Assistive Technology for Hearing-Impaired Students: Learning through Assistive Devices

Assistive Technology for Hearing-Impaired Students: Students who are deaf or have hearing loss use various communication methods to reach out to people, like Assistive technology.

Over the past five years, assistive technology has created new possibilities for young students with hearing impairment to communicate with society effectively.

According to abilitynet, 11 million individuals in the UK live with hearing loss or deafness. More people are predicted to be impacted as the population ages.

In this blog, we look at some of the most cutting-edge technological choices for communication, entertainment, and education for those with hearing loss.

What is Hearing Assistive Technology

Hearing assistive technology is any device that facilitates communication for someone with hearing loss or a voice, speech, or language issue. These terms frequently relate to tools that make it easier to hear and comprehend or to communicate thoughts. 

As digital and wireless technologies advance, more and more tools are becoming accessible to support students with hearing, voice, speech, and language problems in meaningful communication and full participation in daily life.

Hearing and understanding speech is difficult for those who have hearing loss. Despite substantial advancements in hearing aids and cochlear implants, students struggle to hear and understand in the classrooms.

Why? Because many of us find that increasing the volume is insufficient. Even with the most advanced technology, hearing aids typically cannot distinguish between background noise and the voices and noises you wish to hear. They magnify all sounds and have a limited effective range.

Distance, surroundings, and noise impact hearing ability in addition to noise. The likelihood that you will be able to hear and understand decreases further if the hearing aid microphones are from the sound you wish to hear.

Similarly, open spaces, bare walls and floors, high ceilings, and floors and walls with numerous angles all exacerbate bad acoustics and reverberation.

The good news is that communities may become more hearing-friendly thanks to Hearing Assistive Technologies (HAT).

How Assistive Technology for Hearing-Impaired Students Improves Lives

In public locations, including auditoriums, churches, conference rooms, theaters, concert halls, airports, restaurants, transportation hubs, pharmacy counters, bank teller windows, customer service desks, and more, hearing aids and cochlear implants are frequently insufficient.

Students with hearing loss can significantly enhance their quality of life by using assistive technology for hearing-impaired students.

By removing the effects of distance, background noise, and reverberation, assistive listening systems, and equipment close the gap between you and the sound source. By bypassing difficult acoustics, they may deliver music directly to users’ ears.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, acknowledges how challenging it can be for people with hearing loss to comprehend in public settings and require assistive listening devices.

Hearing aid compatibility was added to the regulations in 2010 so that those who wear hearing aids and cochlear implants do not have to take them out.

Types of Assistive Technology for Hearing-Impaired Students

Various assistive technology for hearing-impaired students can enhance sound transmission for hearing-loss students. Some are for major buildings like theaters, schools, churches, and airports. Some are for private use in intimate settings and for private chats.

You can use all of them can be utilized with or without cochlear implants or hearing aids. Assistive technology systems for large facilities include hearing loops, frequency-modulated (FM), and infrared systems.

#1. Hearing Loop Systems

Hearing aids and induction loop systems are compatible. The loop wire is inserted into the ceiling or beneath the carpet. Then attach the wire to a mic. An electrical current flows across the wire when someone speaks into the microphone.

As a result, the space develops an electromagnetic field. You select the “T” or phone option on your hearing aid. You can hear the speaker because your hearing aid takes up the signal.

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A tiny wireless receiver integrated into many hearing aids and cochlear implants can directly detect amplified sound as it travels around the loop and produces an electromagnetic field. A listener must wear the receiver and sit inside or close to the loop to receive the signal.

The music is substantially crisper and freer from the distracting background noise common in many listening contexts since the receiver takes up the sound directly.

Since certain loop systems are portable, people with hearing loss can enhance their listening settings while they go about their everyday lives as needed. Any audio source, including a television or public address system, can connect to a hearing loop.

There are also portable loop receivers available for people who don’t have hearing aids with built-in telecoils.

#2. FM Systems

FM systems convey enhanced sounds using radio transmissions. The teacher wears a small microphone attached to a transmitter, and the students wear a receiver tuned to a certain frequency or channel. Schools use them frequently.

To transform the signal into magnetic signals that the telecoil can directly detect, people who have telecoils inside their hearing aids or cochlear implants may also wear a wire around their neck (referred to as a neck loop) or behind their aids or implants (referred to as a silhouette inductor).

FM systems are suitable for usage in various public settings and can send signals up to 300 feet away. To prevent receiving mixed signals, listeners in one room might need to tune in to a different channel than those in another because radio signals can pass through walls.

Using personal FM systems, people with hearing loss can follow one-on-one discussions in the same way as larger-scale FM systems do.

#3. Infrared Systems

Infrared systems transfer sound via infrared light. A receiver worn by the listener receives the light signal that the transmitter has transformed from sound into. The receiver converts the infrared signal back to sound.

