Access to intelligible broadcast audio signals is a right not a privilege.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD 2006) recognises that everyone is of equal value, has the right to make their own decisions, and should be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect.

This led to many countries developing their own legislation protecting the rights of individuals; for example The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), UK Equality Act and European Accessibility Act, to name just a few.

it therefore follows that the 15% of the population who experience significant hearing loss are no less entitled to access to broadcast audio than anybody else. The good news is that to support those that require assistance with their hearing there are a myriad of devices and systems available.

Assistive Listening Technologies

The assistive listening systems that are most commonly available today are predominantly based on the following technologies:

  •  Hearing Loops and T-coils (telecoils)
  •  Infrared transmitters and receivers
  •  FM / Radio transmitters and receivers

There are also some new technologies emerging. Keep checking back here for more information.

For a detailed look at the advantages, limitations, applications, compliance and applicable standards associated with each technology, along with a brief description of how each technology works click here to view our guide.

As described in our guide there are advantages and limitations to each technology depending on the application and the environment which it will be used in. However, the most commonly installed systems rely on a combination of hearing loops and T-coils or telecoils.

The advantages of hearing loops and T-coils

T-coil users can receive sound invisibly, simply and directly to their own hearing aid or cochlear implant without the need for a separate receiver. A sound signal is transmitted directly into the amplifier of the device, thereby bypassing any external or background noise and other acoustic distortions, making the quality and intelligibility of that sound much greater.

In addition, there are no hygiene issues or potentially embarrassing questions to ask a stranger when wanting to access a hearing loop system. Simply switching the hearing aid over to its ‘T setting’ will give the user access to broadcast audio signals in the looped area.

Using a T-coil enabled device enables an audio signal to be picked up anywhere within a properly looped area, making it easy for people to move around and still hear clearly.

There is no delay (latency) in sound being produced, amplified, broadcast and received with a hearing loop and T-coil. So, live performances are seen and heard in real-time and do not seem like a badly dubbed movie.

Hearing loops have their own sound quality and performance standard (IEC 60118-4) for installations, ensuring that, regardless of the brand or make of hearing loop, the sound heard is clear and consistent throughout the looped area.

Hearing loops come in all shapes and sizes and can be integrated into large areas such as a concert hall, theatre or cinema, or fitted to something as small as an intercom in a doorway or lift / elevator.

Typically, hearing loops are a fit once device, and hearing loop drivers can last many years, making them attractive to venue owners and facilities managers. This may be one of the reasons why there are so many more loops available than any other technology.

What is a T-coil?

A T-coil or telecoil is a small coil or wire that is fitted inside a hearing aid, cochlear implant or hearing loop receiver.

The T-coil picks up the magnetic field generated by a hearing (induction) loop driver, that carries the sound signal. The signal picked up by the T-coil is then sent to an amplifier in the device to be processed and then presented to the ear.

What is a hearing loop?

How-induction-loops-work

A hearing loop is simply a loop of wire or metal tape laid out in an area through which a current carrying a sound signal is passed. The current passing through the loop of wire or tape generates a magnetic field which can be picked up by a T-coil enabled device, which in turn transmits the sound signal directly to the user’s ear. For more information on how loops work, click here:

How do you use / access Loops and T-coils?

Typically, hearing aids and T-coil enabled devices have a ‘T’ and/or ‘MT’ switch or button which allows the device to be put into the correct mode.

The ‘T’ setting will switch off the hearing aid’s microphone and only allow signals from the loop system to be transmitted to the ear. When inside a looped area simply switch your device to the ‘T’ setting to access the broadcast audio.

'T' Setting

Occasionally, the mic and T-coil are required in combination, for example in a transport environment where you need to be able to hear announcements clearly but also need to hear some ambient sound for safety. Again, when inside a looped area simply switch your device to the ‘MT’ setting to access the broadcast audio.

Your audiologist

Your audiologist, hearing aid dispenser or hearing aid manufacturer will be able to tell you how to switch your hearing aid or T-coil enabled device to the correct setting.

Still not sure?

If you are not sure if your hearing aid or device has the T-coil enabled, please see the section on What to ask your audiologist.

How to find hearing loops (signage)

Hearing loops can be found wherever you see this sign:

In a room or large area fitted with a loop system a sign or window sticker at average eye height to each entry point to the space, for example a door or window, should be seen along with at least one large sign at a visible point on a wall.

At a reception desk or service point a sign should be displayed on the counter or as close as possible in a place that cannot be obstructed by a person standing at the desk or service point.

