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Assistive Listening Devices

Cynthia Compton-Conley, Ph.D. - Gallaudet University, Washington, DC

Detailed Discussion of Assistive Technology

Due to technological advancements in recent years, today's hearing aids do an excellent job of helping people meet many of their communication needs. However, sometimes there are situations where additional technologies may be needed. For example, some hearing aid users may continue to experience difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments, from a distance, as when watching TV or attending a movie or play, or while listening on the telephone. At bedtime, a person with even a mild to moderate hearing loss may not hear the smoke alarm located down the hall. This same person might miss a doorbell chime while listening to the TV a room away. Further, a child with normal hearing, who suffers from recurrent middle ear infections or who has a central auditory processing disorder, is at a definite educational disadvantage when seated in a typical classroom with poor room acoustics and excessive noise.

How Assistive Technology Can Help

Many auditory and non-auditory devices  collectively known as Assistive Technology, Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs), or Hearing Assistance Technology (HAT)  are available to help people with all degrees of hearing loss. These devices can help facilitate improved face-to-face communication, reception of electronic media, telephone reception, and reception of important warning sounds and situations.

Devices to Facilitate Face-to-Face Communication and the Reception of Electronic Media

Auditory assistive listening devices can be thought of (roughly) as "binoculars for the ears." By placing a remote microphone next to the talker (or loudspeaker) or by connecting directly into the sound source (TV, VCR, MP3 player, etc.), these devices bring the desired sound closer to one's ear(s) before it has a chance of being mixed with noise and reverberation. The "captured" sound is then sent to the listener via a "hardwired" or "wireless" link. Three wireless systems can be used: FM (see below), infrared or inductive (audio loop). In order to use these systems, the hearing aid must be equipped with either a "telecoil" or a feature called "direct audio input (DAI)." DAI allows very tiny FM receivers to be plugged into the bottom of the hearing aid. DAI or a telecoil also allow body worn FM and infrared receivers to be used with more styles of hearing aids. Finally, a telecoil allows the hearing aid itself to function as the receiver when listening to a room-sized inductor (room loop) installed in a building (e.g. church, movie house). For greatest listening flexibility ask for hearing aids with telecoils built into them. And, if you want to have the opportunity to use the latest tiny FM receivers, think about purchasing behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids equipped with DAI.

Two types of visual systems are available to help people understand speech at a meeting or other live event:

  • Computer-Assisted Note taking (CAN)
  • Communication Access Real Time Translation (CART), also known as Real Time Captioning.

Devices to Facilitate Telephone Reception

Special telephone amplifiers are available that replace the telephone handset, attach to the phone between the handset and the phone (in-line amplifiers) or attach to the handset and are powered by a battery (portable amplifiers). Each of these amplifiers can be used with or without a hearing aid. These standard telephone amplifiers can be coupled to a hearing aid either acoustically or inductively. With acoustic coupling, the amplifier is held up to the hearing aid's microphone. While this tends to work well with a CIC hearing aid, it may result in an annoying whistling sound (feedback) with the larger hearing aid models. However, if the larger models are equipped with a telecoil, then the hearing aid can be set to "T" and held next to the amplifier, with no feedback.

Special telephones with built-in amplification are also available in both standard and wireless handset models. Also available are devices that enable you to use your hearing aid(s) with a digital cell phone for distortion-and noise-free reception. For those who cannot understand over the voice telephone, even with amplification, there are other options such as the Voice Carry Over (VCO) or "read and talk" telephone. Used with the telephone relay service, VCO allows you to talk directly to the other party while an operator translates what the other party says to you into print that is displayed on a small LCD screen

Alerting Devices

Alerting devices allow hard of hearing and deaf people to be aware of many environmental sounds and situations in the home, in school or in the workplace, as well as for travel and recreation. Such systems use either microphones or electrical connections to pick up the desired signal and hardwired or wireless transmission to send the signal to you in a form to which you can respond. For example, when someone presses the doorbell button, when the phone rings or the fire alarm is activated, these events can trigger a flashing incandescent or fluorescent light, a loud horn, a vibrational device (pager, bed shaker), or a fan.

Which System Is Best?

A broad assortment of auditory and non-auditory technology is available to assist in removing the communication barriers of everyday life. Your hearing healthcare professional should be able to help you select the best system, or combination of systems, based on your own unique communication needs and lifestyle.

