However, even with hearing aids, sounds can become unclear for the hard of hearing when the environment is noisy or the acoustics are poor. These situations include speaker systems as used in locations like public auditoriums, movie theaters or airports; at religious services; and even at home in the family room listening to a big-screen television. In fact, about 95 percent of hearing aid owners say their No. 1 need is to improve intelligibility in high noise areas.
Fortunately, a relatively simple, discrete, non-exotic technology called hearing loops can help immeasurably in such settings. A hearing loop is a wiring installation that transfers sounds from speaker systems by magnetic induction to a “telecoil” or “t-coil” receiver within hearing aids or cochlear implants. At present, about two-thirds of hearing aids already have the necessary t-coil.
Hearing loops are similar to the audio guides we are familiar with from museums or zoos, but don’t require additional equipment once a hard of hearing individual’s hearing aid has a t-coil installed.
Well-established in European nations, including Scandinavia and Great Britain, hearing loops are now becoming more prevalent in the United States. Recently, clients, volunteers and staff of Farmington Hills, Michigan-based Deaf & Hearing Impaired Services, Inc. (DHIS) hosted a guest speaker to present on hearing loops at the Birmingham Area Senior Community Center, one of DHIS’ 23 satellite sites. Mr. Bill Hop of Holland, Michigan’s Hearing Loss Systems spoke to about 20 attendees.
“Mr. Hop explained the technology behind hearing loops and progress being made in installations. While there are now more than 400 hearing loops in Michigan, the majority are in the western part of the State,” says Susan Sullivan, DHIS Program Coordinator for DHIS’ Hearing Loss Group for D.A.T.A. “We are working to encourage more installations in our service area of southeast Michigan, where we still have less than two dozen hearing loops.”
A cost-effective technology. There are many advantages to hearing loops. They are relatively affordable for the installing organization like a church or municipality; t-coils are available with most hearing aids; reception imposes minimal demand on hearing aid batteries; and they are inconspicuous and user-friendly. If desired, a hard of hearing individual can even turn off the hearing loop.
“With our aging population and plugged-in society, we expect increased incidence of hearing loss in the future. Hearing loops can help hard of hearing individuals participate fully in society and improve safety in many public settings,” Sullivan adds.
To identify a hearing loop installation, look for a blue square sign with a symbolized ear and the letter “T” in the lower, right corner, both in white.
Southeast Michigan locations with hearing loops include:
- Birmingham Community House
- First United Methodist Church, Birmingham
- The Holocaust Memorial Center, Farmington Hills
- Universalist Unitarian Church of Farmington, Farmington Hills
- Faith Community Presbyterian Church, Novi
- Southpoint Community Christian Church, Trenton
- Berman Center for the Performing Arts, West Bloomfield
- Five locations in Ann Arbor
- Several health care offices
For more information about comprehensive services for the deaf and hard of hearing, including Assistive Listening Devices like the hearing loop, please call Deaf & Hearing Impaired Services, Inc. at (248) 473-1888 or visit www.dhisonline.org.