All About Assistive Listening Devices 

Maybe it has already happened to you. You’re watching a play at the local theatre but you can’t quite hear everything the actors are saying, even though you have your hearing aid turned to the max. We know that hearing aids can go a long way towards mitigating the effects of hearing loss, but they aren’t the silver bullet we’re looking for yet. Until that technology develops, there are a plethora of devices designed to help you hear better whether you are inside or outside the home.  These are called Assistive Listening Systems (ALS).

How do assistive listening systems work?

 They make listening easier by bringing the sound closer to your ear and amplifying that sound. They also help with separating the sound from the background noise which surrounds it, improving the speech-to-noise ratio in noisy environments for the user, but not disturbing others in the area. In sending the signal directly into the user’s ear, they also reduce background noise and echo.

Inside each ALS there are usually three parts:  A microphone which is used to pick up the sounds, transmission technology and an amplifier which increases the volume and sends it to the user’s ear. The amplifier is important as people with hearing loss tend to need 15-25 decibels more than the average person to hear clearly

There are many places where ALSs help those with hearing loss improve their understanding of the sounds they want to hear. They are used in schools, entertainment venues, places of work, and even in the home. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ALSs out there.

ALSs used in public places:

FM systems

Most often seen in educational establishments, FM systems use radio technology to bring sound directly to your ears. In a wireless system the user can take advantage of a wearable receiver so that they can hear the speaker directly. The speaker wears a microphone transmitter which acts as a direct line to the receiver’s ear.  The range is usually up to 150 feet, making it perfect for classroom environments where the teacher might be walking around the classroom and can’t be anchored to a stationary microphone.

This technology has been on the market for a while, and although it is expensive (up to $700), FM systems are seen as dependable and very effective for students during lessons. They can also be used outside and are particularly useful during outside public events.

Induction loop system

You have probably seen the distinctive ‘blue ear’ logo in airports, hospitals and libraries around your city.  The loop system uses an electromagnetic field to transmit sound. This field is encased in an insulated cable that is usually wrapped around the room. The advantages this has over the FM system is that many people can use the same loop system, and the users themselves don’t have to wear body receivers. This makes them particularly convenient for public places where there are often large groups of people passing through on a daily basis, and where more people can be served from one integrated system.

ALSs used at home:

Amplified telephone

These phones were developed especially for those with hearing loss, enabling them to hear higher pitched sounds more easily. This is important as we know that higher pitched sounds are the sounds that those with hearing loss most often lack the capacity to hear. They also don’t require the user to wear hearing aids to benefit, which will be a plus for those who find hearing aids too uncomfortable to wear for long periods.

Both mobile and landline versions of this type of phone exist on the market, so users can choose the version which best suits their lifestyle. Some versions also come with extra-large keypads for maximum accessibility.


This wireless technology has really taken off in recent years. Now we have Bluetooth headphones and speakers, but for hearing aid users, the real benefit has come in hearing aid Bluetooth functionality. It is now possible to receive video calls and mobile phone calls directly into the hearing aid. This makes it much more convenient for hearing aid users to switch between devices, enabling them to take a call in-between a movie at home. Bluetooth technology now means they don’t have to take their hearing aids out when doing so.

Experiencing problems with hearing loss?

Make an appointment with us at Audibel for a free hearing consultation and to learn more about the ways that hearing aids and other assistive listening devices may benefit your life. Get in touch today!