Hearing loss is more common than many people think. Around 9 million UK residents are defined as hard of hearing (source: the RNID 2005 survey), and many are categorised as having mild to moderate hearing loss. Despite continuous research, most types of hearing loss are irreversible and can only be helped by modern amplified technology. This group of amplified products, often referred to as Assistive Listening Devices or ALDS includes a number of devices which have been specifically designed for the hard of hearing.
If you are hard of hearing, here are a few products which might help you overcome your hearing impairment.
Hearing aids - since they were created, hearing aids have been the most useful aid for many of the hard of hearing. These micro computer aids can amplify sound to help overcome damaged hair cells within the human ear. This damage can occur for several reasons including noise induced trauma and simply natural ageing.
Loud telephones - even with the growing popularity of email and SMS based communication, telephones are still the preferred communication tool for most of the population and the hearing impaired are no different. For the hard of hearing, off-the-shelf phones often present two restrictions. The ringtone is not loud enough to alert someone to incoming calls and the voice of the person on the line is again, not loud enough. Loud telephones overcome these limitations by including typical amplification levels of up to 50dB (against 8dB for a standard telephone) and adjustable receiving tone control. They also include all the features you've come to expect from a modern phone, from hands free to phonebook features depending on the device.
Loud mobile phones - similarly to loud phones, these devices include extra loud ringer and handset volume amplification, two features which the hard of hearing require to take advantage of the convenience of a mobile phone. Often amplified mobile phones come unlocked, so you are able to insert your SIM and start talking without having to change your contract.
Portable telephone amplifier - for those who want to keep their existing telephone, but find the ringer insufficient, the solution is a portable telephone amplifier. This neat device can affix to the handset of most phones and amplify the sound of the person on the other end. Its one limitation is that unlike amplified phones the restriction of insufficient ringer volume is not addressed.
Loud alarm clocks - imagine trying to wake up in the morning, on a cold wintry day when you are warm in bed and the outdoors offers nothing but wind and driving rain; now, imagine that in addition to this, you can't really hear your alarm clock!... Thankfully, ALDs include a number of loud alarm clocks which are loud, vibrating and some even include flashing lights to give you a complete sensory wake up call. These are so effective that they are used by the hard of hearing but also by many a deep sleeper (including a breakfast show DJ!). We'll cover more amplified aids in a future post.