How to make hearing aids last longer:

We Recommend Dry & Store Global

Dry and Store Zephyr

Dry Store Professional Professional Model Image Goes Here

All the benefits of the original Dry & Store Professional model, except this one is smaller and less expensive.

Dry and Store Professional Model
  • Dimensions: 7.09" wide x 3.5" high x 3.5" deep
  • Hinged top, reveals 4" x 3.5" x 1" storage area that will accommodate all hearing aid types, cochlear implant microphones, headpieces, and speech processors (body worn or ear level)
  • Weighs less than 2 lbs

Operating Features

  • Fan continuously circulates warm, dry air for 8-hour operating cycle, causing moisture to move out of the hearing aid via diffusion. Unit automatically shuts off. Operating cycle may be interrupted at anytime by opening lid.
  • A desiccant (Dry-Brik II) absorbs moisture released by the hearing aid from the air
  • UV lamp provides a 3-minute germicidal cycle when Dry & Store first turns on to assist in disinfecting hearing aid surfaces exposed to UV light.
  • Uses the same desiccant as the Dry & Store Professional (Dry-Brik II).


  • Travel case made of durable luggage-grad fabric to protect Dry & Store Global from scratches
  • One year warranty

For the budget conscious we recommend Dry & Store Zephyr

Dry and Store Zephyr Image Here

Now a low cost version of the Dry & Store

Like the other Dry & Store products, Zephyr operates on an 8 hour cycle. It uses warm, moving air and a desiccant proven technology for maximum drying effectiveness. The biggest single difference is that Zephyr does NOT have a germicidal UV lamp. The Zephyr weighs 1 pound 4 ounces and measures 5.9" x 3.6" x 2.8".


Pocket Talker

Pocket Talker
  • Basic amplifier for one-on-one conversations
  • User volume control
  • Long battery life

TV Ears

TV Ears
  • Wireless headset for easy TV listening
  • Allows the user to set the volume preference without affecting other listeners in the room

Caption Call phone (Free if you qualify)

Caption Call
  • Provides captions for phone calls
  • Listener can easily follow along with phone conversations while listening
  • Available with high-speed internet or an analog phone-line

Sonic Bomb Alarm Clock

Sonic Bomb
  • Extra loud vibrating alarm clock
  • Options include flashing lights or bed-vibrating attachment pads

AlertMaster Baby Cry Sensor

Alert Master Baby
  • Provides audio, visual, and vibratory alerts when baby cries

AlertMaster Visual Simple System

Alert Simple
  • Alerts hearing impaired individuals when the phone or doorbell rings
  • Uses a distinctive light pattern for the door or phone


LACE Helps You Learn to Listen

Missing words and conversations? Even with hearing aids?


LACE® — Listening and Communication Enhancement — is an interactive program that helps improve your ear-to-brain “muscle memory.” Just as physical therapy can help rebuild physical strength and compensate for weakness, LACE can assist in developing listening, communication, and conversation skills.

You hear with your ears — but you listen with your brain. Even people with normal hearing can have poor listening skills. The good news is that your brain can be trained to use strategies that compensate for situations when your hearing ears alone might not be enough. LACE helps by:

  • Training your brain how to pick out a voice in a noisy environment.
  • Developing rapid thought processing skills to make up for lost sound.
  • Teaching your brain to focus on one voice at a time.
  • Helping you fill in words you’ve missed based on what you know.
  • Using the words a person has said to predict what may come next.

LACE includes dozens of communication tips and strategies to help you better interact with those around you. After a few sessions performing these tasks, you’ll find yourself conquering difficult listening situations you never imagined. 


LACE can help you understand speech in difficult hearing environments, like restaurants, crowds, or groups of people. Your hearing aids have been programmed and fitted to deliver optimized sounds to your ears. The LACE online training system works with your new instruments to improve your listening skills, an essential component in reaching your full hearing potential.

Talk with your Staten Island Hearing and Balance audiologist about which LACE option may be best for you.

Accessories Designed with You in Mind

Staten Island Hearing and Balance Center offers a broad catalog of accessories designed to make your hearing aids function with Bluetooth® technology and work seamlessly for years to come.


Listen to your cell phone conversations on both ears, enjoy music from your MP3 player or stereo, and watch TV programs at the volume you prefer with these compact and easy-to-use wireless communication devices.


Manage volume, program, and environmental changes at the touch of your fingertips.  Remote controls offer the ultimate in ease and convenience, and are small enough to fit into your shirt pocket.


Maintain the usability of your hearing devices nightly with these unique dehumidifiers.