Personal Devices and Types of ALS​

What Are Personal Devices?

One of the greatest misconceptions about personal devices, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, is that they restore hearing.Two deaf students may have similar hearing levels but have different experiences and preferences regarding their devices. Personal devices can be used by deaf people, people who experience hyperacusis, or DeafBlind people who are seeking to access or amplify sound.

Some students who do not use personal devices might still prefer a means for gaining direct access to an auditory signal. A reasonable accommodation request in this case would be headphones or earbuds; providing better communication access is an institutional responsibility.

Types of Personal Devices

Hearing Aids

A small device which is placed in or behind the ear and which interacts with a person’s residual hearing, providing amplified acoustic signals to the ear. In other words, hearing aids make the sound louder for people who use them.

Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants are surgically placed (or implanted) devices which bypass the main parts of the ear to directly stimulate a person’s auditory nerve, and send electrical signals to the brain that can be perceived as sound.

Bone Conducted Hearing Aids

These hearing aids work in a way that is similar to traditional hearing aids, but are often surgically placed. They are unique because rather than interacting with sound as it naturally travels through the air into the ear, referred to as air conduction, they convey sound vibrations to the bones of the skull, called bone conduction.

Headphone and Earphone Use in Public Places

Where Should They Be Provided?

Where should they be provided? Anyplace on campus! These devices might be used for access to public computers, testing computers, or to make use of some assistive listening systems if the student does not have a personal device.

Who Would Request This?

Students with mild hearing loss, auditory processing disorder, or auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder might want these devices. Some students might experience hyperacusis as well, a condition that causes sounds to be perceived as uncomfortably loud.

* Note that students with hyperacusis might use particular ear plugs to dampen the sounds reaching their ear; this should be preceded by a consultation with their audiologist.

Types of Assistive Listening Systems

Assistive Listening Systems are technologies that institutions provide to deaf students for acoustic access. These systems are often available at large venues such as theaters. Deaf students can benefit from having access to ALS in the classroom and across other locations on campus. Use the chart below to familiarize yourself with the different types of systems, and view the ALS webinar presented by an audiologist to learn more about each type of system.

Features & Locations FM DM Infrared Induction Loop Bluetooth/Remote Mic
Infrastructure Installation Required
Sometimes Requires Intermediary Device (e.g., neckloop)
Multiple Microphones Can Connect
Requires TCoil Equipped Hearing Aid or Receiver
Small (classroom, 1:1)
Large (lecture hall, meeting space, auditorium)

Telecoil, also called tcoil, is mostly found in cochlear implants and larger behind-the-ear hearing aids. More and more deaf students are choosing smaller hearing aids, which do not have telecoils. Deaf students who do have telecoil-ready devices may need to work with their audiologist to enable it.


Deaf students come to postsecondary settings with different personal devices and different preferences. Bluetooth accessory microphones, unlike FM/DM systems, are not necessarily designed with the classroom in mind and do not function the same as those systems. It is vital that you work with deaf students, and their audiologist, to determine which assistive listening system is most compatible.

Classroom Audio Distribution System (CADS)

These are speakers that amplify sound for the entire classroom. CADS are designed to address poor classroom acoustics, but may not be appropriate for all deaf students. Some universities are addressing poor acoustics by incorporating speaker systems into new buildings. 

DM is the new FM

Frequency-modulated systems (FM Systems) are older equipment and are not often used anymore. Most of the devices that people call FM systems are actually digital-modulated systems, or DM systems.

Pass Around Microphones

Some students pair a pass-around microphone to their ALS; this is in addition to the one worn by their professor. These microphones can be used in small group situations or for class discussion, as they can be passed around or used as a table microphone. 

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