Without assistive technology, millions of people with hearing loss would be unable to discern speech and environmental sounds, or to converse by telephone. Appropriately fitted hearing aids, which tailor amplification to the needs of the individual, are the first key step to improved hearing. Assistive listening devices extend the capabilities of hearing aids in background noise, poor acoustical environments and where speech is weakened by distance. Visual, tactile, and adjustable audible devices alert individuals to everyday sounds and emergencies such as smoke alarms, phone rings, babies’ cries, and doorbells. Captioning and CART (Computer Assisted Realtime Transcription) provide visual representation of spoken words and sounds. Deaf-blind individuals may require equipment with refreshable Braille displays for telephone communication, computer use, and communication access at meetings. When hearing aids are no longer effective, cochlear implants are another option for children and adults.
- Hearing Aids. Hearing aids, essential for millions of people of all ages to participate fully in mainstream society, differ in design, type of circuitry, size, and amount of amplification. However, all have the same basic components: a microphone, amplifier circuitry, a speaker, a specially fitted ear mold, and batteries for power. Hearing aids are customized for the person’s hearing loss, and many programmable hearing aids provide multiple programs that allow the user to attain optimal functioning in different situations. In addition, many but not all hearing aids are designed to be compatible with assistive listening devices to facilitate maximum speech discrimination in a variety of situations.