Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT)

At SoundWave Audiology your audiologist can suggest different pieces of equipment suited to your individual needs. This may include technologies such as remote microphone hearing aid systems, personal amplifiers, amplified stethoscopes, amplified home phones, captioned telephones, pillow shakers, smoke alarms with strobe lights, TV headphones, alarm clock, light flashers etc. that satisfies your specific needs. Depending on the technology needs identified your audiologist can either order this for you or refer you to a hearing therapist. Your audiologist will also be able to talk to you about available funding options.

The terms assistive device or assistive technology can refer to any device that helps a person with hearing loss or a voice, speech, or language disorder to communicate. These terms often refer to devices that help a person to hear and understand what is being said more clearly or to express thoughts more easily. With the development of digital and wireless technologies, more and more devices are becoming available to help people with hearing, voice, speech, and language disorders communicate more meaningfully and participate more fully in their daily lives.

Hearing Assistive Technology helps individuals who need specialized equipment, consultation and tools for their homes, workplace and daily living.

What types of assistive listening devices are available?

Several types of ALDs are available to improve sound transmission for people with hearing loss. Some are designed for large facilities such as classrooms, theaters, places of worship, and airports. Other types are intended for personal use in small settings and for one-on-one conversations. All can be used with or without hearing aids or a cochlear implant. ALD systems for large facilities include hearing loop systems, frequency-modulated (FM) systems, Remote Microphone Hearing Aid systems and infrared systems.

This logo informs people that a public area is looped.

Hearing loop (or induction loop) systems use electromagnetic energy to transmit sound. A hearing loop system involves four parts:

  • A sound source, such as a public address system, microphone, or home TV or telephone
  • An amplifier
  • A thin loop of wire that encircles a room or branches out beneath carpeting
  • A receiver worn in the ears or as a headset

Amplified sound travels through the loop and creates an electromagnetic field that is picked up directly by a hearing loop receiver or a telecoil (see sidebar), a miniature wireless receiver that is built into many hearing aids and cochlear implants. To pick up the signal, a listener must be wearing the receiver and be within or near the loop. Because the sound is picked up directly by the receiver, the sound is much clearer, without as much of the competing background noise associated with many listening environments. Some loop systems are portable, making it possible for people with hearing loss to improve their listening environments, as needed, as they proceed with their daily activities. A hearing loop can be connected to a public address system, a television, or any other audio source. For those who don’t have hearing aids with embedded telecoils, portable loop receivers are also available.

What’s a telecoil? A telecoil, also called a t-coil, is a coil of wire that is installed inside many hearing aids and cochlear implants to act as a miniature wireless receiver. It was originally designed to make sounds clearer to a listener over the telephone. It also is used with a variety of other assistive listening devices, such as hearing loop (or induction loop) systems, FM systems, infrared systems, and personal amplifiers.

The telecoil works by receiving an electromagnetic signal from the hearing loop and then turning it back into sound within the hearing aid or cochlear implant. This process eliminates much of the distracting background noise and delivers sound customized for one’s own need. For people who are hard-of-hearing who do not have a telecoil-equipped hearing aid or cochlear implant, loop receivers with headsets can provide similar benefits but without the customized or “corrected sound” feature that matches one’s hearing loss pattern.

Many cochlear implants have a telecoil built into the sound processor, or can use an external telecoil accessory with both hearing aid compatible telephones and public loop systems. A simple switch or programming manoeuvre performed by the user activates this function.

FM systems use radio signals to transmit amplified sounds. They are often used in classrooms, where the instructor wears a small microphone connected to a transmitter and the student wears the receiver, which is tuned to a specific frequency, or channel. People who have a telecoil inside their hearing aid or cochlear implant may also wear a wire around the neck (called a neckloop) or behind their aid or implant (called a silhouette inductor) to convert the signal into magnetic signals that can be picked up directly by the telecoil. FM systems can transmit signals up to 300 feet and are able to be used in many public places. However, because radio signals are able to penetrate walls, listeners in one room may need to listen to a different channel than those in another room to avoid receiving mixed signals. Personal FM systems operate in the same way as larger scale systems and can be used to help people with hearing loss to follow one-on-one conversations.

Remote microphone hearing aid systems (RMHA systems) transmit amplified sounds and help reduce the signal-to-noise ration by providing noise reduction to unwanted environmental sound. RMHA systems can transmit signals effectively across a distance and are able to be used in many public places.

Infrared systems use infrared light to transmit sound. A transmitter converts sound into a light signal and beams it to a receiver that is worn by a listener. The receiver decodes the infrared signal back to sound. Unlike induction loop or FM/RMHA systems, the infrared signal cannot pass through walls, making it particularly useful in courtrooms, where confidential information is often discussed, and in buildings where competing signals can be a problem, such as classrooms or movie theatres. However, infrared systems cannot be used in environments with too many competing light sources, such as outdoors or in strongly lit rooms.

Personal amplifiers are useful in places in which the above systems are unavailable or when watching TV, being outdoors, or traveling in a car. About the size of a cell phone, these devices increase sound levels and reduce background noise for a listener. Some have directional microphones that can be angled toward a speaker or other source of sound. As with other ALDs, the amplified sound can be picked up by a receiver that the listener is wearing, either as a headset or as earbuds.

Amplified Stethoscopes: If you are a medical professional who frequently works in noisy environments or who is experiencing hearing loss and you need to continue using a stethoscope in your daily practice, then we will discuss and provide the right stethoscope for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is HAT?

HAT stands for Hearing Assistive Technology. It refers to equipment including, but not limited to smoke alarms, doorbells, baby monitors, etc. that are connected to non-aural (non-hearing) alerting devices that include strobe (bright, flashing) lights, vibrating pads under pillows, and vibrating pagers.

This is so people who cannot hear these devices can be alerted quickly, particularly to the presence of fire. It may also refer to personal amplification devices such as amplified stethoscopes, personal amplifiers for listening in 1-on-1 situations

Who can use HAT equipment?

People who are Deaf or otherwise hearing impaired. This includes those who have high-frequency hearing loss, who cannot hear conventional alarms or alerting systems. People who wear hearing aids, or have Cochlear Implants (CI), who cannot hear without their aids or their implant, also use HAT equipment.

People who have difficulty hearing specific things which an impact their ability to conduct their work safely and effectively People who need assistive technology with their hearing aids for particular environments People who don’t have or cannot manage hearing aids and have specific listening needs.

Medical professionals needing amplification devices for patients with hearing loss who do not have hearing aids and cannot hear well during consultations

Who pays for the equipment?

Equipment for people aged 16 years and over can be funded by the Ministry of Health through their funding partners; by ACC; by Deaf and hearing-impaired support agencies (including Life Unlimited and Deaf Aotearoa), or by the user themselves.

For public funding, a needs assessment must be performed by an accredited service provider (like a registered hearing therapist).

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