Attending events in public venues can be an exercise in frustration for the hearing impaired.
Background noise and poor acoustics in a public setting can make it difficult for those with hearing aids and cochlear implants to hear speakers, even with the use of microphones. In 2017, new legislation passed in the Minnesota legislature that will make public events more accessible to the hearing impaired. This legislation follows a growing trend across the US to require good acoustics and hearing loops to be installed in public meeting spaces in state-funded construction projects.
How Hearing Loops Work
Hearing loops work differently from FM and infrared systems which required the hearing impaired to use a headset or other type of receiver. The audio frequency induction loop-system (AFILS) sends a magnetic signal direct to the t-coil in your hearing aid. You receive the sound being broadcast from the sound system direct into your hearing aid with little to none of the background noise in the room.
Will Hearing Loops Work with Your Hearing Aid?
Your hearing aid may or may not have a t-coil allowing you to receive sound from a hearing loop. Even if your hearing aid does have a t-coil, you may not have been informed by your audiologist of this feature, or the feature may not have been activated. If your hearing aid doesn’t have a t-coil, you can have it retro-fitted with one to give you access to AFILS technology.
The t-coil feature must be turned on manually, usually with the push of a button, when you desire to connect to the hearing loop in the room. The quality of t-coil reception can be affected by the power of the magnetic field from the loop, the size of the t-coil, and the position of the t-coil. To ensure the best possible reception, have your t-coil programming adjusted by your audiologist to the optimal settings for your individual needs.
Hear Every Word of West Side Story at The Guthrie
Locally in the Twin Cities, FM assistive listening systems have been available for the hearing impaired at the various stages of The Guthrie for many years. This summer, The Guthrie Theatre is installing a temporary loop for the first performance of West Side Story to better accommodate the hearing impaired within their audience. We applaud their exceptional efforts to eliminate barriers to the arts for those with physical limitations of any kind.
St. Louis Park City Council has recently installed a loop in their meeting room. With the new legislation, we expect that other cities will soon follow suit, improving accessibility for hearing impaired residents.