A new survey caused me to think about... : In the Loop

A new survey caused me to think about...

by Stephen Frazier on 09/11/23

Why don’t more people use assistive communication technology?

There are myriad opinions as to the answer to that question. Some say it's too much trouble. Some say people aren't aware that it's availabe because of inadequate signage. Some blame hearing care providers for not taking the time to counsel their clients/patients on devices and technology that do not directly contribute to the sale of hearing aids. Some blame the hard of hearing for not adequately searching for solutions to living with their hearing loss.

There's a new group, the Committee For Communication Access In America, that's now searching for information to validate or disprove some of those opinions. They claim that millions use assistive communication technology but that an even greater number should but doesn't – particularly in the case of ADA mandated assistive listening systems. As for captions, another communication technology that's sometimes offered, millions more would probably use it if it was available but it's not mandated and, consequently, many times presenters refuse to offer it even when it’s requested.

Interested parties can learn more about and participate in that CCAA survey by using a link on the home page of their website (www.ccaa.name).

The situation is changing

I believe this situation has changed over the last decade through the efforts an army of advocates pressing for improved communication access in public places. The mushrooming availability of hearing loops in public places is testament to that fact.  More and more hearing care providers are promoting telecoils on their websites and in their offices.  Remote hearing mics and other devices are now being fitted with telecoils. This pattern could continue over the next few years as the revolution now occurring in the hearing aid dispensing field matures. 

With the now legal sale of over the counter (OTC) hearing aids, plus the online sale of prescription hearing aids, reports indicate that hearing care providers are re-examining their business model. Some are selling OTC hearing aids. Some are unbundling their services and offer fitting and adjusting to buyers of OTC hearing aids and those of their online or brick and mortar competitors, for a fee. It's no longer uncommon for a hearing test to be administered for a fee with no expectation of actually selling prescription hearing aids to the eighty or so percent of clients who don't need the extra gain and other benefits prescription devices can provide. Some are placing more emphasis on diagnosing and treating other hearing related issues such as balance problems or tinnitus and offering aural rehab.

It would seem that for audiologists, they may revert to the sort of SOP used back in the 70's, before ASHA allowed them to make a profit from the actual sale of hearing aids. The newest ASHA guidelines place more emphasis on comprehensive rehabilitation services such as auditory training, counseling, manual communication, strategies to address tinnitus, misophonia and vestibular disorders in addition to technology interventions. This could provide the impetus to expand their counseling of patients on the availability and benefits of assistive listening systems and other technologies and devices that can supplement or take the place of hearing aids.

The inadequate signage issue noted earlier can only be resolved by people with hearing loss taking action by demanding that the ADA signage regs be followed at any venue they visit that does not properly call attention to the availability of an assistive listening system.

The final solution

With the just announced Samsung introduction of Auracast in their TVs and earbuds, another revolution has begun that will eventually see assistive listening technology used not just by the hard of hearing but, instead, by the general public at sporting events, sports bars and gyms, in theaters, in trains and planes and myriad other venues where they, too, have difficulty hearing. Like smartphones, tablets and other new tech devices, most people will either have earbuds or hearing aids to enable them to access an ALS anyplace where there's a public address system. It will take another decade, maybe even more, but I believe the Auracast system will become an integral part of any new or updated PA system and its ADA mandated ALS. At that point, the question of why people don't use the systems will have little practical relevance.

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Different people have different opinions and it’s okay to respect all of them.” – Juan Pablo Galavis-------------------------------

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