What are Hearing Loops?

An audio frequency induction loop or hearing loop is used to make communication easier for hearing aid wearers. It is a system that is often permanently installed to send sound from a source directly to hearing aids. Because the hearing aid is used as a receiver, this is the assistive listening technology that is most convenient and most effective for end-users where it can be employed.

A loop creates a magnetic signal that is picked up by a hearing aid when this is set to its ‘T’ (Telecoil) setting. This technology has been around for many years and is relatively straight forward in its basic form. While simple in principle, a good understanding of the technology and the user’s needs is essential to avoid some common traps in the installation and use of loop systems.

Who benefits from Hearing Loops?

People with hearing loss may find it difficult to hear the spoken word in places where there is ambient noise or poor room acoustics (which can create feelings of isolation for them). This can include: shops, supermarkets, banks, Post Offices, cinemas, theatres, meeting rooms, worship facilities and many other venues. A correctly installed loop system overcome's these problems and helps alleviate background noise

Why should I provide Hearing Loops?

Service providers should provide hearing loops because it is required by law in many places, but also because it will make your goods and services more accessible and raise customer service levels. Good accessibility can increase customer loyalty and generate greater revenue streams. Many countries have strong legislation to require the use of assistive technologies wherever it is reasonable to do so, so services are accessible to all. Without hearing assistance solutions you may be discriminating against disabled people and could face legal action. Other benefits include an improved public image, better customer loyalty, increased brand awareness and good publicity.

Where can Hearing Loops be used?

Induction Loops can be beneficial in a very wide range of environments, from large venues such as theatres and conference facilities, to one-to-one communications such as ticket counters and meeting rooms. They are the only effective solution to assist hearing aid users in transport environments, in vehicles, terminals and stations. Loops are successfully used today in all of the following applications:

  • Transport Systems
    Airports, stations and transport networks, Elevators, Help points, Car park access points
  • Vehicles
    Taxis and private cars, Minibuses, Coaches, Trains, Trams and Boats
  • Venues
    Theatres, cinemas and concert halls, Stadia and sports venues, Places of Worship, Conference and lecture halls
  • Point-of-Service
    Counters, Intercoms and entry-phones, Drive-throughs, Help points
  • Work
    Meeting rooms, Video conference facilities, Desks and offices
  • Home
    TV rooms, Phones, Individual car systems
  • Education
    Lecture halls, Classrooms
  • Safety
    Public address systems, Voice alarm systems, Help points
Loops are typically not a suitable solution in the following situations:
  • There is substantial background noise, which will reduce the effectiveness of any assistive listening system
  • There is no practical way to install the loop cable (sometimes requires creative solutions – ask if you are not sure!)
  • There is no sufficiently good quality audio source available
  • Electrical instruments such as electric guitars, electric bass guitars or dynamic microphones are used within the area covered by the loop and interference can not be controlled through loop design.

How Hearing Loops work

An induction loop system transmits an audio signal directly into a hearing aid via a magnetic field, greatly reducing background noise, competing sounds, reverberation and other acoustic distortions that reduce clarity of sound.

This diagram illustrates how they work:

Audio Inputs 1, either from an existing audio source such as a P.A. system or from dedicated microphone inputs feed an audio signal into an Induction Loop Amplifier 2.

The amplifier drives a current into a Loop 3 or series of loops. As the current flows through the cable it creates a Magnetic Field 4 in the required area – careful loop and amplifier design ensures that the vertical component of the field is even and free of dropouts and dead zones wherever the user might be.

Inside most Hearing Aids 5, a small coil known as a Telecoil 6 picks up the magnetic field signal, which is amplified into a high quality audio signal delivered directly to the ear of the hearing aid user.