I have included a brief note for some of the sections. You will notice that there are some negative comments. I do not mention these because I'm being overly critical, but so that you can better make an informed decision. I would far rather you found out something did not meet your needs before you purchased it than after. If you are interested in the devices listed on this page, links to vendors or manufacturers can be found on our Online Catalog & Product Resources page.
Abledata - The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research Database.
I contacted these folks to comment on what seemed like a lack of information about products for the Deaf/HOH and their response was:
We do not currently have available Informed Consumer Guides of Fact Sheets concerning
assistive technology for individuals with hearing disabilities,
Regarding product listings in the database, if you enter a KEYWORD SEARCH on "Deaf and Hard of Hearing" (without the quotation marks) you'll get the complete listing. Each page shows 10 records; to see each subsequent group of 10 records, return to the top of the page and click on the "Next 10 Records" button. Just a note: The software sorts search results so that the older records appear first, so the "Discontinued" records usually come up first.
Assistive Device Warranty (ADW) Laws - Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH) Position Statement.
Assistive Technology Electronic Marketplace (AT-Exchange) - A database developed to help keep assistive technology that is no longer being used in circulation. If you have an assistive technology device that you no longer need, you may list it in the AT-Exchange. You can also search the AT-Exchange for people looking for your item. If you need some assistive technology, you can search the AT-Exchange as well as post your own request to the AT-Exchange. Mostly for Washington State.
Funding Assistive Technology - Funding Resource Center at ABLEDATA
Microsoft® Synchronized Accessible Media Interchange (SAMI) - Making Multimedia Accessible
Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) - The RESNA Technical Assistance Project provides technical support to the 56 State Tech Act projects.
Alarm Clocks - available with either a flashing light or a vibrating unit. The clocks come with the alerting device either as a plug in option or hard wired to the unit. Ours is hardwired to the clock and the vibrating unit has gone out twice now. When we replace it this time we'll try the plug in type.
Door Knock Lights - Install a light switch on the outside of the bathroom and bedroom used by the deaf/hoh person. Since you can't knock and have them hear you, you can flash the lights instead of barging in or waiting in frustration. This is easily accomplished by installing a 3 way switch and placing the extra switch on the outside of the door.
Signal Light For Doorbells - Not much explanation required here, but if you frequently have a Deaf/Hoh visitor or a small child, you may want to think about some sort of reverse installation so that when they ring the doorbell they will know that it rang. I know that as a hearing person, whenever I ring a doorbell I listen to see if I can hear it ring.
Smoke Alarm - There are a number of types of smoke alarms for the Deaf/HOH, but the "ideal" smoke alarm system has yet to be developed. There are a number of systems out there including visual smoke alarms, vibrating smoke alarms, a combination of visual and vibrating, and even one that uses a scent as its alert. Links are included in the previous sentence not as an endorsement, but to allow you to investigate this type of smoke alarm. The smoke alarm can be hooked up to your burglar alarm system (such as ADT).
Sound Activated Lights - Have a sound activated night light or lamp in the deaf/hoh person's bedroom. This is especially helpful to a hard of hearing person since they don't usually wear their hearing aids when they go to bed at night.
Weather Alert - New out on the market is a weather alert monitor with a special screen which alerts the user visually as to the nature of the alert: tornado, storm, flood, etc. Also available is a special kit that fits many brands of weather radios that will alert the user via strobe light or vibrator when an alarm is sounded.
Other - There are a number of other devices available such as
wrist watches with alarms, devices that let you know when the baby awakes from their nap,
prenatal listening devices, amplified stethoscopes, and many others. New devices are being
developed all the time.
Single Function Alerts: Each device functions independently, such as flashing only a single specific light when the phone rings. The signal is directly from the device to the flasher.
Line-Carried Systems: Each device signals a number of locations, such as flashing all the lights in the house when the phone rings. This system requires receivers and transmitters. The signal is carried from the transmitter to the receivers along the wiring of the house. Signal codes allow you to know what is setting off the signal, like a flash for each time the phone rings, or a 2 quick flashes for the doorbell. Surge protectors, multiple lines in the home, or a nearby apartment with another line-carried system may all cause problems with the system. You also have to remember the specific flash code for each transmitter so if you have a number of items on the line-carried system, it could get complicated. If the power goes out, your system fails. This system is inexpensive and easy to install.
