Hearing Loop Technology

Advanced Hearing Care—Improving your Quality of Life. Potomac Audiology: 240-477-1010

Hearing Loop Technology

Logos and photos_Hearng Loop

Universal ‘loop system’ symbol

What is a Hearing Loop?  

A hearing loop is a wire that circles a room and is connected to a sound system. The loop transmits the sound electromagnetically. The electromagnetic signal is then picked up by the telecoil in the hearing aid or cochlear implant.

To use a hearing loop, you flip on the t-switch on the hearing aid or cochlear implant to activate the telecoil. Usually, no additional receiver or equipment is needed. Using a telecoil and hearing loop together is seamless, cost-effective, unobtrusive, and you don’t have to seek additional equipment. Hearing loops are also called audio-induction loops, audio loops, or loops. If your hearing aid doesn’t have a telecoil, you will need a headset plugged into a loop receiver to achieve the same effect.

 

What is a Telecoil?

Tcoils (telephone coils) of various sizes.

Tcoils (telephone coils) of various sizes.

A telecoil in a hearing aid functions as a wireless antenna that links to the sound system and delivers customized sound to the listener. A telecoil is a small copper coil that is an option in most hearing aids and is built into cochlear implant processors. Telecoils also known as t-coils and were originally used to boost the magnetic signals from the telephone handset. The telecoil is activated by a t-switch. All landline and some cell phones are designed by law to be used with a telecoil.

The telecoil can make a noticeable difference in your life when combined with hearing assistive technology such as the hearing loop. This pairing of technology bridges the space between you and the sound source. The hearing loop connects the listener directly to the sound source while most of the background noise is eliminated.

If you are buying a hearing aid for the first time, be sure to ask that a telecoil be included. With a telecoil you can expand the functionality of your hearing aid or cochlear implant.

 

Why are loop systems the preferred assistive listening system?

Unlike alternative (FM or infrared) assistive listening systems which usually sit unused, loop systems:

  • Require (for those with T-coils) no pick up and remembering to return portable receiving units and headsets.
  • Require purchasing/maintaining/replacing fewer portable receiving units (for those without T-coils).
  • Use a universal magnetic signal, which works no matter the location or hearing instrument brand (FM systems operate on differing frequencies, requiring receivers for each venue).
  • Are inconspicuous: No need to display “I am hard of hearing!” Loop systems offer an easy and invisible solution to an invisible problem, thus are much more likely to be used.
  • Work in transient situations: They can serve the hard of hearing at ticket counters, teller windows, drive-through stations, airport gate areas, and train and subway stations–venues where other assistive listening systems are impractical.
  • Are hearing-aid compatible. There’s no need to juggle between hearing aids and headsets (for example, when shifting from sermon to singing during worship).
  • Preclude bothering others nearby with sounds leaking from headset. Sound broadcast through hearing aids is contained within one’s ear.
  • Afford flexible use: Can allow either direct listening or loop broadcast modes, or both.
  • Deliver personalized in-the-ear sound . . . customized by one’s own hearing aids to address one’s own hearing loss.
  • Are, for all these reasons, more likely to be used–and to be increasingly used, once installed (as people purchase future aids with T-coils). Loop systems can, thanks to portable receivers,serve everyone including all who are served by existing systems. But, given telecoils, they are much more likely to be used—and therefore to cost less, per user. Moreover, it is those who most need hearing assistance who are most likely to have telecoils

 

What do loop systems cost? And where can I buy one?
North American vendors offer equipment that ranges from:

  • small portable and commercial window-counter installations to
  • systems for home TV rooms to
  • larger area systems.

Portable receiving units, akin to those for infrared and FM systems, can be purchased for those without telecoil-equipped aids. But with more and more people receiving sound broadcast by their own hearing aids, there will be a reduced need to purchase, maintain, and replace such units, which helps make loop systems cost-effective.

Some installations, including for many older wooden structures, are easy installations and, with volunteer assistance in running wires, needn’t cost much. For optimal performance in institutional settings, professional installation (and design, if needed) is highly recommended. Metal in the floor, walls, and ceilings, for example, may necessitate special system design and extra amplification. Adjacent rooms may require systems designed to prevent spillover of sound from one room to the next.

For optimum results, the wires are typically installed not at ear level but rather either below the listener (under a carpet edge, a baseboard, or a floor) or above the listener. The typical professionally installed loop system is unseen by the audience and does not affect the venue’s architecture or appearance.

Home loop systems, some of which put the loop in a thin pad that simply slips under a cushion, are available in the USA from $165 and up. Using a Radio Shack phone connector with built-in on/off switch, most can receive telephone input as well, enabling improved two-eared listening.

Typical costs range from $2000 to $8000 for small to medium-sized worship centers, but more for very large facilities with lots of embedded steel. Most congregations’ loop systems will cost no more than what one of their members would pay for a pair of today’s high tech hearing aids.

When comparing loop system costs to alternative listening systems, consider what counts: cost per user. (A system that costs slightly more, but has many more eventual users, will be most cost-effective.) Also, loop systems can be used without the additional expense of purchasing and maintaining portable receivers and headsets (although many venues will purchase one or more loop receiver/headset units for possible use by those without suitable hearing aids).

 


 

The above information was retrieved from the following websites.  You can use these websites to find out about local resources.