Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are typically used to address very specific listening needs for circumstances in which hearing aids are either insufficient or unnecessary. The most common ALDs are those used to amplify voices on the TV and telephone. Other devices are used to improve listening performance in classrooms, meeting rooms and conference rooms. Amplified alarm devices are also available to use as an alarm clock and/or as a means to alert you when someone is at the door.

Why are ALDs necessary?

Not every individual has a degree of hearing loss and/or the level of demands on their hearing that requires the use of a hearing aid. ALDs help these individuals address some of their limited, but important needs. Furthermore, some hearing aids do not always improve an individuals listening performance to the level that they require. ALDs are sometimes a necessary addition to the overall treatment plan. For example, telephones and hearing aids are not always compatible, especially for those with a severe degree of hearing loss. A telephone amplifier is sometimes necessary in order to improve performance on the phone. In noisy places, such as a classroom, personal FM systems typically provide a significant improvement toward the understanding of a speakers voice.

The fact is you dont need to have a hearing loss to benefit from an ALD. In the noisy world we live in, many individuals with normal hearing also find the use of an ALD for the phone, TV or meeting room very beneficial!

Why get a hearing aid? Why not just get an ALD?

For some individuals with a minimal amount of hearing loss or fewer demands on their hearing, an ALD may very well be the only thing they require. For those with higher demands and greater degrees of loss, the use of hearing aid will still be necessary. The primary reason is that most ALDs address only the problems they are intend to address, such as the TV or telephone. Another reason is that they are not nearly as mobile as hearing aids. ALDs, such as the personal FM system or Pocket Talker (as described below) do not conveniently lend themselves to use in all the various situations a listener may find him/herself during the day. Hearing aids are very mobile (and much smaller) and can be used consistently from one listening environment to the next. Remember, not everyone who has a hearing aid will need an additional listening device. Most hearing aids can effectively address the various demands of the individual. For occasions when additional help in needed, ALDs provide that extra benefit.

Examples of ALDs

The following are by no means a comprehensive listing of the ALDs that are available at the University of Illinois Medical Center. They are, however, a list of devices that we have found meet most of our patients needs.

All devices come with a 15-day trial period. If you find that the device does not meet your demands, you can return it for a full refund within the first 15 days.


These devices are about the size of a cell phone or pager. They contain a unit that has a microphone, a volume control and a place to plug in the headphones. Individuals voices reach the microphone and the listener adjusts the volume appropriately. They are mostly useful for one-on-one conversations or with a small group of speakers no more that 10-12 feet away from the listener. They can also be used with the TV and telephone.

Sound Wizard Personal Listening System

William Sound Pocket Talker Pro


These systems are very effective for hearing speech in the presence of background noise.  Most systems involve a transmitter and microphone that is worn by the speaker and a receiver and headphones worn by the listener.  With this system, the speakers voice travels directly from the microphone, via a radio wave, to the listeners ear.  The advantage lies in the fact that the speech signal does not have to compete with any interfering noise that is going on around the listener. These systems work very well in a classroom, meeting room and conference room.  Most hearing aids can be modified to include this option as well.

William Sound Basic Personal FM System


Infrared systems are wireless devices used primarily to improve listening performance when watching TV.  Like the FM systems mentioned above, the speakers voice reaches the listeners headphones directly, without having to compete with interfering noise and/or the distance from the speaker.  This will then allow a second listener with normal hearing to keep the volume of the TV at a more comfortable level, while you can turn up your volume as loud as you like.  Many movie theaters and playhouses have made these systems available.  In fact, you may be able to use your own personal headset at the theater you attend.


Telephones are available that provide you with the option of amplifying the speaker voice.  Different models are available, depending on your needs.  There are also in-line amplifiers that can be easily fit onto your existing phone to provide greater volume.

ClearSound Amplified Phone

ClearSound 40 Extra Loud and Clear

In-Line Telephone Amplifier (30 to 40 dB)


For those who have difficulty hearing their alarm clock, doorbell or even the fire alarm, many devices exist to add more volume, vibrate, and/or provide a visual signal to improve your detection.

Shake-Awake Vibrating Alarm