There’s an increasing array of hearing assistive technology (HAT) available today — not the least of which are contemporary hearing aids. A few decades ago they were basically “turn up the volume” devices, but today they are more-often-than-not integrated with other wireless devices and incorporate an astounding amount of computing power.

But even with the significant advance in their capabilities, hearing aids sometimes have to be supplemented with HAT — which thankfully has also expanded in power in recent years. These new technologies are especially useful in public spaces where the distance from the sound one is trying to hear — and the architectural realities of the space — overwhelm the ability of traditional hearing aids to process the myriad of incoming sounds into a useful mix.

Three main HATs are increasingly part of public spaces and can assist those with hearing loss issues. And they can be used in concert with telecoil technology, a common option that basically allows hearing aids to act as a radio receiver.

Hearing Loops: A strikingly simple piece of tech, these consist of a copper wire being strung in a room and wired to a transmitter, which creates an electromagnetic field that can be received by a number of devices, including telecoil-enabled hearing aids or cochlear implants. Many public spaces like theaters and museums also provide headphones tuned to the proper frequency.

Infrared Systems: These arrangements transmit sound via infrared light and require a neck loop worn by users that converts the light waves back into sound waves. Telecoil-enabled devices can be linked directly to the neck loop or separate headphones must be used.

FM Systems: Simply very localized FM radio transmissions that work much like infrared systems with neck loops and headphones (or telecoil-enabled hearing aids). Basically “one room at a time” radio stations.

These are the most common HATs that are increasingly available in public places.