Get in the Hearing Loop!
Technology to Improve
Listening in Noise
Imagine going to a place of worship or a presentation in an auditorium and not only hearing what is being said, but understanding the speaker. You don’t have to imagine anymore – Hearing Loops are becoming a reality in the US. Much has been written in the past year about an “old” technology that has been in use in Europe for years, including Westminster Abbey. There are grassroots initiative gaining steam throughout the US, most notably Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, Florida, New Mexico and Arizona.
So what is this Hearing Loop? Very simply, it is a wire run around the sanctuary, meeting room, auditorium, or any public venue, which is connected to a loop driver that is connected to the PA or sound system. The loop driver creates a magnetic field within the “loop” which talks directly to the T-coils in most hearing aids. Why is this so wonderful? The only thing necessary to hear clearly in the loop is the t-coil equipped hearing aid or cochlear implant! No headsets, no extra equipment needed. Hearing without the frustrating background and ambient noise is nothing short of amazing, according to loop users.
Composer Richard Einhorn experienced a temporary hearing loop set up for the Hearing Loss Association of America’s annual convention in Washington, DC. This inspired him to write a letter to the Kennedy Center Opera House about his experience. Mr. Einhorn writes: “Until I attended the performance of Wicked at The Kennedy Center, which included a temporary hearing loop installation, I was quite certain I would never be able to enjoy live music again.
That evening was, by far, the clearest, most enjoyable performance I have attended since my hearing loss. It meant so much to me to sit in a concert hall and, for the first time in a year, actually enjoy a live performance again.”
With an aging population, baby boomers coming of age and many years of increased noise pollution (including loud music); hearing loss is significant in our country. Recent NIH statistics estimate about 17%, or 36 million Americans have a hearing loss. Of these 36 million, about 25% wear hearing aids or have cochlear implants. About 70% of hearing aids are equipped with t-coils and about 90% of cochlear implants have t-coils. Hearing loops meet ADA requirements, which are rarely met for people who are hard of hearing.
The premier advocate of hearing loops is Dr. David Myers, PhD, Professor and Social Psychologist at Hope College in Michigan. Says Dr. Myers, “My hearing aids now serve me as customized wireless loudspeakers whether I’m watching the evening news in my looped home media room, at worship in my church, or awaiting an airline boarding announcement at my home airport in Grand Rapids. Thanks to their doubled functionality, I now love the hearing aids I once barely tolerated.” Myers, a professor of psychology and an outspoken advocate for induction-loop technology, first experienced its benefits over ten years ago while worshipping in Scotland’s Iona Abbey. In an effort to help him better hear the worship service being conducted in the 800-year-old stone building, Myers’ wife suggested he try switching on the “T” (for telecoil) setting on his hearing aid. The sudden clarity with which Myers could hear every spoken word and note of music during the service was an overwhelming experience.
Juliette Sterkens, AuD. heard Dr. Myers speak in 2008 and it dawned on her that hearing loops could greatly help her patients. She became a major advocate for hearing loops, saying “It has been my experience that hearing loops offer significantly improved hearing and understanding, sometimes even in situations where normal-hearing people have difficulty. Using the T or MT program is easy: patients need only “push a button.” The resulting hearing delights my patients, triggering previously unheard words of appreciation for their hearing aids. As one person who has a severe sensorineural hearing loss told us after her first experience in her newly looped reverberant church: “What I experienced last Sunday was nothing short of a miracle. For the very first time in many, many years, I was able to hear every single word said in church along with every note of music.”
Hearing loops can assist people having to listen with competing background noise and poor acoustics in houses of worship, senior communities, airports, hotels, government office and meeting rooms, auditoriums and theaters. There are also loop products appropriate for bank counters, pharmacy counters, and information desks as well as residential loops for home use. The possibilities are endless for better access.
For more information:
See www.hearingloop.org or contact the author at 1-877-338-1084, Denver Metro 720-210-9653 and www.assist2hear.com and www.loopcolorado.com