Hearing Assistive Technology

Hearing assistive technology helps those with hearing loss to hear more clearly in challenging situations, such as in noisy public spaces. Some of the most popular assistive devices include amplified phones, TV listeners and conversation amplifiers.

Most hearing assistive technology is hearing aid compatible, meaning it can wirelessly transmit sound directly to your hearing aids.

Hearing assistive technology can be bought from your local hearing aid provider, or from specialist online retail stores. It is not provided free of charge on the NHS.

What Is Hearing Assistive Technology?

older man watching television

Hearing assistive technology can bring great benefits to the everyday lives of those with hearing loss. It enables individuals to maintain their independence and continue doing the things they enjoy, such as going to concerts, watching TV and catching up with friends on the telephone.

There are many hearing assistive devices now available to those with hearing loss. Some of the most popular technology includes amplified phones, TV listeners and conversation amplifiers.

Some hearing assistive devices simply enhance the functionality of your hearing aids, while others provide you with additional help in situations where your hearing aids are not sufficient enough to allow you to hear clearly, such as in noisy restaurants. Many can also be used by those who do not wear hearing aids, but simply need sounds to be amplified in order to hear properly.

Hearing assistive technology works by separating the sounds you want to hear from background noise. This improves sound quality to allow you to hear better with less concentration and effort. You should discuss with your hearing aid provider whether you would benefit from additional hearing assistive technology.

Amplified Phones

Amplified phones help to ease communication in those who are hard of hearing. They enable individuals to maintain conversations over the phone where it can often be difficult to hear people on the other end of the line.

Amplified phones come with a range of features that allow you to adjust the tone and volume of the speaker, to enable you to much more clearly understand what is being said.

Many amplified phones are also ‘Hearing Aid Compatible’ (HAC). This doesn’t simply mean that they are easier to use with hearing aids than normal phones. Instead, HAC amplified phones are able to wirelessly connect with your hearing aids, allowing the speaker’s voice to be directly transmitted to your hearing aid. The speaker’s voice is then amplified by your hearing aid itself, rather than the telephone.

Based on feedback from hearing care experts and users of amplified phones, the table below compares some of the best amplified phones on the market. It shows whether they are compatible with hearing aids, which type of hearing loss they are most suited to, and how much you should expect to pay for them:

Amplified Phone Hearing Aid Compatible Hearing Loss Severity Average Price
T463 Powertel 780 Severe £110
T429 Amplidect 280 cordless telephone Moderate £59
T530 Photophone 450 corded telephone Severe £52
T343 CL100 Big Button Telephone Moderate £45

Amplified telephones are available in both cordless and corded varieties. Those with hearing loss might find cordless phones more practical as you are able to keep them on your possession, meaning you are more likely to hear them ring.

There is also the option of using telephone amplifiers as an alternative device to buying an amplified telephone. This small device simply plugs into the base unit of your telephone and amplifies its volume so you can hear more clearly.

You might consider getting a telephone amplifier if your existing phone is not loud enough. You will need a corded phone however, to use this device. The average price for a telephone amplifier is between £25-£120.

TV Listeners

TV listeners enable those with hearing loss to hear the sound of the television more clearly without having to turn up the volume to an uncomfortable level for other people in the room.

TV listeners work through the use of a transmitter and a wireless receiver. The transmitter connects to the TV and wirelessly transmits sound to the receiver, worn by the listener. The receiver then amplifies the sound from the TV into the listener’s ears.

If you wear a hearing aid, you can get neck-worn receivers that transmit the sound of the TV directly to your hearing aids. For those who don’t wear a hearing aid but need the volume to be increased to hear better, stethoset headsets are available that act like a pair of headphones.

The table below summarises some of the best TV listeners as recommended by hearing care specialists and users of TV listeners. You can compare whether they are compatible with hearing aids, which type of hearing loss they are most suited to, and their average price:

TV Listener Hearing Aid Compatible Hearing Loss Severity Average Price
L388 Sennheiser 8495 TV Listeners Severe £280
L387 Sennheiser Set 840 TV RF Headset version Moderate £257
L452 Amplicomms TV2510 Severe £130
L451 TV2500 TV listener with Stethoset Severe £120

TV listeners transmit sound in one of two ways: via infrared or radio frequency. Infrared TV listeners require you to sit in the line-of-sight of the TV, meaning that if someone walks in front of you the sound will be disrupted. Radio frequency TV listeners do not suffer from this problem however, and stream undisrupted sound to your ears from anywhere within the range of the transmitter. This is usually up to 100 metres.

Infrared TV listeners may be more appropriate for individuals who also have problems with their vision, since these listeners require the user to sit directly in front of the TV at a close distance.

Radio frequency TV listeners may be better suited to those who enjoy watching TV while carrying out other tasks such as ironing, since these listeners enable the user to move around more freely without the sound quality being disturbed.

Conversation Amplifiers

Conversation amplifiers allow people with hearing loss to understand sound more clearly in challenging situations such as noisy public areas. They can be used by individuals with or without hearing aids.

By pointing the small portable device in the direction of the sound you want to listen to, conversation amplifiers increase the volume of that sound while decreasing the volume of the background noise.

For those who wear hearing aids, you can purchase hearing aid compatible conversation amplifiers that wirelessly stream the sound directly to your hearing aids. For those who don’t wear hearing aids, conversation amplifiers can transmit the sound to your ears via the use of headphones, a neckloop or a stethoset headset. The style you choose is down to your personal preference.

The table below shows some of the best conversation amplifiers on the market for those with hearing loss. These conversation amplifiers are considered to be the best based on feedback from conversation amplifier users and hearing care experts.

The table also compares whether the conversation amplifiers are compatible with hearing aids, which type of hearing loss they are most suitable for, and their average retail price:

Conversation Amplifier Hearing Aid Compatible Hearing Loss Severity Average Price
L427 Phonak Roger Pen Severe £569
L343 Conversor Pro Severe £432
L376BLUE Sonido digital listener Severe £110
L400 Minitech with Neckloop, Stethoset and Earbuds Severe £78

In addition to standard conversation listeners there are elite listeners, which come with a wireless transmitter so that you can listen to sound more clearly from a greater distance. These are ideal if you need to listen to university lectures in a large conference hall, for example.

Elite conversation listeners also tend to have better sound quality and more functions than standard listeners. Because of this however, they do tend to be more expensive with prices typically ranging from £130-£800.

Where can I get hearing assistive technology?

Hearing assistive technology can be purchased from leading hearing aid providers or from specialist online retailers. We would recommend buying the technology from your hearing aid provider, since you will be able to discuss with your hearing specialist whether hearing assistive technology is right for you. They can also recommend which type you should get and show you how it works.

It is important to keep in mind that hearing assistive technology is not available on the NHS, however. If you got your hearing aids for free through the NHS, you will need to purchase any additional assistive technology yourself.