What are the different types of support solutions available for people that are deaf or hard of hearing?
Are you considering your options for hearing support and need some information? In this article, you will learn about the different types of assistive technology and support services that are available and how to determine which one is right for you. We will also look at the different financial support that is available for UK clients to help.
What types of support solutions are available?
The most common support device used by someone who is deaf is a hearing aid. However, hearing aids don’t work for all types of hearing loss, and they aren’t always perfect. Sometimes people need to use other solutions alongside their hearing aids or, in some cases, instead of.
There are many different solutions that can assist you if you are not able to hear people speaking. These include speech-to-text solutions, devices that amplify doorbell sounds, or special alarms that ensure you wake up on time for work or school. We will provide an overview of the most common types of hearing support options, including hearing aids, supplementary hearing devices, and interpreters.
A hearing aid is a device that amplifies speech sounds and reduces background noise. You can wear hearing aids behind or in your ear, and there are custom-made devices that fit entirely inside the ear canal.
The hearing aid has a microphone that picks up all the noise around you, it then eliminates background noises and enhances the speech to make it easier to understand.
When regular hearing aids are no longer sufficient or if you cannot tolerate them, a hearing implant is the next possible step. Hearing implants are surgically placed by an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist. There are different options: cochlear implants, bone-anchored devices, and middle ear implants.
Other hearing devices
Besides hearing aids, you can use other types of hearing support solutions. We highlight a few that are commonly used:
- Speech-to-text solutions: there are many options available to translate speech into text. These range from free apps that you can download on your phone right through to specially designed products like Speaksee, that cleverly eliminates all background noise and converts speech to text with +95% accuracy. Speaksee can also be used for group conversations as it displays the subtitles for each different person in a separate colour!
- Wake-up and warning systems: special wake-up and warning systems are for people who can’t hear the alarm clock, doorbell, telephone, fire alarm or other warning signals. These systems work with amplifiers, light signals, vibration systems or a combination of all three.
- FM hearing system: These devices can help to better understand group conversations and speech at a distance or in noisy environments. You use the aid in combination with a hearing aid. FM hearing systems consist of a transmitting microphone for the speaker and a receiver for the user.
- Hearing amplifier: a hearing amplifier can help people when having conversations. The amplifier is particularly suitable for people who do not use hearing aids. A hearing amplifier consists of a handheld microphone for the transmitter and headphones or neck loop for the receiver.
- Telecoil or TV streamers: there are several options to allow someone who is deaf to enjoy a relaxing evening watching TV. Simply turning on the subtitles can help (if they are available!). But there are also TV listening aids such as telecoils or TV streamers, which allow you to receive the sound of your TV directly to your hearing aid.
Personal interpreters can play a very important role in supporting communication for someone who is deaf. There are different types of interpreters:
- Sign language interpreters translate speech into sign language and vice versa.
- Speech to Text Reporters (STTR) or palantypists will listen in to your meeting and use a special keyboard to convert all spoken words into text shown on a screen. You can read our article 'What is a speech-to-text interpreter?’
- TypeTalk/Text Relay (for the UK) is a service that works with telephone calls. You can engage the TypeTalk service during a phone call and this will put a live interpreter on the line with you. The interpreter will listen to the speech and type out subtitles that are displayed on a special text phone for you to read.
Which support option is best for me?
How do you know which communication support solution is best suited to your personal hearing needs? The following factors are important when making a choice:
- Severity and nature of hearing loss: Of course, the severity of your hearing loss is an important factor when choosing a hearing aid. With mild hearing loss a more simplistic hearing amplifier, may be sufficient. More severe hearing loss often requires a hearing aid or even a hearing implant.
- Lifestyle: Also consider your lifestyle when choosing a support device. Do you meet a lot for work? Do you like to socialise? Are you often in group conversations? Then a FM hearing system and Speaksee's microphone system could be very useful options.
- Personal preference: Your personal preference also plays a role when choosing a solution. Perhaps you find it important that the aid is as unobtrusive as possible, or you prefer something that is easy to use.
- Budget: Hearing aids are not always fully reimbursed, so when choosing a hearing aid, also take your budget into account.
A hearing care professional can give you tailored advice and help you find a suitable hearing aid. Audiologists are specialists in hearing loss and can give you the best advice on choosing a solution to match your needs.
For UK clients: What about financial reimbursement to pay for my support solutions?
The NHS can support the costs for Hearing Aids and certain implant options. Depending on your preference, you may need to pay some of the costs personally, this should be discussed with your Audiologist or Doctor.
If you are in employment (or seeking employment) within the UK then you may be eligible for Access-to-Work funding. If you need hearing support to do your job, then you can get AtW funding through the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). You will need to have a workplace needs assessment and discuss your support requirements with a professional Needs Assessor. More detail is available on the link below:
If you are a student in the UK then it is worth looking into the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). This is funding that is provided through the Department for Education (DfE) and administered by the Student Loans Company. You will need to meet with a DSA Needs Assessor to discuss your support requirements and they can make recommendations for you. The DSA will fully fund any support that they deem necessary. You can find out more on this link below:
Let yourself be well informed
Hearing support can come in all shapes and sizes. Think carefully about what is important to you and research the options for reimbursement. Get informed by audiologists and other hearing care professionals. That way, you won't face any surprises and will find the hearing solution that suits you best.
Would you like to know whether Speaksee is a suitable support option for you? Contact us, we would be delighted to help!