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).
- Operate on a universal frequency (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.
These two people are both
enjoying assistive listening as they watch TV. The young woman
is using a receiver and headset, such as comes with any infrared,
FM, or loop system. The man, without needing to pick up and
wear any extra equipment, is receiving personalized sound directly
through his telecoil-equipped hearing aids (which he can set
to receive room sound, loop sound, or both). In a public setting,
or in a home TV room, which would you prefer?
"A couple of years ago our
church proposed installing a system that required people to
use headphones. A poll of those who might use it revealed
little interest, so that idea was dropped. A loop system would
be much more acceptable since it would use the hearing aids
we already have."~BVK, Midland, Michigan
"Loop systems provide the best sound
quality [because they're not] 'one size fits all,' with
everyone receiving the same amplification through headphones.
It simply makes so much more sense for a hearing impaired
individual to receive the speech signal through their own
hearing aids, which provide an appropriate frequency response
for their hearing loss."~Audiologist Lynnette C.
Blaney, M.A., CCC-A
"It was actually fun to go to church
and hasn't been that way for a long time."~MC,
Holland, MI (who could have used existing headsets)
"The experience of actually hearing
such clear sounds...was thrilling and hard to describe....One
has to experience the improvement....It seemed overwhelming."~DVB,
Holland, MI (who had used existing headsets)
Why the USA lags Europe Loop systems
are therefore becoming omnipresent in Northern Europe (where
in some countries 90 percent of hearing aids have telecoils).
For example, in Britain nearly all hearing aids provided by
the National Health Service now come with telecoils, and most
churches and cathedrals are now looped. In the next several
years, all London taxis and all London Underground ticket
windows will be looped. Britishers, but as yet few Americans,
know about loop systems. That, we hope, is about to change
. . . as caring communities seek to get hard of hearing persons
in the loop!
So why does the USA lag Europe in making loop systems available?
It's not because the technology is new. It isn't, though new
refinements and careful engineering and installation now make
it more possible to surmount possible problems such as electrical
interference or magnetic energy-sucking metalwork. The main
reason is that in the past only about 30 percent of hearing
aid-wearing Americans have T-coils (the percentage is higher
among those with severe hearing loss--the very people most
in need of assistive listening). Happily, this percentage
appears now to be rising.
If you build it, they will come With
the spread of T-coil compatible telephones and T-coil miniaturization,
the time is ripe to make loop systems the preferred assistive
listening format. In the short run, those without T-coils
can use portable induction loop receivers and headsets. In
the long run, if we build it--if loop systems become widely
installed--they will come. Audiologists will equip their patients
with hearing aids that serve a dual purpose, as aids and as
in-the-ear loudspeakers. And people with hearing loss--only
one-fourth of whom currently have hearing aids in the United
States--will have all the more reason to get hearing aids
and to use them as miniature, personal loudspeakers in their
homes, churches, theaters, and other public venues.
Before there were video rental outlets or any of us had VHS
tapes, someone had the vision to create and sell VCRs. With
the technology in place, VCR usage exploded. When WNBC broadcast
the first commercial TV signal in 1941 it had few viewers.
(Why would people already have TVs, given nothing to watch?)
But the television entrepreneurs knew they had a cool technology,
and that if they would build it, viewers would come.
So it can happen in America, if, church by church, theater
by theater, community by community, caring people and institutions
will lead by example.
"Judging from the complaints I receive,
and from my own experiences, the logistics of managing receivers
are the major source of problems in ensuring auditory access
in large area listening situations. It seems that almost
anything that can go wrong does, at one time or another.
. . . With an induction loop (IL) system, on the other hand,
no special 'receiver' is required, as long as a person's
hearing aids include a telecoil. . . .
This is an enormous advantage
for hearing aid users. There is no need to check out special
receivers. Not only is this more convenient, but it is especially
conducive to use by those people who are reluctant to wear
a visible assistive listening device. Furthermore, and most
important, hearing aid users can be assured that their 'receivers'
are functioning well and that any individualized hearing aid
programming is still operative." ~Audiological
researcher-writer Mark Ross (Hearing Loss, January/February,