The Right Assistive Technology Can Maximize Accessibility for People with Auditory Impairment

Tarveen Kaur November 12, 2019
World Health Organization estimates that there are approximately 466 million individuals across the world with some form of hearing loss, of which 34 million are children. If this figure is surprising, the prediction that there could be a whopping 900 million people worldwide with hearing loss by 2050 will be devastating. Of course, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, has helped pave the way to make life easier for individuals with auditory impairment, by ensuring accessibility in various forms. Today, with advances in technology, accessibility can be maximized with the help of assistive tech solutions. A hearing disability is a lack of or reduction in the ability to hear clearly. Hearing disabilities include deafness or complete inability to hear, being hard of hearing, or inability to hear high- and/or low-frequency sounds.  
Understanding the Labels 
The process of helping people with auditory impairment begins by understanding how they label or identify themselves. Auditory impairment is broadly classified under the following categories, based on the degree of hearing loss and its cause:
        • Mild Hearing Loss
        • Moderate Hearing Loss
        • Severe Hearing Loss
        • Profound Hearing Loss
        • Conductive Hearing Loss
        • Neural Hearing Loss
        • High Tone Hearing Loss
        • Low Tone Hearing Loss
        • Deaf Blindness (both visual and auditory impairment)
The degree of impairment impacts the level to which the ability to interact with the environment and others in the environment is restricted.  
Assistive Technology: Breaking the Barriers 
Assistive technology is the gateway for people with auditory impairment to lead a better quality of life. There are a variety of assistive technologies for users with hearing disability. Most of them can be classified under the following two categories:
1.Visual Communication Devices
People with disabilities fall behind when it comes to accessing the internet, says an article on The Guardian. Visual communication devices convert audio into visually digestible information, helping people with auditory impairment access media on the internet.
  • Captioning: This is something we all are familiar with. But, for people with hearing impairment, it is invaluable. However, the key is to ensure that the captions are accurate and synchronized properly with the video.
  • Real Time Transcripts: Using a notebook computer, stenotype machine and real time software, these systems instantly provide translations of the spoken word in the form of English text. The stenography can occur remotely as well as onsite. The commonly used systems are Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART), C-Print and Typewell.
  • Alerting Devices: These devices help in alerting the user to sound, using visual stimuli. Specially designed timers, phones and alarms are available, which converts audio information to visible signals.
2.Amplification Devices
These are devices that help reduce background noise and provide loud and clear audio to the user. The different types of amplification devices include:
  • Frequency Modulated Amplification Systems: In such systems, the sound is transmitted from the teacher or anyone else speaking, using FM radio signals, directly to the hearing impaired individual. The person receives the audio at a constant volume, regardless of the distance between the person and the FM microphone.
  • Infrared and Audio Induction Systems:These assistive systems make use of infrared waves to carry information to a personal receiver. In case of an audio induction system, an induction loop is used, which circles around the room and uses electromagnetic waves to transmit information. The signal is then received by a telecoil.
  • Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD):These devices enable people with hearing impairment to send text communication on a telephone line. It is smaller in size than a laptop and has a keyboard attached to it.
The Way Forward
If we really wish to ensure a better quality of life for people with hearing impairment, it has to start early. This means not letting students with auditory impairment fall behind in education or during corporate training programs. Magic EdTech is committed to ensuring accessibility for all types of disabilities, with has over 200 accessibility trained engineers as part of its technology solutions design and development teams. This is why digital solutions created by Magic EdTech are born accessible. Assistive technology is a part of the process from the conceptualization stage. The end result is a win-win situation for all concerned parties.

Tarveen Kaur

Accessibility Practice Lead at Magic EdTech, Tarveen is actively engaged in building new class digital accessibility solutions for education.