Wireless Alerting Systems: The transmitter sends its signal via radio waves. The receiver can be fixed or portable. The personal receiver is similar to a pager, in that it can beep or vibrate, and show text. Some receivers require batteries so these require monitoring and recharging.
Dedicated Hardwired Systems: The most expensive, but the most reliable. Some systems even check themselves for malfunctions or can be tied into a wireless paging system.
There are special devices that will alert a Deaf/HOH driver.
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The purpose of an Assistive Listening Device is to cut down (or eliminate) the background noise which allows easier access to the communication. The volume of the communication compared to the volume of the background noise is what is called the "Signal To Noise Ratio". It is important to get a qualified person or the company to come in to set up the devices/systems and do in-service for those who will be using them.
Many schools have reduced the background noise in classrooms without carpeting by placing tennis balls on the legs of the tables and chairs. Simply cut an X into the tennis ball and stick it onto each leg. It may look funny, but it is effective. Tennis Clubs are often happy to donate their old used tennis balls to this worthwhile cause. Here is an article about this: Tennis Balls Increase Children’s Attention. For cutting tennis balls to go onto chairs, here's a nifty little gadget. A few alternatives to tennis balls are:
See our discussion about How FM Systems Can Help.
The person talking speaks into a microphone and the signal is passed along to the transmitter. The signal is then sent through the air via FM radio waves to a personal receiver. The signal travels to the ear via one of many possible routes. One route (the one my son uses) is called Direct Audio Input (DAI). This is where the signal travels directly into one or both hearing aids along a cord that is plugged into the receiver on one end, and the hearing aids on the other. A special "boot" or "shoe" slips over one end of the hearing aid and the cord plugs into this device. The hearing aid then passes the signal to the ear. A second method is via a loop. This is where the signal goes to a Neckloop or Silhouette. The telecoil in the hearing aids picks up the signal. The hearing aid then passes the signal to the ear. A third method is via "buttons", ear pieces, or headphones. This is where the signal travels up a cord directly into something that fits in or over the person's ear. Some FM systems are able to amplify sound so the hearing aids may not be needed with them, depending on the hearing loss of the individual. For those with a very profound loss, Direct Audio Input may be the only method that will provide the assistance needed. Some FM systems are very compact and the receiver is housed in the "boot" or "shoe" that slips onto the hearing aid, or in a small unit that plugs into a boot or shoe. There are even some hearing aids that have the FM receiver built into them. FM systems are susceptible to areas of interference depending on other equipment in the building. Any links in this paragraph are included not as an endorsement or advertisement, but to allow you to see what it looks like.
There is one thing you may want to check for when you choose a personal FM system. My son used to use a system that required 9 volt batteries. We could either use rechargeables and he had to change them in the middle of the school day, or he could use non-rechargeables and we changed the transmitter battery every day and the receiver battery every other day. This can add up $$$. He now uses a system where the rechargeables (AA batteries) will last him the full school day. While I would not base a final decision for an FM system on the type of battery it uses, it may be something to keep in mind.
A type of FM system where instead of the signal traveling to a personal receiver, it travels to speakers that are meant for the entire room. These may be mounted on the walls, in the ceiling, near the individual, or on their desk. An added bonus with the sound field FM system is that all those in the room benefit.
Devices are available that will allow the health care worker to listen to a stethoscope. More info can be found on our Medical Resources page.
This is sort of like captioning for real life. As a person speaks, the words are transcribed and displayed to the audience on a monitor, screen, or laptop computer. This is often used at conferences and in the schools (usually colleges and universities, but it's use is even beginning to be seen in elementary schools). When used in an academic setting, after the class the file of the lecture can be made available to the student. Closely related to Realtime Captioning (often the terms are used interchangeably). The only drawback to this system is that if the speaker goes too fast, the transcriptionist may get behind and skip parts of what was said to catch up.
Each system of providing this service goes by a slightly different name, but most often the systems are referred to as CART (Computer Aided Realtime Translation).
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Technology marches forward so fast in this area that it's difficult to keep up. My son uses a Sidekick mobile phone that makes some of the things that follow a worry of the past. His phone has email, IP Relay at the touch of a button and a built in keypad, . Most of the deaf/hoh I know use a phone such as this.
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When you can't be home, you don't have to be without your assistive technology. The ADA requires places such as hotels, motels, hospitals, and the workplace to provide you with assisstive equipment. When you make your hotel or motel reservations, or arrange for a stay in the hospital, be sure to make your needs known. For more information on the ADA, see the Your Rights page.