People with hearing aids or cochlear implants that have telecoils may also use a neck loop or silhouette inductor to transform an infrared signal into a magnetic signal that a telecoil can detect similar to FM systems.

The infrared signal is particularly helpful in courtrooms, where legal practitioners discuss sensitive information, and conflicting signals, such as in classrooms or movie theaters, can be an issue.

The infrared signal is particularly helpful in courtrooms, where legal practitioners discuss sensitive information, and conflicting signals, such as in classrooms or movie theaters, can be an issue.

Unlike induction loop or FM systems, it cannot penetrate through walls. However, you cannot use infrared devices cannot be used in locations with competing light sources, such as outdoors or in brightly lit rooms.

#4. Personal Amplifiers 

Personal amplifiers are handy when watching TV, being outside, or driving when the other systems aren’t available. These gadgets, which are about the size of a cell phone, boost music quality and lessen ambient noise for listeners.

A speaker or other sound source can be oriented toward some directional microphones. The amplified sound can be taken up by a receiver that the listener is wearing, such as a headset or earbuds, much like conventional Assistive Technology.

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Categories of Hearing Aids

Assistive technology for hearing-impaired students is classified into five varieties by healthcare providers: behind-the-ear (BTE), in-the-ear (ITE), receiver-in-the-ear (RITE), in-the-canal (ITC), and CROS/BiCROS.

#1. BTE (behind-the-ear)

Behind-the-ear (BTE) devices are suited for patients with mild to substantial hearing loss. This device is small enough to fit behind your ear. The hearing aid’s body is attached to a bespoke ear mold or thin tubing.

Because this device has multiple elements, physical skill is required to ensure accurate insertion and placement.

#2. In-the-ear (ITE) Headphones

In-the-ear (ITE) devices either occupy your complete ear (known as full-shell) or a portion of your ear’s bowl (known as half-shell). These are ideal for persons who struggle with dexterity or handling little items. Providers frequently recommend ITE devices for persons with moderate to severe hearing loss.

#3. RITE (receiver-in-the-ear)

BTE devices are similar to receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) hearing aids. A RITE hearing aid’s body is located behind your ear. A small receiver wire extends from the hearing aid’s body through your outer ear and into your ear canal.

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A soft tip fits just within your ear canal without completely sealing it. This provides a more natural sound for many individuals. Manual dexterity is required for RITE devices. They are suitable for people who have mild to severe hearing loss.

#4. ITC (in-the-canal)

In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids are less noticeable than ITE hearing aids because they fit deeper into your ear canal. They use tiny batteries and may be more difficult to handle due to their diminutive size.

You may be eligible for completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids depending on your situation. These gadgets are even less noticeable since they fit further into the ear canal.

#5. CROS/BiCROS

If you have normal or mild hearing loss in one ear and very little or no usable hearing in the other, your healthcare professional may recommend a CROS/BiCROS hearing aid. On the better hearing side, you wear the hearing aid; on the poorer hearing side, you wear an additional microphone.

This lets you hear from the poorer side while sending all noises to the superior ear. These devices are especially useful when someone is speaking into the worse ear.

CROS is an acronym that stands for “Contralateral Routing of Signals.” BiCROS is an acronym that stands for “Bilateral Contralateral Routing of Signals.”

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Examples of Assistive Technology for Hearing-Impaired Students in the Classroom

A popular and excellent choice, sign language has the drawback of not being understood by the majority of the hearing community. While lip reading doesn’t always let someone fully grasp what is being said, it is still a vital skill.

We examine some of the most recent hearing loss-related apps and technology below.

#1. Transcribing Live

Google created the smartphone software Live Transcribe for the Android operating system to provide real-time captioning. Gallaudet University and the application’s development team collaborated to start the project. On the Google Play Store, it is available to the public as a free beta for Android 5.0 and up. 

#2. YouTube Live Transcription

Live Transcribe, a new product from Google, provides real-time speech-to-text transcription.

The spoken text is captured by a phone microphone and sent over wifi or another network connection to an Android phone screen.

For instance, people who are D/deaf and attend conferences or lectures may find this useful. The individual who has the app will see the spoken words on their phone. The technology supports 70 languages.

#3. Rogervoice

An app called Rogervoice generates live transcriptions of phone conversations in more than 100 languages. People who are hard of hearing, deaf, or have trouble speaking can use the phone to discuss with someone and receive a written text of what the other person is saying (on their phone).

#4. TapSOS

The AbilityNet Tech4Good Digital Health Award went to this incredibly helpful software last year. It provides a means for folks who are hard of hearing or deaf to communicate with emergency personnel without speaking or listening.

