- Auditory Communication
Access Systems (The questions and answers in the Auditory
Communication Access Systems are re-printed courtesy of David Baquis,
Accessibility Specialist with the US Access Board).
What are Assistive Listening Systems (ALS)?
Assistive Listening Systems (ALS)
are sometimes called Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs). Essentially they are
amplifiers that bring sound directly into the ear. They separate the sounds,
particularly speech, that a person wants to hear from background noise. They
improve what is known as the speech-to-noise ratio (signal to noise ratio).
Why are ALSs necessary?
Research indicates that people who are hard of
hearing require a volume (signal to noise ratio) increase of about 15 to 25 dB
in order to achieve the same level of understanding as people with normal
hearing. An ALS allows them to achieve this gain for themselves without making
it too hard for everyone else.
Where do people use ALSs?
ALSs help address listening challenges in 3 ways:
minimizing background noise; reducing the effect of distance between the sound
source and person with hearing loss; and overriding poor acoustics such as
echo. People use ALSs in places of entertainment, employment, and education, as
well as for home/personal use.
What are the basic parts of an ALS?
Each ALS has at least 3 components: a microphone, a
transmission technology and a device for receiving the signal and bringing the
sound to the ear. This is important to understand in order to troubleshoot
problems systematically and to improve a system’s effectiveness.
What are the types of ALSs?
ALSs utilize FM, Infrared, or
Inductive loop technologies. All 3 technologies are considered good. Each one
has advantages and disadvantages.
What are FM systems?
FM systems are ALSs that use radio
broadcast technology. They are often used in educational settings and offer
mobility and flexibility when used with portable body-worn transmitters. Some
newer FM systems utilize miniaturized receivers that fit onto a hearing aid via
This smaller type of receiver is
not available through a catalogue. It must be dispensed by a hearing aid
professional and is more expensive than traditional FM systems.
What are Infrared systems?
Infrared systems are ALSs that
utilize light based technology. They guarantee privacy because light does not
pass through walls. They are the appropriate choice for situations such as
court proceedings that require confidentiality. They are frequently installed
in places of entertainment. They are also frequently designed and marketed for
use in television listening.
What are Inductive Loop (or Audio Loop) systems?
Wide area loop systems utilize an
electromagnetic field to deliver sound. They offer convenience to groups of
t-coil hearing aid users, such as SHHH chapter meetings, because those users do
not require body worn receivers. Loop systems can be used by non-hearing aid
users through use of a headphone and inductive loop receiver.
What are the differences in listening couplers?
It is important to learn about the
variety of hearing aid listening attachments. Your decision to use a headset,
earphone, neckloop, silhouette inductor or other connector will depend upon
whether you have a telecoil, as well as other factors. For example, you cannot
put an earplug into an ear that already has a hearing aid! Some couplings are
more effective than others. You should discuss these issues with your hearing
aid dispenser (or hearing assistive technology distributor).
Cochlear implant (CI) users may
use a patch cord to connect an ALS receiver directly to their speech processor.
(See explanation of patch cord below.) Some speech processors are “body pack”
sized. Others are “ear level” and miniaturized to the size of a behind-the-ear
hearing aid. Consumers with ear level speech processors can utilize neckloops
for listening in the same way as hearing aid users.
What are patch cords?
Familiarity with patch cords is
necessary to ensure optimal connections. Patch cords are short wires with a
plug at each end, enabling a connection between a CI speech processor and the
jack of the equipment the CI user is listening to. One patch cord manufacturer
advises connecting the short end to the speech processor. Some cords have a
mini plug (2.5 mm instead of 3.5 mm) for connecting to devices requiring the
smaller plug. Consumers report varied experience with the quality and
effectiveness of patch cords.
Electrical requirements of devices
vary, as do patch cord features. Therefore, consumers need to be aware that one
cord may not work with everything. It is frustrating, for example, to want to
patch into a cell phone without knowing whether the cord will work and to be
unable to receive advice on this specialized issue from the local retail sales
person. However, some vendors, such as Audex, sell patch cords that work with
the phones they sell.
Patch cord manufacturers may be
able to provide information on compatibility, as may ALD manufacturers and CI
manufacturers. There is no central list at this time to guide consumers through
the confusion of compatibility between all brands and models, although there is
an FM system/patch cord compatibility list available through Cochlear
What about one-on-one personal amplifiers?
