Technology is a mixed blessing. In many ways, new technological advancements help us connect with one another. In other ways, we find ourselves cut off from one another through the intervention of technology into a situation. Take, for instance, the invention of the smartphone. This small device is incredibly powerful, with the ability to bring knowledge, connection, and information into any interaction. We can look up helpful details to make life move more smoothly, and we can include others in a conversation through texting, voice calls, or social media. However, the presence of a smartphone in a conversation can also be alienating. Rather than looking at the other person and speaking clearly, some people become too distracted by their smartphones. Constantly conversing with others or surfing the web for information can pull their attention away from the person standing at their side. In this way, the ubiquitous technology of the smartphone is both a tool for connection and a harbinger of disconnection, as well. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association sets aside the month of May each year to celebrate Better Hearing and Speech Month. They choose a theme each year, and this year’s theme is “Connecting People.” With technology like smartphones in mind, let’s consider ways to build healthy and strong connections through technology, particularly for those who have hearing loss. By using communication technology with wisdom and discernment, we can build healthy connections that make our communities stronger.
Connecting through Assistive Technology
A wide array of technology is available to build strong connections with those who have hearing loss. Hearing aids are the most common form of assistive technology, but they come in many shapes and sizes. Older models tended to use analog amplification to raise the entire profile of sound in the world. Although these hearing aids continue to be available for some people, the most common hearing aids today use digital transformation to change the sound in the world into something easier to hear. These transformations include voice recognition technology that raises the volume on an individual speaker closest to the wearer, while keeping all other sounds at a lower level. Some hearing aids also use digital transformation to reduce the sound of background noise. These two transformations together make it possible to hear better than ever before. One way to improve your connections with those who have hearing loss is to ask how recently they have had a hearing test. If it’s been a long time, there may be new technology available that can improve communication.
Connecting through Bluetooth
Another technological advancement that helps those with hearing loss connect with the world is the use of Bluetooth. This wireless development makes it possible to integrate hearing aids and other sound-producing systems. For instance, you can use Bluetooth to sync a smartphone with hearing aids, making it possible to send phone calls, notifications, ringers, and alarms directly to hearing aids. This integration is a great way to improve connections with others. Not only can these services connect with hearing aids, but media players, videos, and other audio can be sent, as well. Bluetooth integrates hearing aids with smartphones in the other direction, as well. You can control the settings on your hearing aids through an app on a smartphone, making it possible not only to raise or lower the overall volume but also to adjust the volumes of particular sounds through the process of equalization. These technological developments through Bluetooth make it easier than ever to communicate and connect with the broader social world.
If you have someone in your life with hearing loss, why not take the opportunity of Better Hearing and Speech Month to encourage them to get a hearing test? If they do not yet wear hearing aids, then this moth is a great opportunity to get connected with assistive technology. If they do already have hearing aids, then your loved one might realize that new technology is out there to improve their communication ability. With better communication comes new opportunities to connect with the community, friends, family, and loved ones, so your encouragement to get a hearing test might open the door to stronger connections through technology.