Today’s innovations allow people with hearing loss to access more telecommunications and portable technology than ever, providing a more even playing field compared with those without hearing loss. According to the Pew Research Center, “nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and 19 percent of Americans rely to some degree on a smartphone for accessing online services and information.”
With the universal acceptance of communications via email, texting, online messaging and video calls, people with hearing loss can access information with fewer barriers. However, keeping up with this useful technology—finding the latest and greatest—offers challenges for most audiologists. In addition to communication and education offerings, patients and students also want other types of helpful tech. They look for apps to help them wake up in the morning or ways to access theater and movies. How can they get notified of emergencies, for example? And what visual alerts are available on their phones, tablets or laptops?
According to the 2014 ASHA Audiology Survey, the mean age of audiologists is 48 years old, the average number of years in the field is 20, and the mean year for intended retirement is 2031.Think about that … most of us audiologists were in school 20 years ago. Technology like public-access Internet was still in its infancy. No one owned MP3 players, apps or tablets. Devices we now take for granted—mobile phones, videophones (desktop or portable) and personal captioning—seemed futuristic, let alone things like Bluetooth, digital hearing aids, ear-level cochlear implant processors or streaming/gateway devices.
As an audiologist with hearing loss—and a self-proclaimed technology geek—I enjoy finding, learning about and playing with new technology to help me hear better in variety of situations. How do I do this? Here are some my favorite places to go:
- Professional online resources: Dozens of online communities and webinars cater to professionals. I use these forums to ask questions—even product-specific questions—and get a variety of responses. Also sign up for email lists/newsletters to find out about new products or training events.
- Social media: You can follow manufacturers on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest to keep up-to-date on innovations. Do you want to see a piece of technology or even an app in action? Go to a company’s page or website and view pictures of devices or video demonstrations on how to use them.
- Consumer conferences: Tight school budgets make it difficult to attend professional conferences, especially more expensive national ones. For a change of pace, consider checking out a local consumer event! There you experience what consumers want and need. I find exhibit areas useful, because they’re full of vendors eager to show off their newest wares.
- Talk to your product representative: Company representatives understand that with an explosion of technology and connectivity, there’s a lot to remember. Ask them to visit your school or facility to give a hands-on tutorial so you and your colleagues can play around with the equipment and see how it works.
Technology changes constantly, but making the effort to keep up with what’s out there means you better serve your students or patients for a variety of needs. In addition to the suggestions above, peruse these resources:
Consumer websites to consult include (be sure to check out their conference information):
- Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
- Association of Late Deafened Adults
- DeafNation Expo
- Hearing Loss Association of America
- National Association of the Deaf
- Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
- National Cued Speech Association
Resources I developed include:
- A social bookmarking site: Click on one of the tags and to see a list of links I have collected over the years.
- Apps for Kids (and Adults) with Hearing Loss: This list offers more than 300 apps (for iOS devices only at this time) for use by professionals as well as consumers. Categories include audiology, listening therapy, sound level meters, telecommunications and more.
- Getting From There to Hear: My Facebook page with post lots of interesting articles and tidbits related to daily life with hearing loss. You’ll find inspirational stories, information and more resources.
Tina Childress, MA, CCC-A, is an educational audiologist for the Urbana (Illinois) School District, a consultant/trainer and cochlear implant outreach specialist at the Illinois School for the Deaf, and a visiting lecturer at the University of Illinois and Illinois State University. She gives presentations and workshops for families and professionals internationally. Childress is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 9, Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Childhood. Tina.Childress@gmail.com.