ALDs (assistive listening devices) are personal amplifiers
that are used to increase volume in face-to-face and small group conversations.
They are boxes about the size of a deck of cards with both a microphone and
listening cord connected to them. Both talker and listener share the same
device. This type of ALD is less effective when you hold it far from the sound
source, however it is relatively inexpensive. It will cost approximately $200,
whereas a personal FM system, for example, could cost between $700 and $1000 +
What is a Sound Field system?
Sound field is a speaker system that brings the
sound closer to listeners and is often used in schools. It may be helpful to
people with mild hearing loss as well as people who want to use inconspicuous
(hidden) speakers. Some speakers are wireless and designed to look like lunch
boxes or books. Hearing aid users as well as cochlear implant users who want to
hear the regular way through their microphones may appreciate use of sound
One interesting feature of using a
sound system is the concept of “electronic curbcut.” That is a metaphor for the
secondary benefit of cuts on sidewalks, which are designed to help wheelchair
users but also benefit people who push shopping carts and baby carriages.
Similarly, a sound system heard by many people is proven to result in a general
rise in class test scores, even by those who do not have a hearing loss. It
also saves the teacher from having to “speak up” all day.
- Visual Communication
- What is CART? (Computer-Assisted Real-Time
Computer assisted real-time
translation (CART) provides an instantaneous word-for-word speech-to-text
interpreting service. These transcription services are used for providing
instant captions for TV news, meetings, and classroom discussions. CART services
are provided by a trained stenographer, such as a court reporter, who may be
able to transcribe at a rate of 300 words per minute, through a
- What is CAN? (Computer-Assisted Note-taking)
Note-taking can be done on a
computer or by hand. Because an individual cannot look down to take notes while
watching an interpreter or presenter, note-taking is often provided in addition
to other accommodations, such as an interpreter, rather than being the sole
accommodation. Note-taking provides facts only and is not considered realtime
communication access. Note-taking by hand is about 20 wpm. The notes can be
written on carbon paper to provide an immediate copy.
C-Print provides a “near verbatim
readout” using word processing software aided by abbreviation software. C-Print
is considered appropriate for liberal arts classes but not math or science. Few
people in the US are trained to do C-Print. Initial training takes one week.
Typewell is a transcription system
that allows you to hire and train your own transcriber to provide communication
access and note-taking services for students and others who need such support.
A hearing transcriber uses a notebook computer with abbreviation software to
transcribe meaning-for-meaning what is said in class lectures and discussions.
The students read the transcription in real-time from a second computer.
Students can also type questions and comments to the transcriber during class.
- Signaling (or Alerting)
- What is a signaling (or alerting) system?
Common sounds in the house can be
difficult to hear even if hearing aids are worn. Using a signaling (or
alerting) system makes it easier to know when the doorbell or phone rings.
There are several ways to be alerted to a sound signal:
Lamp flashing a pattern for the door or phone
Lamp flashing a pattern plus a lighted icon to identify the sound
Strobe light flashing plus a lighted icon to identify the sound
Bed vibration plus a lighted icon to identify the sound signal
Belt worn vibrating personal pager with lighted icon to identify
the sound signal
Adjustable tones or loud ringer for phone
Various melodies or tones for front and back doorbells
- How do signaling systems work?
A signaling system consists of 2 components:
The signaler (that either attaches to the electrical source of
the doorbell or phone line or a sound monitor that detects sound).
- How do I choose an effective signaling system?
First determine what sounds you want to be alerted
to. Then determine which rooms you need alerting in and finally decide how you
want to be alerted.
What signaling system can I use if I want to hear my phone
ring instead of being alerted by flashing lights?
The Ringmax Telephone Signaler changes the frequency
and tone of your telephone ringer. The Ringmax can be used with multiple phones
and rings differently for each different phone in the house.
- What signaling system can I use if I want to hear my
doorbell instead of being alerted by flashing lights?
The Dimango Wireless Doorbell System alerts you by
using a tone or melody selection made up of low, mid-range, and high
frequencies. Most people with hearing loss have high frequency hearing loss but
can still hear low and mid-range frequencies. It is then usually necessary to
add additional receivers in other rooms of the house.
What are some things I need to know about smoke alarms?
