Assistive listening systems (ALS) are simple amplifiers that bring sound directly into the ear. They are designed to separate sounds, such as speech, from background noise, thereby improving the speech to noise ratio. These devices work by supplying amplified sound via a Bluetooth connection to headphones or hearing aids. So, what are the different types of ALS systems, and how can they benefit you? Please keep reading!
Hearing Loops. A hearing loop is a discreetly hidden wire surrounding a seating area. The loop connects to a PA system via an amplifier. PA system sound transmits as a signal received by hearing aids. Background noise is cut out, there is no need for a headset, and the devices are cost-effective. Any number of users can use a system at any given time with sound going directly into hearing aids.
RF Systems. These devices frequently appear on guided tours. The systems transmit sound via radio waves to a receiver and earphones which are available in many public places. The neck loop serves as a miniature hearing loop by sending sound electromagnetically to hearing aids.
IR Systems. The transmission of sound via invisible light beams are the basis for IR systems. These devices convert audio in much the same manner as RF systems. Background noise disappears as you only hear what the transmitter is receiving. You can wear a receiver in several different ways while listening with more privacy.
Wi-Fi Systems. Audio streaming, which is the delivery of real-time audio through a network connection, delivers sound through a network to smartphones and tablets using an app. Unfortunately, they do not meet ADA standards as venues require users to use their smartphones as receivers.
A recent survey indicates that hearing aid users are much more likely to use a hearing loop system as opposed to other ALS devices because there is no need to borrow and return mechanisms. Users can switch off hearing aid mics to eliminate reverberation, humming, and different sounds that interfere with speech delivery. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires ALS signage in venues with available systems. If you see a sign, inquire as to the type of system in use. You can also be an advocate for the use of hearing loops. Speak to the leaders of churches, performing arts centers, and other public areas about installing a hearing loop system.