Millions of Americans suffer from what’s often referred to as the “invisible disability”: hearing loss. Well, now there’s a new technology that can help hearing impaired individuals hear better in group situations. It’s called a hearing loop, and it’s making its way into public places and conference rooms all over the world. Hearing loops can enhance the listening experience for users with hearing aids, even without the use of extra cumbersome equipment. Instead, hearing aids fitted with special telecoils can pick up on the cables throughout a room to be better able to hear what’s going on. Two centuries when hearing trumpets were considered cutting edge, no one knew just how far the technology for hearing aids would come. Within conference room meetings, congregational gatherings and public spots, those with hearing impairments can now listen to what’s being said without have to compete against the deafening roar of background noise.
What Are Hearing Loops?
Although they sound complicated, they’re really quite simple. They mix the technologies from hearing aids and that of cables. The loops comprise an actual cable running throughout a building or a room, working in harmony with hearing aids worn by hearing impaired participants. Both parts transmit ambient sounds within the room to make for an easier listening experience.
A Closer Look
The basic mechanism involved in hearing loops, uncovered years of research in terms of telephone technology, is quite simple. Circling the room, a hearing loop wire transmits ambient sound in the form of electromagnetic signals that are then picked up by a telecoil. This telecoil, originally used in assisting handset telephones retain their ranges and signals while disconnected from the base, picks up the sound.
Because most hearing aids and cochlear implants contain a t-switch that is integral to hearing aids and remote telecoil technology, this switch can detect the electromagnetic sounds funneling through the hearing loop. In turn, this allows the user to detect sounds more clearly and with fewer background noises. The result is an enhanced ability to hear in crowded, noisy situations. Even microphones can be brought into the equation for enhanced performance.
This increased emphasis on the effectiveness of hearing loops has benefited the hearing impaired community tremendously. In fact, you may have noticed the emergence of this capability in city halls, conference rooms and in public transportation areas like subways, airports and train stations. This next step in technology will help people with hearing loss enjoy an easier way to focus on directed conversation.