Imagine not being able to hear the speaker across the roar of a crowd, the bank teller, or a bus driver over the noise of an engine. For many of the one in twenty of the American population with some form of hearing loss, this is a daily reality.
An assistive listening system is also known as an induction or audio loop is a specialist sound system for those that use hearing aids. The ‘loop’ transmits an audio signal directly into a hearing aid enabling the wearer to hear sounds with reduced or eliminated background noise.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that assistive listening systems are a requirement in places of public assembly where audible communication is used to provide direction or critical information.
A loop consists of a microphone to pick up the spoken word or music; an amplifier that processes the signal which is then sent through the final piece; the loop cable, a wire placed around the perimeter of a specific area i.e. a service counter, a classroom, meeting room or theatre to act as an antenna that radiates the magnetic signal to the hearing aid.
While installation is relatively straightforward, the commissioning of systems is crucial to ensure that they are appropriately set up. Systems installed near each other can cause a ‘spill’ of a signal which interferes with reception such as in adjacent classrooms and lecture theatres, cinemas, or where there is a performance area for electrical instruments.
Appropriately installed and operating assistive systems are greatly welcomed by hard-of-hearing people. Some may feel self-conscious about their hearing loss, particularly if it is age-related, and prefer discreet operation so they may not consider notifying a building manager if they wish to use the system or if there is a fault.