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Hearing Loops - Assistive Listening Systems

  • Published: 2011-10-28 (Revised/Updated 2017-06-01) : Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Induction loop systems take sounds directly from the source delivering it to the persons hearing aid.

Quote: "The best part is that you can also hear sounds in the room, to include a telephone ringing, the doorbell, and conversation."

Main Document

A time in the future when hearing aids could also be used as wireless loudspeakers that deliver clear and customized sound from inside a person's ears might be a dream for some people with hearing impairments.

Dreaming of having places in our own communities such as auditoriums, business windows and public gathering places, as well as our own home TV rooms, broadcasting sound through our hearing aids might seem like nothing more than a pastime. Fortunately, refinements of, 'induction loop systems,' that magnetically transmit sound to hearing aids and cochlear implants using, 'telecoils,' or, 'T-coils,' bring these capabilities to us right now.

Some people may wonder why assistive listening systems are needed at all. It's great that schools, businesses and other places have become accessible to many people with disabilities. At a low cost, these same places can also become accessible to a large population of people who experience a hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, around 36 million people in America alone have a hearing impairment. Approximately one out of four people use hearing aids.

People who use hearing aids find the majority of places broadcast sounds they can hear, but only after it has traveled a distance from a speaker, reverberated off of walls and other objects, and mixed in with additional sounds and noises in the room. Induction loop systems take sounds directly from the source, delivering it to the person's hearing aids. It is as if the person's hearing aids are located in the microphone, or inches away from the speaker on a television. There is no blurred sound; there are no noises or mixed sounds from the room.

Hearing Loops and Home Television Rooms

Hearing Loop Illustration
About This Image: Hearing Loop Illustration
People with hearing impairments many times find it hard to follow the fast pace of conversations on television. Captions definitely help (my husband sure likes them); especially for programs that are pre-recorded when the captions are accurate and simultaneous. Like many people with a hearing loss, he still likes to hear what's going on when he can instead of reading the captions, although both is better.

Turning up the volume on the TV is certainly one way to deal with a hearing loss. One of the problems is that cranking up the volume irritates people with average hearing such as family members, friends, and neighbors. The other problem with turning up the volume on the TV is the sound bounces all over the room and isn't clear anyway.

Induction loop, infrared, and FM systems all help people with a hearing impairment to hear television sounds with their own, individually adjusted volume. No more yells from family members, friends, or neighbors to, 'turn that bleeping thing down!' Loop systems work exceptionally well by broadcasting through a person's own hearing aids.

Even better, you don't have to fiddle around with a receiver, or worry about keeping fresh batteries around. The best part is that you can also hear sounds in the room, to include a telephone ringing, the doorbell, and conversation. Using either the, 'MT,' or, 'mike plus telecoil,' setting on your hearing aids, or patching a microphone into the loop amplifier can help you to achieve this result. In some television room loop systems, microphones that broadcast room sounds along with the sound from the television are included.

Installing a loop system in a television room is something that can be done without help from a professional! All you have to do is plug the amplifier into a power source and connect it to the TV audio output. Run the wire around the edge of the room, over doorways, and under carpet. You can also drop the wire in the basement and use a staple gun to circle the TV room to the basement ceiling. Some home loop systems package the wire loop in a thin pad that you can slip underneath the cushion of your favorite chair. No sweat! Simply run the connecting wire around to the amplifier.

Guess what? You can also patch telephone output into a home television loop system! It gives people with a hearing impairment the opportunity to hear with greater clarity, increased comprehension, and personalized sound that is broadcast through their hearing aids while they talk on the phone without wires or headsets. Radio Shack has a connector that enables you to record conversations that can be patched into a loop amplifier. It also has an on and off switch.

Hearing Aids and Loop Broadcasts

Telecoils are not expensive and are very useful additions to hearing aids. With a hearing loop, hearing aids double hearing functionality by enabling them to be used as wireless loudspeakers. Hearing loops also enhance the listening capabilities of hearing aids with an increasing number of cell phones and every landline phone. The FCC requires digital phone makers to produce telecoil-compatible phones that are available at every price range.

The Hearing Journal's April, 2009 edition surveyed hearing professionals and reported that 58% of hearing aids included a telecoil, representing an increase of 37% from 2001. Hearing Review Products reported in 2010 that 127 of 212 hearing aid models, to include every in-ear model and 29 out of 30 conventional behind the ear models, had telecoils. The greater a person's need for hearing assistance, the more likely they are to have hearing aids that have telecoils in them. In fact - 84% of the members of the Hearing Loss Association of America did in a survey. Even new model cochlear implants have telecoils.

What about tiny, completely in the ear canal hearing aids? Unfortunately, these hearing aids usually don't have enough room in them for telecoils. Telecoils themselves are becoming miniaturized though; there is potential for them to be included in all but the very tiniest of hearing aids.

There is a tiny switch in hearing aids that have a telecoil, one that lets you switch it from, 'M,' for microphone to, 'T,' for telecoil. A number of hearing aids also have a setting for both microphone and telecoil (MT). If you want both inputs and have the option, choose MT. If your hearing aids do not have telecoils you can add them, but it costs more than the minimal cost of T-coils with new hearing aids.

How Much does a hearing loop cost

The cost to install a television room loop yourself ranges between $140 and $300, not bad considering the benefits. A used television set at a pawn shop costs more. To install a hearing loop in an auditorium, for example, might cost a few thousand dollars. Smaller facilities can usually install a hearing loop for around the same cost as a pair of high-end hearing aids. The cost per user is less expensive than using portable listening devices because of the cost of buying batteries for other devices.


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