For intercoms and help points a small sign should be displayed at a level that is visible to the person pressing the help or information button.

Most portable loops available clearly display a hearing loop sign on the case.

TIP: If you cannot find any sign of a loop system be sure to ask the venue if one is available.

Where hearing loops can be found

How to tell if a hearing loop is working

Firstly, ensure that your hearing aid has a T-coil installed and that your audiologist has programmed the aid to be activated when required. If you are unsure then ask your audiologist.

The T-coil setting may be activated in your hearing aid in several different ways depending on the age of the model. Older style analogue aids typically have a switch that allows you to select between ‘M’ microphone and ‘T’for T-coil or ‘0’ for off. Modern digital aids normally require you to press a button on the device or on a remote control to select a T-coil program mode.

Some users prefer a mode that only uses the T-coil and not the microphone when they are in T-coil mode whilst others prefer a combination of T-coil and microphone; this is a personal choice which you should discuss with your audiologist.

Tip: Ask your audiologist to demonstrate the T and/or MT settings on your device. See the section on ‘What to ask your audiologist…’

To check a loop at a service point or in a looped area such as a theatre or cinema:

Sound from a service point or area coverage loop should be clearly audible and intelligible. Once your device is in T-coil mode:

if there is no sound at all:

check with the venue staff that the loop system is switched on and available.

if it sounds faint, quiet or unintelligible due to crackling or humming noises:

then the loop system settings will need to be checked and adjusted. It may even mean that the loop system needs to be replaced. Be sure to let a member of staff at the venue know of the difficulties you are having.

Tip: When reporting issues to venue staff always be polite and calm and avoid confrontation. Staff may not be aware that there is an issue or be able to rectify the problem immediately.

What to ask your audiologist...

Audiologists and hearing aid dispensers are there to ensure your device works effectively and your experience with a hearing aid is a positive one.

They are focused on providing you with the device and settings best suited to your level of hearing loss in a conversational or one-to-one situation.

Unfortunately, this, combined with the countless devices they must be able to fit and the dozens of settings they have to ‘tweak’, means they don’t always remember or have time to offer, enable or show you the T-coil setting when fitting your device.

Here are some suggestions to help you ask the right questions when you visit your audiologist

I would like to be able to access the hearing loops offered by service providers such as cinemas, banks and shops, doctors and hospitals…can you tell me if my hearing aid(s) have a T-coil fitted?

If so, can you show me how to use that setting or give me instructions on how to access the setting for myself?

If I do not have an aid with T-coil(s) fitted can it be added, is there an add on or other device which my aid(s) can connect to that does have a T-coil function?

Can you demonstrate to me what the sound from a working loop system would sound like?

Other Audiological societies

· Nordic Audiological Society

· Estonian Society of Audiology (ESA)

· Finnish Audiological Society

· Société Française d’Audiologie

· Deutsche Gesellschaft für Audiologie

· Icelandic Audiological Society

· Icelandic Hearing Society (organisation for the hard of hearing)

· Icelandic Otolaryngological Society

· Irish Academy of Audiology – iada.ie

· The Israeli Speech Hearing and Language Association

· Italian Society of Audiology and Phoniatry – Società Italiana di Audiologia e Foniatria (S.I.A.F.)

· Italian Society of Audiometry Technicians – Associazione Italiana Tecnici Audiometristi (AIT)

· Nederlandse Vereniging voor Audiologie (NVA)

· Norsk Audiografforbund (The Norwegian Association of Audiologists)

· Norwegian Association of Audiology Assistants

· Norges Døveforbund (The Norwegian Association of the Deaf)

· Hørselshemmedes Landsforbund (The Norwegian Association for the Hard of Hearing)

· Norsk Forening for otorhinolaryngology hode- og halskirurgi

· (Norwegian Assosiation for Otorhinolaryngology, Head – and Neck surgery)

· Norsk Audiopedagigisk Forening (Norwegian Association of Audiotherapists)

· Norsk Teknisk Audiologisk Forening (Norwegian Association for Technical Audiology)

· Audiological Section, Polish Society of Otorhinolaryngologists, Head & Neck Surgeons

· Associação Portuguesa de Audiologistas (APtA)

· Romanian Society of Audiology

· Russian Society of Audiology

· Section of Audiology, Slovak Society of ORL HNS

· Associacion Espanola de Audiologistas (AEDA)

· Swedish Society of Audiology (Svenska Audiologiska Sällskapet, SAS)

· Audiologie-Kommission, Swiss Society of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, Head and Neck Surgery