Previously primarily for the hearing impaired, Assistive Listening Technology (ALT) has recently taken on a new role. Social distance has become a way of life in our current situation and ALT is being utilized to allow people to clearly communicate despite the fact that they may be physically distant from one another. This technology amplifies specific sounds, usually voice, through devices such as headsets, smart phones, or other hand-held or worn devices.
Although a large number of people are still working from home, there are many situations where this is not possible such as in factories where people need to be physically present to manufacture items. In order to allow workers to maintain a safe distance from one another, yet still be able to communicate, Assistive Listening Devices are being used. Background noise as well as the wearing of masks that often make voices sound muffled in combination with workers being physically distant from one another can make it very hard to communicate. These devices can be worn as a headset or earpiece so that they can continue to use their hands but are able to clearly discern what a co-worker is verbally communicating.
Likewise, courtrooms and congregations such as churches also face similar issues. Many have started physically returning to buildings, but with social distancing practices in place. Therefore, in order to provide clear audio to participants, ALT is being implemented in many locations.
Many Assisted Listening Systems (ALS) work using personal smartphones or tablets such as Listen Technologies’ EVERYWHERE. This system uses a venues existing wireless network and offers low latency so listeners can remain socially distant while still being able to hear a speaker clearly. Biamps Crowd Mics also utilizes personal devices and allows people to interact, eliminating the need to pass a handheld microphone from person to person or having participants having to line up to speak. Attendees can also text a question or comment in the case that they prefer not to speak in front of a crowd.
Still other systems utilize FM or Infrared to transmit signals to a headset or other receiver so that a user can hear the speaker. For users with cochlear implants or hearing aids, the signal can also be transmitted to a wire worn around the neck (neckloop) or behind their ear (silhouette inductor) to convert the signal so that they can hear it via their aid or implant. Neckloops and silhouette conductors can be easily sterilized after each use.