The most important thing you need
to know about smoke alarms is that most hard of hearing people cannot hear the high
frequency pitch of a smoke alarm. Check to make sure you can hear yours without
your hearing aids in every room of the house. You can be alerted to the smoke
alarm in the following ways:
Low frequency alarm
- Telephone Communication
What is a telecoil?
A telecoil is a special circuit
inside the hearing aid. It is simply a small coil of wire designed to pick up a
magnetic signal. While the microphone on a hearing aid picks up all sounds, the
telecoil will only pick up an electromagnetic signal. It turns off the hearing
aid microphone, picks up the signal and the hearing aid converts it to sound.
This magnetic signal is created from hearing aid compatible telephones and
assistive listening systems.
How is a telecoil used to hear better on the phone?
Many people report feedback (or
squealing) when they place the handset of the telephone next to their hearing
aid. The telecoil can eliminate this feedback because the hearing aid
microphone is turned off and the hearing aid only amplifies the signal coming
through the telecoil. Telephone handsets emit the magnetic signal from the
ear-piece. When placed correctly near the telecoil, the sound should be
transmitted clearly. That is why some people must place the ear-piece slightly
behind their ear rather than directly over the ear.
What features should I look for when buying a hearing aid
compatible amplified telephone?
There are many phones now on the market with a
variety of features that can be very helpful. Here are some features that may
be important to you:
Visual ringer alert (so that you can see the phone ringing)
Adjustable loud ringer
3.5 mm audio jack (to plug in a neckloop)
2.5 mm headset jack (to plug in a headset)
What is an In-line amplifier?
An inline telephone amplifier amplifies the voice
you want to hear. For example, the HA 40 in-line amplifier provides an extra 40
dB increase in amplification plus a tone selector. The tone selector makes
similar sounding words easier to understand. The in-line amplifier connects
between the handset and phone base–no wiring is necessary. This is our most
often recommended solution for office phone amplification because it also works
on multi-line phones. In-line amplifiers will not work with cordless phones or
phones where the dial pad is in the handset (such as a trimline phone.) If you
have one of these phones, replace the phone with an amplified phone.
What is a portable amplifier?
A portable telephone amplifier allows you to amplify
calls anytime, no matter where you are. Installation is easy–just strap onto
the handset and incoming voices are immediately louder.
What is a portable induction system?
The loop induction system brings a high quality
speech signal directly into the ears of people using their hearing aid
telecoils. A portable induction system is a lightweight unit that includes a
built-in amplifier, external microphone, and induction aerial loop within the
housing. It is ideal for listening in one-on-one situations such as office
reception areas, inside the car, small meetings, and TV listening.
What are DAI only devices for telephone communication?
If you have BTE hearing aids with
direct audio input (DAI) capability, you can connect your hearing aids directly
to the telephone (if the telephone has a headset jack). You will need DAI boots
or shoes (or Hearing Aid Direct Input Shoes) from your audiologist and DAI
leads. DAI offers the best sound quality.
How are personal ALDs (PockeTalker, SoundWizard, Comtek FM)
used with the telephone?
It’s easier to hear on the phone
if you use two ears instead of one. A personal ALD makes it possible. All you
need are dual earbuds or headphones, a personal ALD and an adaptor for the
telephone. Pocketalker calls their adaptor a Telelink. The Telelink is a small
box (2”x3”) that is easily connected to a telephone with a detachable handset:
Unplug the handset cord from the base of your phone.
Plug the handset cord into the Telelink.
Plug the Telelink’s phone cord into the base of the phone.
If you have DAI capability, you can plug your DAI cord from your
hearing aid into the Telelink. If not, use another listening option such as
dual earbuds or a headset.
When you lift the handset you will hear the dial tone through the
Telelink without actually putting the phone up to your ears. However, you need
to speak into the handset to be heard by the other party.
What are acoustic telepads/couplers used for?
An acoustic telepad is a telephone
handset ear cushion designed especially for hearing aid users which greatly
reduces hearing aid feedback. The pad has a peel-off backing that sticks easily
to your handset.
What is a TTY?
(or teletype machine) makes it
possible to send and receive printed messages
on paper over existing phone lines. TTYs have been shrinking over the years. The newest versions are pocket-sized machines!
