Hearing Assist Technology: The Hearing Journal


Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) is a term that encompasses assistive listening devices, alerting devices, and telephone equipment that provide better access to the source of sound and better access to communication for the hearing impaired. These devices and systems often augment information from a hearing aid, cochlear implant, or other personal hearing aid, although some HATs can be used even if you don’t use personal hearing aids at all . HAT is used to enhance the listening experience to get as much information as possible from the speaker and the environment.


Assistive listening systems and devices allow the person with hearing loss to pick up sound from the source and bring it directly to the ear, mitigating the impact of distance, ambient noise and reverberation .

What is the difference between a listening system and a device? Systems are designed to handle larger spaces, are installed often, and can provide a signal to many people. An assistive listening device is typically used for one-on-one conversations and are often hard-wired devices, such as a personal amplifier.


As wonderful as hearing aids, cochlear implants and other hearing aids are, they can’t do it all. Hearing in noise is especially tricky for hearing aids, which work best in one-on-one conversations. As Dr. Cynthia Compton-Conley noted:

assistive listening systems [act] like “Binoculars for the ears”. Just like binoculars take a distant, hard-to-see image and bring it closer to your eyes so it’s easier to see; placing a microphone close to the speaker’s mouth picks up the desired speech and delivers it directly to the listener’s ears before it crosses the room, loses energy, and is degraded by noise and noise. reverberation.

Listening systems include those that have been around for a long time, for example, hearing loops, FM (also called RF) systems, and infrared (IR) listening systems. The difference between these three is that the signal (someone’s voice) is routed to the receiver using different technologies. Each must use a microphone to pick up sound, each uses their own technology to carry sound, and then each pairs to a receiver – a telecoil in a hearing aid for hearing loops or through a headset or neckloop (for hearing aids). hearing aids with telecoils) that connect to the FM or IR receiver.

Listening systems are going through a period of intense innovation and experimentation. Cutting-edge technologies such as Wi-Fi and newer Bluetooth systems are about to become available to provide another way to transmit the signal to a receiver that will connect to hearing aids. Watch for new developments and test as many as you can to find systems that work well for you.


Alerting devices are technologies that use sound signals and/or tactile or visual cues to replace devices that sound too quiet or at a pitch that is difficult to hear. These devices can emit a loud sound or a sound that varies in pitch so that it is easier to hear, such as a cell phone alert. They can shake like an alarm clock that wakes you up with vibrations. Or provide video instead of sound like the “Ring” doorbell. Or they can light up like a strobe smoke detector.


Over time, telephones have become more and more accessible to people with hearing loss. Specialized desk phones can increase the sound to an acceptable level. Internet Protocol Captioned Relay Service (IP CTS) provides a hearing-only service that lets you read what you can’t hear on specially designed cell phones or apps.

Cellphone manufacturers seem to be in a race to provide the most accessible products possible. From hearing aid compatible cell phones with a Bluetooth (BT) connection directly to your hearing aid, to multiple cameras so you can have a video chat, to ones that provide captioning in the phone itself, these products add up to a better, more understandable telephone conversation.


Unfortunately, there are very few storefronts offering HATs. What we have is mail order and internet stores that sell a lot of this equipment online. To find them, just search the web under “products for the hearing impaired”. Undoubtedly, you will find a number of options to purchase the type of equipment you need to make your life easier when you have hearing loss.

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