A Hearing Loop provides access to people with hearing loss.
Artwork courtesy of David Myers.A hearing loop is a copper wire that surrounds a room or an area and transmits an electromagnetic field. This field can be picked up by any hearing aid equipped with a Telecoil or “T-Coil” function. The copper wire is then connected to a microphone, television, stereo, or other sound system to allow the signal from the audio source to be transmitted directly into the ears of the wearer through their hearing aids.
Hearing Loops provide the best quality hearing access.
Many people experience hearing loss and find innumerable benefits from wearing hearing aids. But hearing aids are not the perfect solution for all situations. A hearing aid will most loudly amplify the closest sounds, and does not always know which sound source the listener is trying to focus on. This makes hearing aids problematic when watching television, attending church, sitting in a theater, or listening to a public speaker. When hearing aids alone are used in these situations, the distance between the listener and the sound source, sound reverberations or “echo,” and background noise such as whispering and other ambient sounds, can all sound jumbled together and frustrate the listener.
In the United States most venues offer cheaper assistive listening devices for the hearing impaired. Infrared technology and FM radio systems seem to be the default choice because of their low cost. However, these systems have serious drawbacks, making them less reliable and requiring listeners to remove their hearing aids and then ask for, borrow, and return headsets that are conspicuous, uncomfortable, and that have been used many times before in other peoples’ ears. Hearing loops allow people with hearing loss to press a button on their hearing aid… and that’s all. This also allows the listener to continue to hear those nearby, so it they aren’t cut off from conversation. This is why patients and audiologists have begun demanding hearing loops, in many cases raising funds or making donations to make it happen.
Let’s make the most of this highly beneficial technology
In most of Europe, the hearing loop can be found almost everywhere, from the interiors of taxi cabs to community theaters, from schools and places of worship to checkout counters and ticket booths. In the U.S. hearing loops are harder to find, but in many parts of the country there has been heavy grassroots support and the efforts of the hearing impaired and their hearing care professionals has brought about significant progress.
The success in these areas is proof to the rest of us that we can get our communities into the loop. If you or a loved one wears hearing aids, ask your audiologist if the devices have a T-coil. If they don’t, ask about the affordable option of adding a T-coil to your hearing aids. And if you already have a T-coil, find the nearest place to test it out. After you hear the difference that being in a hearing loop makes to your sound quality, ask your local community venues if they would consider having a hearing loop installed. There are many ways to encourage the installation of a hearing loop at locations near you.