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Hearing Loops

Hearing loops are an assistive listening technology that makes intelligible communication accessible for those with hearing loss.

What is a Hearing Loop?

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.

Easy to use

Use the person’s own device to connect to the audio signal without drawing attention to themselves.

Zero Latency

Feature zero latency.

Hygenic

Have no shared hygiene or cleaning issues for the user or service provider.

Simple

Can be used to deliver an audio signal anywhere within a properly looped area, making it easy for people to move around and still hear clearly.

Clear

bypasses any external or background noise and other acoustic distortions.

Flexible

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.

How Does a Hearing Loop 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.

How induction loops work - a diagram of a hearing loop

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.

What are the some of the advantages of Hearing Loops?

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.

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.

How do I find a Hearing Loop?

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.

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

Loop

How do you use / access Hearing 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. 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 also be able to tell you how to switch your hearing aid or T-coil enabled device to the correct setting.

Available Assistive Listening Technologies

Download a copy of the Available Assistive Listening Technologies Guide from IHLMA.

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