31 Aug What is a Hearing Loop? Audio induction explained
What is a hearing loop? Audio induction explained
642 million people in the world have hearing loss, according to the World Health Organisation, with 1 in every 5 people in the UK affected.
With this in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that in many parts of the world it’s now a legal requirement to provide increased access for people with hearing impairments.
Expanding the limits of hearing aids
Many people affected by hearing loss use a hearing aid (or cochlear implant) which uses a built-in microphone to amplify sounds in their surroundings. However, these boost every audible noise within earshot, which can be incredibly overwhelming for users. What’s more, their microphones also have a very limited effective range of only a few metres.
Passing vehicles, background music, conversations, or electrical background noise can be overpowering in some environments, making it difficult to distinguish what is being said – so the ability to isolate wanted sounds versus unwanted noise is critical; this is where hearing loop technology comes in.
How do hearing loops work?
A ‘hearing loop’ (sometimes called an ‘induction loop’) works in conjunction with a hearing aid or cochlear implant that is fitted with a telecoil, allowing direct transmission of sound from the source to the hearing device, even across large distances or spaces – cutting out bothersome background noise and resulting in crystal clear audio.
Copper wire is laid in around a defined space (‘the loop). It is then connected to a hearing loop amplifier, which drives current into the wire to create a magnetic field in a room. This is then linked to a microphone or another form of audio input, which allows sound to be transmitted directly into the user’s hearing device via this magnetic field. The telecoil in the device picks up the sound transmitted through the magnetic field, and the device then converts this back into a sound signal, which is played into the user’s ear.
It is one technology which works in the same way for one-to-one communication or for group activities in larger areas, isolating only the wanted sounds, creating clarity and cutting out unwanted background noise. The user can access the sound easily and discreetly, by pressing a button on their device, or having an in-built automatic switch in more advanced devices. There are no streamers, passwords or apps needed to receive the sound, and there is no latency either.
Hearing loop systems are the only assistive listening technology that is universal , and that has a globally accepted installation standard, which ensures predictable and reliable results for the user.
The social benefits of hearing loops
Being unable to hear clearly not only has safety implications but can be incredibly frustrating for people with hearing loss. It limits their ability to access information, services and entertainment and generates ‘listening fatigue’ as they struggle to hear. People may become depressed and isolated as a result.
Hearing loops create inclusion, giving users access to the desired sound without the need for them to declare their hearing loss, and greater wellbeing.
In summary, they can effectively:
- Cut out background noise, only amplifying the sound source the person wants to hear
- Offer inclusion for users, resulting in reduced isolation and greater access
- Offer discretion – users don’t need to declare their hearing loss, they can simply switch their hearing device to the T setting and instantly access clear sound
- Cut out latency – there is no delay between a person speaking/singing into the microphone that’s connected to the loop, and the user receiving the sound
- Enable venues to comply with disability legislation in their region.
- Accommodate unlimited number of users simultaneously, every time.
Where can hearing loops assist people with hearing loss?
There is no technical limit to where a hearing loop can be used. Everywhere from a doctor’s waiting room through to a supermarket till, a church or a stadium can install an induction loop. This increases inclusion and ensures that people with hearing loss are able to access certain spaces that may have been uncomfortable or even impossible for them to navigate without them.
While ideally hearing loops should be integrated into the design and construction of a building at the earliest point, venues can be retrofitted to allow users to benefit from this technology.
Venues and situations for 1-2-1 use
- Till points/checkouts
- Reception desks in hotels, schools or universities
- Ticket offices
- Bank and post office counters
- Customer service counters
- Airport check-in desks/ immigration desks
- Hospitals and health clinics
- Help points
- Self-service checkouts
Venues and situations for use large area loop systems
- Lecture halls
- Community centres
- Places of worship
- Meeting rooms
- Public transport
- Music venues
- Care homes
Universally unlocking access to better hearing
The hearing loop is universal. Research published around the world shows that this is the preferred technology by users.
As the default assistance hearing technology globally, if a user’s hearing aid/cochlear implant has an active T-coil within it, no matter where in the world they go, they will be able to use a hearing loop in the same way, simply and quickly.
Critically, induction loops are the only assistive listening technology that has the globally accepted IEC installation standard to ensure users can always access clear audio reliably.
Why hearing loops are here to stay
Reports that hearing loop usage is on the decline are misconstrued. Rather than being in decline, the global market continues to expand as more and more venues integrate this essential accessibility tool into their sites.
Notable examples include growing use in the US and Canada with two renowned campaign bodies – Get in the Hearing Loop in the US and Get in the Hearing Loop in Canada both campaigning for greater inclusion, driven by the national organisations HLAA and the CHHA. .
Google Maps have added hearing loops to the accessibility features a venue can promote on its listing, enabling customers to make an informed decision about which shops and services best meet their access needs.
New loop systems are installed daily and in growing pace across most leading retail chains, banks, leading theatres and entertainment venues, and historic sites.
For more information on those people who have from hearing loss or for support, visit:
- UK: The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) and Hearing Link
- Europe: The International Federation for Hard of Hearing People (IFHOH), The European Federation for Hard of Hearing People (EFHOH)
To explore the legal requirements for hearing loops globally, click here.