The user taps the screen to choose the options they need in TapSOS, which is highly visual. Although it was initially created for D/deaf individuals, it can also be helpful for those who have respiratory issues or are being held against their will when contacting emergency services like the police. 

The user’s medical history and relevant personal data are stored by TapSOS on their device and sent instantly to the emergency service of their choice. To determine the user’s precise location, it also employs GPS.

#5. Signly

It’s common to believe that the greatest approach to communicating with D/deaf persons is through written language.

Reading can be more challenging for those born D/deaf, especially when they are young because the general public does not usually realize that learning to read entails matching how a word looks to how it sounds.

The Signly app was developed to give deaf or hearing-impaired people another way to comprehend textual or visual information.

The app was first utilized at the Roald Dahl Museum in the UK. Visitors to the museum can view movies on their smartphones that provide sign language descriptions of the exhibits by pointing their phones toward them.

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Additionally, Network Rail uses the app, which has undergone testing with Lloyds Banking Group, to provide D/deaf customers with more information on awareness-raising campaigns or leaflet content, for example.

Additionally, Signly offers an audio layer that is helpful for blind users.

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Tips for Teachers of Students with Hearing Loss

  1. Reduce background noise by not opening windows, allowing side conversations, running the pencil sharpener, turning on noisy electric fans/AC units, moving furniture around, and so on while class is in session.
  2. Pronounce your words clearly – Speak clearly and naturally without exaggerating lip movements.
  3. Address the youngster by name – This will help your hearing-impaired student understand that you are speaking to them.
  4. Repeat the question – When a student asks a question, other pupils cannot hear what was said. Repeating the question will assist all pupils in comprehending the solution.
  5. When speaking from a distance, project your voice. This will benefit not only your hard-of-hearing kid but the entire class.
  6. Give your student a written copy of your notes – Outlining the lesson will help the student hear all the crucial points you make. It may be difficult for them to listen and take notes simultaneously, so offering this allows them to fully concentrate on what is spoken throughout the class.
  7. Check-in – Make a signal with your hard-of-hearing learner to ensure they understand the instructions. To avoid singling out the child with hearing loss, ask other pupils if they heard/understood the directions.
  8. Seating preference- Encourage kids with hearing impairments to sit near the front of the classroom for improved hearing and an unobstructed view of you and the board.
  9. Avoid teaching with your back to the board, chewing gum while speaking to kids, and singling out DHH students.

FAQ on Assistive Technology for Hearing-Impaired Students

Can I buy hearing aids without a prescription?

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to improve access to hearing aids by creating a new category for over-the-counter devices. As a result of this landmark decision, consumers can buy hearing aids over the counter as early as the fall of 2022.

People with mild to moderate hearing loss will benefit from over-the-counter hearing aids. However, if you have severe to profound hearing loss or complex hearing issues, you should contact a healthcare provider for proper testing, diagnosis, and treatment.

What kind of hearing aid battery should I get?

Hearing aid batteries are available in both disposable and rechargeable varieties. Disposable batteries, which resemble small buttons, are no longer in use. The majority of new hearing aids use rechargeable batteries.

You can keep hearing aids with rechargeable batteries, like smartphones and other Bluetooth devices on a charger while not in use. Some even include a handy docking station.

What does hearing assistive technology do?

Assistive devices or assistive technology facilitates communication for someone with hearing loss or a voice, speech, or language issue.

These terms frequently relate to tools that make it easier to hear and comprehend or to communicate thoughts.

Which type of hearing aid battery should I choose?

Both disposable and rechargeable hearing aid batteries are available. Disposable batteries, which resemble tiny buttons, are less prevalent today.

The majority of modern hearing aids use rechargeable batteries. You can place hearing aids with rechargeable batteries on a charger while not in use, just like smartphones and other Bluetooth devices. Some even include a useful docking station.

Conclusion on Assistive Technology for Hearing-Impaired Students

Assistive technology has opened up a world of possibilities for hearing-impaired students. Through specialized devices and innovative solutions, students can overcome barriers and fully engage in their learning journey.

The power of assistive technology lies in its ability to level the playing field, providing equal access to information, communication, and educational opportunities. With assistive devices by their side, hearing-impaired students can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.

So let us continue to embrace and support the integration of assistive technology in education, ensuring that every student, regardless of their hearing abilities, has the chance to reach their full potential. Together, we can create an inclusive and empowering learning environment for all.

References

  • hearingloss.org – Understanding Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT)
  • nidcd.nih.gov – Assistive Devices for People with Hearing, Voice, Speech, or Language Disorders
  • abilitynet.org.uk – Useful apps for people who are D/deaf or have hearing loss
  • nationwidechildrens.org – Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT)
  • fda.gov – FDA Finalizes Historic Rule Enabling Access to Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids for Millions of Americans

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