Just the other day my mom called me at work and we had the following conversation:
Mom: “Hi honey, I just read something in the newspaper that I think you should know about.”
Adam: “What’s that?”
Mom: “Something about a “loop” which is installed in theaters, churches and public places and it helps people with hearing aids hear better. The article said it sends the signal from microphones directly to the hearing aids. Do you know anything about this?”
Adam: “Yes mom, I’ve had a loop system in my office for about five years now.”
Mom: “I’m so proud of you!”
What my mom was talking about is a technology called a “hearing loop” or an “induction loop” which is a thin strand of copper wire placed around the perimeter of a room radiating electromagnetic signals that can be picked up by a tiny receiver already built into many of today’s hearing aids. When the receiver is turned on, the hearing aid receives only the sound coming directly from a microphone, television or any other input device connected to the loop system.
This technology has been around for decades as a means of relaying the signals from a telephone to a tiny receiver called a telecoil (or t-coil) inside of a hearing aid. As telecoils became standard parts of hearing aids throughout Europe, people began to use them to receive signals from loops connected to microphones in halls, stores, taxicabs, churches, libraries, etc. People in the United States have been slower to adapt to this technology. One possible reason for this is because as people request smaller and more invisible, components such as telecoils have traditionally been left out. However, more recently telecoils are in about two-thirds of the newer hearing aids, so there are a growing number of people who are benefitting from loops.
For hearing aid users, it has always been difficult to hear and understand what’s being said in large public places, like a church or when watching a play at a large theater. With a loop system, the sounds from the stage are picked up by microphones, amplified and fed into the loop where they are transmitted to a person’s hearing aid. Think of the loop system as sort of a Wi-Fi for hearing aid users. When inside of the loop itself, the hearing aid user will pick up the signal – just like Wi-Fi.
A patient of The Hearing Professionals recently said that the new loop system in her church has almost been too good to be true. In the past she had to sit in the front row and had to try and read the Pastor’s lips because she had such a difficult time hearing what was being said. Since the church installed the loop, she can now sit anywhere she wants and doesn’t miss a word of what’s being said.
So if loop systems are so beneficial, why aren’t we seeing more of them? The answer is simple: Cost. Installing a loop in an auditorium typically costs $10 to $25 per seat, an investment that has discouraged some facility managers and owners. In addition, loop systems are more complicated to install than the assistive-hearing systems commonly used in theaters and churches, which beam infrared or FM signals to special headsets or neck loops that must be borrowed from the hall.
There are smaller, personal loop systems, however, that can be purchased for as little as $300. One patient of The Hearing Professionals recently installed a loop in his home’s living room. Now every time he wants to watch the television, all he does is switch his hearing aids to the telecoil position and he hears everything crystal clear.
As more and more venues are being looped, hearing aid users are becoming aware of the tremendous benefits. In turn they are demanding that their places of worship and public venues become looped as well.
At The Hearing Professionals we have created a special program for places of worship who are interested in looping their facility. Call us today to see if you qualify.