For example, the PocketComm is a
lightweight and compact TTY/VCO device for the deaf and hard of hearing. It's a
"Type and Read" TTY or a "Speak and Read" VCO. (See
definition of a VCO below). The PocketComm can be connected to a TTY compatible
digital cell phone and cordless phone for TTY communication...and to a
payphone, standard phone, and emergency call box for the use of VCO
What is CapTel?
Captioned Telephone (or CapTel) is a new telephone
technology that allows people to receive word-for-word captions of their
telephone conversations on the phone’s built-in screen. It is similar in
concept to captioned television, where spoken words appear as written text.
The CapTel phone captions appear almost
simultaneously as the words are spoken. This is possible because a specially
trained operator uses the latest in voice-recognition technology to transcribe
whatever is said by the other party. However, due to sophisticated technology,
the operator is invisible during the calls and you hear your caller’s voice–not
the operator’s voice.
How can you use a computer as a TTY?
Now you can place text relay calls online without a
TTY by connecting to a communication assistant through an Internet relay
Type outgoing messages on computer keyboard
Read incoming messages on a computer monitor
There are several companies that
provide Internet relay call services. NexTalk is an Internet relay
website with many advantages:
Call or accept calls from a TTY
Live, direct text communication
Server handles calls; no relay operator needed
Free calls and downloadable software
TTYs not needed in offices to receive TTY calls
What is TRS (Telecommunications Relay Service)
In order to use a TTY, both parties must have one.
If the person you are calling does not have a TTY, there is a nationwide
network of services available for just this purpose called the
Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS). The deaf or hard of hearing TTY user
calls the TRS and tells the operator (Communication Assistant or CA) the name
and telephone number of the person s/he wants to call. The CA dials the number
and gets the person on the line. The CA explains the communication protocol, if
necessary, and then connects the hard of hearing or deaf caller. The CA reads
what the deaf person types to the hearing person and types what the hearing
person says for the deaf person to read. In October of 2001, a nationwide 711
service was implemented. There is no charge to the caller, only for any long
distance charges involved.
What is VCO?
What if you can speak for yourself, but cannot hear
well enough to use the phone? Another option offered by the TRS is called Voice
Carry Over or VCO. VCO calls are a little faster than TTY and TTY relay calls
because the hard of hearing person speaks directly to the hearing party and the
CA types only what the hearing person says for the hard of hearing person to
read. A special phone is not required because turn taking (via the words “go
ahead” is still used. For example, the phone handset can be placed on the TTY
when reading, and moved to the mouth to speak.
The Uniphone is a combination TTY
and phone. It can be used as either a phone or a TTY. But what happens if you
are away from home and want to use the phone? The Pocket Speak-and Read VCO
device makes VCO portable. To use this device, the individual calls the TRS and
asks to place a VCO call. The Pocket Speak and Read is then attached to the
earpiece of the phone with a velcro strap. The TTY tones from the relay
operator are picked up by the Pocket Speak and Read, converted to text and
shown on the Pocket Speak and Read’s small screen. The hard of hearing person
can then read what is being said and respond using her own voice into the
mouthpiece of the handset. The Pocket VCO works on a variety of telephone
handsets and operates on battery power. It is also available for digital
Another interesting option is the
2-line VCO that allows a hard of hearing person to listen as well as see the
conversation typed by a CA. This setup requires that the hard of hearing person
have 2 phone lines, and one of the lines (and the phone) must have a 3-way
conference call option.
How can Pagers help me communicate visually?
Pagers are sometimes called the
deaf or hard of hearing person’s cell phone. Pagers are used to send and
receive text messages. Some companies provide 2-way pagers that allow users to
reply to text messages via email.
Some pagers are similar to Palm Pilots and other Personal Digital Assistants
(PDAs). PDAs now have Internet access so that users can check email, send
instant messages, and even receive remote CART captioning.
Certain cell phones (and
BlackBerry style devices) can send and receive text messages, provide instant
messenger services, and surf the web.
How can Video Relay help me communicate visually?
Video relay services allow American Sign Language
users (ASL users) to use their native sign language, rather than English.
Through the use of an inexpensive camera and a high-speed Internet connection,
the caller connects to a video communication assistant–a certified
interpreter–on his or her computer. The CA voices what he or she is signing
and signs the responses given by the hearing person.