What are Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)?
- ALDs are “binoculars for the ears” and may benefit many people with residual hearing. They are intended to augment standard public address and audio systems by providing signal.
- A minority of hearing aid owners concurrently use ALDs. About 1 in 4 consumers use a phone amplifier, while less than 10% of hearing instrument owners are users of ALD devices for enhancing their hearing with TV, at movies, in places of worship, or in conferring.1
- ALDs “stretch” the performance of a hearing aid by increasing the signal to noise ratio (SNR). This is significant as SNR has to be higher for many people with hearing loss for them to hear speech over background noise.
- ALDs reduce the effect of distance between the person with hearing loss and the sound source; override poor acoustics; and minimize background noise.
- There are hard-wired ALDs and three types of wireless ALDs (audioloop, FM, and Infrared). All three types can be used with or without hearing aids, and can be used with an array of receiver attachments for consumers with varying needs and preferences. This includes neck loops, silhouette inductors, headphones, direct audio input and other linkages.Hard-wired ALDs include hand-held amplifiers with microphones, direct audio input microphones, and hard-wired systems.
- Another category of assistive listening devices are the self-contained beam-forming microphone arrays. Some may connect with hearing devices via the telecoil or direct audio input.
- Each type of ALD has advantages and disadvantages. The type of ALD appropriate for a particular application depends on the characteristics of the setting, the nature of the program, and the intended audience.
- ALDs may be installed in large areas, portable for personal use, or in the case of FM systems, built into a hearing aid.
- ALDs are an example of auxiliary aids and services and reasonable accommodations required by the Americans with Disabilities act (ADA ) to be provided by public facilities, state and local governments, and employers, to enable people with hearing loss to participate in their programs and services.
- ALDs typically have not been covered by any public or private health insurance plans, and are not available in mainstream retail outlets. Most ALDs must be purchased through catalogs of ALD distributors or from some hearing health professionals. Access, availability and therefore awareness of ALDs by consumers is a limiting factor to their acceptance and use.
- Other assistive technology that can benefit people with hearing loss include alerting devices, such as special smoke detectors, doorbells, telephone ring signalers, telephones, and alarm clocks. These may produce laud signals, visual signals, or tactile signals. Captioning and CART (Computer Assisted Realtime Transcription) also provide great benefit.
To read more about specific types of ALDs, visit the HLAA National page.
Companies that manufacture ALDs:
Free Assistive Technology:
California Telephone Access Program (CTAP), www.californiaphones.org
CTAP is a program of the California Public Utilities Commission Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program. They offer free equipment and services for those with hearing loss. If you qualify, they send equipment by mail or they have someone come install devices. It is all free and covered by the tax paid on phone bills. They are very helpful and knowledgeable.
33 MARKETRAK VI. “Factors Impacting Consumer Choice of Dispenser and Hearing Aid Brand; Use of ALDs and Computers.”