Recently, the 2nd Annual International Hearing Loops conference was held in Washington D.C. in conjunction with the Hearing Loss Association of America conference. 250 attendees, all members of the “Get In The Loop” campaign, gathered to discuss loop systems, the benefit of telecoils and how to get the message out to the public about the benefits of loop systems and the communication access they provide.
Even though they offer improved sound quality, are easy to install and are cost effective, hearing aid loop systems are not well known to hearing aid users. When hearing aids fall short of providing better hearing on the TV, when listening in the presence of background noise or while talking on the phone, a loop system can easily close the gap toward better hearing.
What is a Loop System?
Loop systems are a type of assistive listening device that work in conjunction with a hearing aid’s t-coil to help hard of hearing people hear speech better, especially in background noise. Other types of assistive listening devices include such things as FM systems and Infrared systems. Unlike with FM and Infrared, there is no external accessory needed in order to connect to and use a loop system. The only requirement is that the hearing aid is equipped with a Telecoil, also known as a T-coil or T switch.
What does a Loop System Do?
Imagine being able to hear sound from the TV or stereo system from anywhere in the house. If you’d like to wash dishes in the kitchen and listen to the TV in the family room at the same time, you can. If you don’t want to miss the score of the big game but want to get a snack from the fridge, you don’t have to worry. With a Loop system, the sound is delivered directly to the hearing aids and stays exactly the same as you move from room to room, as long as you stay within the loop. It improves sound quality by allowing the hearing aids to adjust the incoming sound for your specific hearing loss and then delivering the sound to both ears simultaneously. You can also set up the system to deliver sound from the phone directly into the hearing aids, allowing for binaural sound and improved sound quality. Loop systems can also be used in meeting rooms and theaters, churches and even in the car or RV!
How does a Loop System Work?
Loop systems consist of three basic parts: an input device, a loop amplifier and loop wiring. Lastly, you’ll need hearing aids with Tcoils in order to pick up the signal from the loop wiring. The input device is the device you want to listen to such as the TV, a stereo or MP3 player, a microphone or almost any other audio device. The loop amplifier plugs directly into any wall socket while the input device plugs into the amplifier. The loop wire is placed around the perimeter of any room or listening area and the two ends of the wire then connect to the amplifier. Once turned on, the loop is active. To pick up sound, simply turn your hearing aids to the Tcoil mode while you are inside the looped area and sound will be instantly directed to both ears.
What does a Loop System Cost?
Loop systems are probably the most inexpensive of all assistive listening devices. A good system will only cost several hundred dollars, unlike some integrated FM systems, which can cost thousands. The issue is that you may have to have several loop systems for different areas. There are small “pad” loop systems that you can place under your favorite La-Z-Boy recliner that are very inexpensive. With the new focus on looping public areas such as at churches, theaters, grocery stores and public meeting halls, groups like Hearing Loss Association of America are making it more likely that you will have the opportunity to use a loop system at no charge when you are in a public venue. Be sure to ask if a loop system is available next time you visit a noisy place. You might be surprised.
If you are having difficulty hearing clearly, even with your hearing aids, ask your audiologist if a loop system is right for you. A loop system can make communication and listening more enjoyable for everyone.