Devices for Persons with Hearing Impairments

Approximately 10% of all people suffer from some hearing loss. Individuals who have full use of their hearing might take for granted just how big a role sound plays in their lives. While the range of hearing loss can vary from mild to total loss, those who are faced with “less sound” know how important it is. For people who have hearing loss, there are devices that offer assistance.

Personal amplifying devices can be useful for some persons with hearing loss. These devices can be used with or without a hearing aid. Very often, a personal amplifying device works like a portable radio with headphones. In a theater or auditorium setting, for example, you can hold the receiver unit in your lap, place the headphones on, and hear everything that is going on.

Other kinds of personal amplifying devices can be used with a television or radio for individuals who cannot hear their favorite programs clearly. If the audio appliance has a headphone jack built into it, you can plug the personal amplifying device directly into it. The sound will go directly from the television or radio to your ear without any outside sound, allowing you to hear everything clearly.

For persons with more severe hearing impairments, the devices mentioned above might not be helpful. However, there are other assistive devices available, such as “alert” systems, that can be helpful.

Lighting Alerts

For deaf persons or persons with extreme hearing loss, alerting devices with flashing lights can help to make day-to-day life easier and provide a greater sense of independence. For a person who cannot hear the telephone ring, a knock at the door, or an oven timer go off, lighting alerts can signal when these things are happening.

One of the most common types of lighting alerts is a strobe light. The lighting device is hooked up to conventional appliances, and when the switch is activated (i.e. someone rings the doorbell), the light starts flashing. For example, if you cannot hear someone knocking at the door, you can use a device that attaches to the back of the door and flashes a strobe light when it picks up the knocking vibrations. Strobe lights are very visible, providing an effective way to signal that someone is at the door, that the telephone is ringing, or that some other device is being activated.

Another kind of lighting device hooks up to a regular household lamp. When the appliance that it is connected to is activated, the device causes your lamp to flash for a set period of time. Like a strobe alert, this kind of device can be used with items like a telephone or a doorbell. The benefit of this kind of alert device is that it works with the lighting already present in a home.

Vibrating Alerts

Things like waking up to an audible alarm clock, hearing a smoke alarm go off, or responding to a friend calling to us from a short distance away may be taken for granted by persons with full hearing capacity. For individuals with a hearing impairment, however, these things can become increasingly difficult. An alarm clock or a smoke alarm might not be heard, or a friend waiting behind an unanswered door might think that he or she is being ignored. Fortunately, there are assistive devices available to make recognizing these sounds easier.

Vibrating alerts, like lighting alerts, give more independence to persons with a hearing impairment. For example, if you are not able to hear a conventional alarm clock, a vibrating alarm clock placed under your bed pillow will signal you at any designated time that it is time to get up. The same idea can be used for a smoke alarm. Regular smoke alarms may be difficult to hear, and this can be dangerous. However, if a smoke alarm is hooked up to a device that will cause your bed to vibrate, you will wake up, realize that there is smoke or fire in your home, and have the opportunity to exit quickly.

Another useful device is a vibrating pager. Similar to a pager that beeps when its phone number is dialed, this kind of pager vibrates when its corresponding transmitter is activated. This type of device can be very useful for parents of children with hearing impairments or for employees of persons with hearing impairments. For example, if a deaf child is playing outside and the parent wants to call him or her to come inside, the parent can push the button on the transmitter. The receiver will then vibrate, get the child’s attention, and let the child know that he or she should go indoors.

Vibrating alert devices are especially useful for persons with a hearing impairment who want to live independently. With the devices described above, you do not have to be dependent on another person to wake you up in the morning, it will not be difficult to tell when someone is asking for your attention, and you do not have to worry that you will not know if there is smoke in your home. These devices alert you quickly and efficiently, and allow you to recognize signals that traditionally use sound.

Further Information

The following companies sell most or all of the devices mentioned above:

Audio Enhancement
1748 West 12600 South
Riverton, UT 84065
(801) 254-9263

AudioTech, Inc.
381 Cockrell Road
Vicksburg, MS 39180-0381
(800) 229-8293

HARC Mercantile Ltd.
Hearing Aid Center of Kalamazoo
P.O. Box 3055
Kalamazoo, MI 49003
(800) 445-9968

Silent Call
P.O. Box 868
Clarkston, MI 48347-0868
(800) 572-5227

Williams Sound Corp.
10399 West 70th Street
Eden Prairie, MN 55344-3459
(800) 328-6190