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How hearing technology works

Photo: Using technology to get the most out of hearing aids and implants

Hearing aids, cochlear implants or bone conduction hearing implants can be connected to many different products including smartphones, tablets, TV and radio aids. There are various technologies that can help you do this. These technologies can help you or your deaf child communicate better with others and can let you enjoy entertainment more regardless of where you are.

Here we explain relevant technologies for you.

The T Programme

Unlike the standard microphone (M) programme on your hearing device, the T programme (also called the T setting, telecoil or just T) doesn’t amplify sounds – instead it picks up magnetic fields from a loop system and converts these into sounds in the hearing aid or implant itself.

Setting your hearing aids or implants to the T programme could help you hear music, the TV or someone speaking in a public place (through a loop system) much more clearly and with no background noise.

What is a loop system and how does it work?

Loop systems are often installed in loud public places such as train stations, banks, of theatres. Just look for the hearing loop symbol and switch your hearing devices to the T programme. Loop systems can also be used at home when having a conversation on the phone or when listening to music. For example:

  • To hear the TV better you could use use a TV listener with a neckloop or install a room loop system.
  • Portable loop systems, such as earhooks or neckloops can be used to listen to sound on a tablet, laptop or smartphone- simply plug it into the 3.5mm socket, or link Bluetooth neckloops to any devices with Bluetooth.
  • Loop systems are built into the handsets of some home landline phones or smartphones – these are called ‘hearing aid compatible’ phones.

The T programme can be enabled on your hearing aids or implants by your audiologist.

Digital streaming

Using digital technology a digital streamer directly and wirelessly communicates with the hearing aid or implant and links to entertainment devices such as laptops using Bluetooth. Sounds coming from a smartphone, tablet, laptop, TV or landline phone are sent directly to your hearing device without the need for any cables or wires.

Streamers usually send sound signals directly from the source device so that you can enjoy sound that is free of interference, distortion or background noise.

Deaf young people share how they listen to music and TV

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a wireless communication technology (similar to digital streaming) which allows a wide range of devices from different manufacturers to communicate with each other over short distances.

Radio aids

A radio aid transmitter takes the sound a deaf child needs to hear (such as a parent/carers voice) and converts it to a radio signal. This radio signal is sent to a receiver that is usually attached to their hearing aid or cochlear implant. The receiver picks up the signal from the transmitter and changes it into a sound that the child can hear. Radio aids are very useful for reducing background noise in noisy places. For more information please download our radio aid resource

How radio aids work

Headphones

There isn’t really a specific set of headphones that are exclusively designed for deaf children and young people, however many sets work in different ways and have different features that could be helpful.

Some are wireless, some have cables, some use vibration, and some can have different volume settings for the left and right side. In this video, deaf young people explain how they use theirs, and why they chose them.

There are also direct input leads that can connect hearing aids or implants to a sound source such as a tablet, phone or laptop. They work in a similar way to wired headsets, but instead of having ear cups it is the hearing aid or cochlear implant that amplifies the sound. Sometimes you will need an audio shoe. 

How headphones work

Alarm clocks

There are many ways that technology products can help deaf children and young people wake up in the morning and stay alert to things going on around the home - and they don’t just use louder sound to do so. Bright lights and strong vibrations are useful ways to draw attention to an alarm or an alert.

How do deaf young people 'hear' alarms?