If you are like most people that sentence probably did not make any sense at all. Looping? Is it a dance? Something to do with knitting? Going around the block a few more times? Actually, I am referring to hearing loops, or audio induction loops, and this is a great technology that everyone ought to know about.
First of all, 80% of hearing aids have a component called a t-coil. This is not new technology; it was originally designed to help hearing aid users hear better on the telephone. It is a tiny coil of wire that picks up magnetic signals to process into sound. Today’s phones are getting away from magnetism, so many hearing aid users are not even aware that there is a t-coil in their instruments. But it is still there, waiting for activation into a great, new purpose—hearing loops!
When public places like auditoriums, churches, and conference rooms install a loop system, there is a copper wire that encircles the room in the ceiling or floor and is connected to the microphone at the podium. The speaker’s voice becomes a magnetic signal flowing through the room inside the wire perimeter. When a hearing aid user presses the t-coil button on his or her hearing aid, the sound comes through crystal clear, straight into the ears. This is a great solution for anyone who strains to hear in microphone situations. All the reverberation and background noise is gone!
Unfortunately, not too many public places are looped yet. By law in the UK many places are looped including theaters, ticket windows, and taxicab back seats. In the United States, auditoriums are more likely to have an FM system with headphone listening sets. Still, nothing beats looping for clear, convenient, discrete listening. There is a growing movement in Michigan, Wisconsin, and several other states to loop churches, and the response has been enthusiastic. Steve Walsh of MN Hearing Loops is leading the charge here in Minnesota. A recent project has been to loop Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis. It makes me want to go hear one of their Town Hall Forums just to check it out! We are in the process of getting a hearing loop installed in our office at Chears, so soon the invitation will be out to come see us and experience looping for yourself.
Visit www.mnhearingloops.com and then talk to people at your church or synagogue. Together, let’s get into looping!
Martha Takata, audiology extern with Kim Fishman at Chears