What are listening aids and how can they help?
As well as hearing aids there are a range of devices available for people that need amplification in specific situations. These devices are called listening aids and may be directional, have an external microphone, have tone controls or be able to pick up induction loop signals.
- Directional - if a listening aid is directional it can be pointed at the thing or person you want to listen to. The microphone is designed so that it only picks up the sound in a narrow band in that direction and this means it will ignore background noise
- External microphones - can also cut out background noise because they can be positioned near what you want to hear or even handed to the person you are speaking to in one-to-one conversations
When people lose their hearing they don’t usually lose all of the frequencies evenly. The missing frequencies often overlap with the frequencies used in speech and this can obviously be a problem. To help with this, some listening devices allow you to amplify the higher frequencies more than the lower frequencies or vice versa.
- Wireless headphones - available as a mainstream product but can be used with a television or radio to cut out background noise. They may also be cheaper than products designed for the accessibility market
- Induction loops - a way of sending audio wirelessly. They send just the audio required and by doing this they cut down on background noise. A receiver for an induction loop can be built into listening devices allowing someone who doesn’t usually wear hearing aids to make use of loop systems. Portable induction loops and neck loops can provide a signal that covers a small area or single person.
Induction loops can suffer from interference from electrical devices but there are systems that use infra-red light or radio frequency (RF) signals. These will not work with hearing aids with a ‘T’ setting so you will need additional headphones or neck loops to use them. Despite using a different technology to send the signal these are often also called loop systems
What should I look for?
If you are considering installing a listening system then the three technologies each have their own advantages:
- Induction loops will send the signal directly to the hearing aids of anyone with a ‘T’ setting. Induction loops do not create an even signal however, and can leave dead zones where the signal doesn’t reach or gets cancelled out
- Radio frequency systems will require the user to wear a headset or neck loop but should cover the area evenly and are less susceptible to interference
- Infra-red based systems will require the user to wear a headset or neck loop, but the signal will not go through walls into adjacent rooms. This means that for rooms where confidential meetings take place, infra-red-based systems are the best
Some examples of listening aids
- Loops for hearing aid users - there is a wide selection of loops available for hearing aid users. Some can be directly connected to a television while others can be worn around the neck
- Loops for non-hearing-aid users - systems are available for sound from your TV or radio to be picked up by a microphone, amplified and heard through headphones
- Room loops - rooms in a home can be fitted with hearing loops that require no specialist audio experience to install
See our Hearing aid accessories and related technologies page for information.
Please note: the following list is not exhaustive and Sense is not responsible for the content of external sites nor do we endorse any of the products mentioned.
First published: Wednesday 23 May 2012
Updated: Friday 12 June 2015