Hearing Assistive Technology : The Hearing Journal

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Hearing Assistive Technology

Hamlin, Lise

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The Hearing Journal 75(9):p 12, September 2022. | DOI: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000874596.25122.14
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Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) is a term that embraces assistive listening devices, alerting devices, and telephone equipment that provides greater access to the source of the sound and greater communication access for people with hearing loss. These devices and systems often augment the information coming from a hearing aid, cochlear implant, or other personal hearing device, though some HAT can be used even if you don’t use personal hearing devices at all. HAT serves to enhance the experience of listening to get as much information as possible from whoever is speaking and from the environment.


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

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


As wonderful as hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other hearing devices are, they cannot do everything. Hearing in noise is particularly tricky for hearing devices, which work best in one-to-one conversations. As Dr. Cynthia Compton-Conley noted:

assistive listening systems [act] as “Binoculars for the Ears.” Just as binoculars take a faraway, hard-to-see image and brings it close to your eyes so it’s easier to see; placing a microphone close to the talker’s mouth catches the desired speech and sends it directly to the listener’s ears before it travels across the room, loses energy, and becomes degraded by noise and reverberation.

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

Listening systems are going through a period of intense innovation and experimentation. Cutting-edge technology such as Wi-Fi and new Bluetooth systems are on the cusp of being available to provide another way to carrying the signal to a receiver that will connect to hearing devices. Watch for new developments and test out as many as possible to find systems that work well for you.


Alerting devices are technologies that use audible signals and/or tactile or visual signals replacing devices that provide a sound that is too soft or pitched in a way that is difficult to hear. These devices can provide a loud sound or a sound that varies in pitch so that it can be easier to hear, like a cellphone alert. They can shake like an alarm clock that wakes you with vibration. Or provide a video instead of sound like the “Ring” doorbell. Or they can light up like a strobe smoke alarm.


Over time, telephones have become more and more accessible to people with hearing loss. Specialty desk phones can boost the sound to a level you can live with. Internet Protocol Captioned Relay Service (IP CTS) provide a service only to people with hearing loss that allows you to read what you cannot hear on specially designed phones or apps for cellphones.

Cellphone makers seem to be in a race to provide the most accessible products possible. From hearing aid compatible cellphones with a Bluetooth (BT) connection directly to your hearing device, to multiple cameras to allow you to have a video chat, to those that provide captioning in the phone itself, these products add up to a better, more understandable phone conversation.


Unfortunately, there are very few storefronts providing HAT. What we do have is mail order and internet-based stores that sell much of this equipment online. To find them, you need only search the web under “products for people with hearing loss.” No question, you will find a number of options to purchase the kind of equipment you need to make life just a little easier when you have hearing loss.

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