There are numerous documents worldwide stating where and how hearing loops should be installed to comply with government legislation and regulations. Standards for the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom are detailed below.
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The International Electrotechnical Commission’s IEC 60118-4 standard specifies magnetic field strength and frequency response requirements for providing peak performance in hearing loops.
It is used worldwide as a benchmark for performance.
It also states that hearing loop signage must be displayed in a prominent place so customers can easily see that hearing loops are installed.
Section 219 of the 2010 ADA Standards states that assistive listening systems are needed in facilities used for entertainment, educational, or civic gatherings where communication is integral to the space and audio amplification is provided, or where there is an occupant load of 50 or more people with fixed seating; this also applies to courtrooms.
25% of receivers, or no fewer than two of those available, must be hearing-aid compatible. Assembly areas served by an induction [hearing] loop do not need to provide hearing-aid compatible receivers.
Equality Act 2010 combines a number of laws including the Disability Discrimination Act, and states that everyone should be treated equally. It serves to protect certain groups of people from discrimination and improve public services.
“Service providers are required to make changes, where needed, to improve service for disabled customers or potential customers.”
It is important to note the reference to “potential customers” and ensure you are not just addressing issues within your business but providing an environment that is inclusive and accessible for everyone.
The Act states that service providers are legally required to provide information to everyone in an accessible format and “provide auxiliary aids and services,” including hearing loops.
“The aim is for all people to have access to, and the use of, all the facilities provided within buildings.” – Section 4.1 of Part M
Part M is an Approved Document by the Department for Communities and Local Government which provides guidance on compliance with building regulations. It states that to obtain the full benefit of situations such as discussions or performances “a person with hearing loss must receive a signal that is amplified in both volume and signal to noise ratio,” and provision must be made for a permanent system in larger spaces.
Hearing Loops: Hearing loops, infrared and radio frequency systems are listed as commonly used solutions. Requirements of Part M are only met if “the presence of an induction [hearing] loop or infrared hearing enhancement system is indicated by the standard symbol,” demonstrating the importance of clear signage in buildings.
Entertainment, Education and Social Venues: Everyone should “be able to participate in the proceedings at lecture/conference facilities and at entertainment or leisure and social venues, not only as spectators, but also as participants and/or staff.” In buildings with entertainment or leisure and conference facilities, a solution such as a hearing loop must be provided to enable people with hearing loss to participate. This applies to hotels, schools, universities and community centres, as well as theatres and sports stadia.
Service and Reception Counters: A solution supporting people with hearing loss must be investigated for all buildings where service or reception counters are found. This includes many types of buildings, i.e. retail, worship, healthcare, transport, government and education.
Locations: It is not often sufficient to just address one area. When trying to meet the requirements laid out in Part M, it is important to consider that there may be many locations within a building where conversations or listening interactions take place. Focus on providing a good customer experience instead of simply providing the minimum required to comply with the regulations.
BS 8300 is a code of practice compiled by the British Standards Institution detailing the required design of buildings for meeting the needs of disabled people, and promotes equal access to services and buildings.
Whether you’re an architect, tender manager, store fit out provider, retailer or designer, the revised 2018 BS 8300 provides greater clarity on the appropriate level of provision and installation for hearing loops. It also heavily influences European and US standards.
A complete annex is included within the BS 8300-2 standard detailing hearing loop requirements. This annex covers hearing loop specifications, provisions, location variations, applications, best practice installation and maintenance, and staff testing and training.
BS 8300 also gives guidance on where hearing loops should be used, such as at help and refuge points, meeting rooms, halls, public sector buildings, cinemas, sporting venues, anywhere with points of sale and many more locations. It also provides instruction for microphone inputs and the various sound sources that can be selected for applications.
Specialists & Maintenance Required
There is a requirement for reactive and preventative maintenance of hearing loop systems using a provider with “specialist knowledge.” Staff training should be given to ensure staff knowledge of hearing loops, ensuring they can engage with individuals with hearing loss, and there should also be proactive staff testing using an appropriate testing meter.
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