and www.silentcall.com for around $50 to $150.

Savvy Tip: For more information and assistance with ALDs, contact an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist, see www.howsyourhearing.org or www.ihsinfo.org to find one near you. They’re familiar with all these technologies and can help you choose the best products to meet your needs.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to “The NBC Today Show” and author of The Savvy Senior books.

The Gazette does not endorse the contents of The Savvy Senior. Check with professionals about the contents of this column.

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