April 3, 2012

Getting “In the Loop”

Many patients have been pleased to learn about the addition of a hearing loop to our waiting rooms. We have received positive feedback from patients who are delighted to find that they can take advantage of this technology.

Hearing loops are devices that transmit sound from microphones, loudspeakers or even TVs directly to portable receivers (such as hearing aids, cochlear implants or headsets). The loops rely on tiny technology in the portable receiver called a telecoil, which acts like an antenna relaying sounds directly into the ear. The advantage of this system is due to an improved signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio. Because the signal of interest (e.g., TV, microphone) is delivered directly to the hearing aid, interference from background noise is significantly reduced. Improving hearing in the presence of background noise is one of the biggest challenges in the rehabilitation of hearing impaired patients. Telecoil systems are one way to effectively improve hearing in this environment in a cost-effective, easy to use manner.

At this time, we are only aware of one other hearing loop installed in Jacksonville- at a check-out register at Whole Foods in Mandarin.

Here are some FAQs from the Hearing Loss Association of America:

1. Why are hearing loops needed? Don’t hearing aids enable hearing?

Today’s digital hearing aids effectively enhance hearing in conversational settings. Yet for many people with hearing loss the sound becomes unclear when auditorium or TV loudspeakers are at a distance, when the context is noisy, or when room acoustics reverberate sound. A hearing loop magnetically transfers the microphone or TV sound signal to hearing aids and cochlear implants with a tiny, inexpensive “telecoil” receiver. This transforms the instruments into in-the-ear loudspeakers that deliver sound customized for one’s own hearing loss. View a demonstration here.

2. How many hearing aids have a telecoil for receiving hearing loop input?

Hearing Review (April, 2008) reported almost two-thirds of hearing aids sold now include a telecoil, up from 37 percent in 2001.  In its 2009 reviews of hearing aid models, the Hearing Review Products showed that most hearing aids—including all 35 in-the-ear models—now come with telecoils, as do newer cochlear implants.

3. Can hearing loops serve those without telecoils or without hearing aids?

Yes, all forms of assistive listening, including hearing loops, come with portable receivers and headsets (though most of these type units go unused).

4. What does a hearing loop cost?

Costs range from $100 to $300 for self-installed home TV room loops up to several thousand dollars for professional installation in an average-sized auditorium or worship space. Most churches can install a hearing loop for little or no more than the cost of one pair of high end hearing aids, though a large facility with embedded metal will be more expensive.

This is the emblem displayed at locations which have a hearing loop installed:


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