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Dr. Livingston

Hearing loss in the U.S. is on the rise as there are more environmental risk factors impairing the ability to preserve strong hearing. The rise in hearing loss has also caused many public places and businesses to evaluate their accessibility and find a way to include those with hearing devices and cochlear implants. A popular hearing loss solution used in Northern Europe for decades is finally gaining traction in the United States — and it doesn’t cost you a dime.

Today’s digital hearing aids effectively enhance hearing in conversational settings but the sound can become unclear when speakers are at a distance (such as in an auditorium), when the context is noisy, or when room acoustics reverberate sound. A hearing loop, a loop of cable around a designated area (usually a room or a building), generates a magnetic field that is picked up by some hearing aids or cochlear implants.

The loop transfers the microphone or sound signal to the t-coil, a thin strand of copper wire found in most hearing devices and cochlear implants (if ordered by your audiologist). The t-coil delivers the audio content directly to the hearing device and allows the person to hear the content without background noise, directly inside their ear / the hearing aids.

Typical places one would find hearing loops include concert halls, ticket kiosks, buildings with high-traffic (for PA announcements), auditoriums, places of worship, and homes. Many hearing advocacy groups are now pushing for a complete renovation in all public spaces to enhance the benefits of hearing devices in loud environments. Some say the installation of the hearing loops is about disability rights and good customer service, specifically pointing to the cost of installation, which is extremely affordable. Costs range from a couple hundred dollars for self-installed home TV loops up to a few thousand dollars for professional installation in a public place.

Public schools are mandated due to the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act to provide students with disabilities, the same access to education as those without disabilities. Hearing Impaired students are provided technologies, including Hearing loops (if applicable). This was signed into law in September 2008, and became effective on January 1, 2009.

As more and more cases of hearing loss are diagnosed and hearing devices with a t-coil switch become standard, the motivation for businesses to jump on the hearing loop bandwagon will increase. This means good things for those who suffer from hearing loss. As looping installation becomes more prevalent, hearing device users will experience an entirely new level of ease in everyday life.

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