You will find a listing of known public and private installations of loops in Colorado on our Loop Directory page. Loop initiatives are gearing up nationwide. Read on to find out more about induction hearing loops and how they can help those with hearing aids hear clearly in venues that typically have been difficult or impossible to understand what the speaker is saying.
It is great that churches, public buildings, schools and businesses have made themselves accessible to the visible minority of people in wheelchairs and with physical disabilities. However, there is a much larger, but invisible, disability class of those with hearing loss. In an effort to enable those with hearing loss to participate and engage in society, hearing loops are being installed nationwide to the delight of users. Hearing loss is the largest disability class in our Country and the one that we do the least to accommodate!
What is an induction loop?
aka hearing loop, audio loop, audio frequency induction loop-system (AFILS)
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Induction loops are prominent in Europe and awareness in the U.S. is on the rise. An induction loop is very simply a “loop” of wire plugged into an amplifier to create a magnetic loop. This magnetic signal is then sent to the T-coil in a hearing aid for clear sound without interference.
There are currently three wireless technologies: 1) Infrared, 2) FM and 3) Audio Induction Loop. Infrared and FM systems have limits due to varying frequencies and require a “receiver” such as a headset or neck loop. Induction loops are very simple and consist of three basic parts – an amplifier, microphone and a very thin loop wire. The loop wire is run around a room, sanctuary or auditorium, and connected to the amplifier, which is then routed to a TV, PA system, radio or microphone. Induction loops do not require any external receiving units – only a T-coil in a hearing aid. Headsets compatible with the induction loop are available to assist those without hearing aids or T-coils.
How does a hearing loop work?
The hearing loop creates a magnetic field that is picked up by the T-coil in a hearing aid and is converted to audible sound sent from the amplifier. When the T-coil is activated in the hearing aid, feedback and background noise is eliminated or greatly reduced which results in a clearer signal from the source of the sound.
What is a t-coil?
A t-coil, or telephone coil, is a small copper coil in most hearing aids that picks up a magnetic field from the loop and converts it into electrical energy. This is similar to how a microphone converts sound waves in to electrical energy. By switching the hearing aid to the “T” position, the electromagnetic field is detected. The strength of that field depends on the size of the t-coil, energy or power of the magnetic field and the relative positions of the t-coil. For telephone usage, the t-coil is best when horizontal relative to the phone receiver; however, the best reception for loops is a vertical orientation. So many audiologist set the t-coil at a 45 degree angle to work with both the telephone and induction loops. It is very important for your audiologist to take as much time programming and evaluating the t-coil as the microphone for optimal satisfaction of the user. An M/T position on the hearing aid allows the wearer to hear through the t-coil but also hear through the microphone, which is preferred by some so they can hear the person next to them or others in the room in addition to the direct signal from the loop. A manual “T” or “M/T” switch is a must to allow the user control over the programs.
Be advised that many hearing aids are fitted with a t-coil but the audiologist may not have activated the program or the volume may be set very low and need to be adjusted to hear satisfactorily through a loop. Some hearing aids that do not have a t-coil can be retro-fitted with one for $100-$300 which is money well spent to experience the clear sound through loop in your home or in public venues.
The states of Florida and Arizona have passes legislation that requires hearing professionals to inform patients about the usefulness of telecoils. Maybe more states need to get on the bandwagon since many hearing aid wearers do not know if they have a t-coil or what it does!
Where are induction hearing loops appropriate?
Anywhere that has a Sound Source
Hearing loops are appropriate for two environments: transient/short term and extended/permanent. Extended time induction hearing loops are appropriate for public venues (commercial use), such as churches, auditoriums, meeting rooms and concert halls. Loop systems are available for transient locations such as bank windows, pharmacies, post offices, hotel reception desks, airport counters, information booths, etc. Even tour buses, taxis and trains can be looped. We analyze your public venue to determine the best design for you. Then, we select from a variety of manufacturers to ensure we custom install the best solution for your venue. We can also assist you in selecting residential systems for home use in TV rooms or any room in the home. Loop systems can be used with all phones with 2.5 mm headset jacks.
Why induction hearing loops?
Induction loops improve listening clarity for those with hearing aids. The hearing aid must have a T-coil but estimates are that about 65 to 70 percent of hearing aids in use today have T-coils. However, nearly all new hearing aids available for purchase these days now have T-coils, so eventually all hearing aids will utilize the T-coil technology. Installation of induction loops is a very cost-effective way to improve communication for the hearing impaired population, while conforming to ADA guidelines.
Advantages of a loop system:
- checkBusinesses or venues that install loop systems have virtually no maintenance on the system and do not have to purchase or maintain/sanitize/repair headphones such as those used with infrared or FM systems.
- checkThere is no limit as to the number of users of the system – it is virtually unlimited.
- checkUsers do not have to “advertise” their disability by using headphones – they only have to turn on their T-coil – so there is no stigma attached to the usage of the loop system.
- checkUsers benefit from the loop technology AND their customized hearing aids for the best possible hearing experience. The loop system helps the hearing aid do its job.
- checkLoop technology uses a universal standard system any T-coil equipped instrument user can use at home in a TV room or worldwide.
- checkAll hearing aid T-coils work with all loop systems. Cochlear implants also have T-coils.
- checkListeners use hearing aids they own. Sound is optimized for their personal hearing loss and needs.
- checkImproved clarity and understanding benefits businesses and individuals.
- checkA loop system has a reasonable cost to install with minimal or no maintenance.
- checkLoop systems don’t require you to purchase, maintain, and replace portable receiving units.
- checkPortable units can be purchased for those without suitably equipped hearing aids at $145 each. We include one receiver for monitoring purposes. ADA requires headsets for 1% of seating occupancy so a 400 seat room would need 4 loop receivers.
- checkADA compliance
Our experience is that loop systems are far more likely to be used – and increasingly used – once installed.
What does a loop system cost?
Loop systems vary in cost, depending on the size and construction of the room. Small installations may cost $2,500-$4,500. Typical installation costs for larger venues such as auditoriums, senior centers, churches, etc. are typically $5,000-$35,000, but may be more depending on size and construction. A large performing arts venue may run $75,000 – $150,000. Considering the cost of a good set of hearing aids is around $6,000-$8,000, the cost of a hearing loop is quite reasonable since it serves an unlimited number of people – it is not limited by the number of headsets available.
Commercial loop installations vary from building to building, depending on construction, floor coverings, electrical interference, size, etc. A customized quote will be provided for each building and our professional installers will typically complete the installation in a couple of days. We can also provide design, equipment and detailed installation instructions for those venues outside our service area. A professional installation is a must to ensure a quality system with even sound across the room and conformance with IEC 60118-4.
How is a loop installed?
A loop system is easily installed by professionals in most venues. A test loop is run to make sure the proposed design will work before we do the permanent installation. Installations are required to meet the international standard IEC 60118-4, which defines the magnetic strength field, frequencies and measurement requirements. Installations are tested with a FSM (field strength meter) to confirm compliance.
Many times, a “loop” is described as a loop of wire around a room (perimeter loop). In fact, this is usually not the case except in small conference rooms or other small rooms. As a general rule, the optimal loop width is somewhere between 10 feet and 25 feet, although this can vary depending on construction of the floor or ceiling where the loop is to be installed.
Perimeter loops are certainly the easiest and cheapest configuration to install IF they will work. Perimeter loops can be one or two turns, with the two turn loop increasing the signal roughly 15%. In newer buildings with more metal and steel in the construction, perimeter loops are usually not acceptable, except in very small rooms.
Many typical loop designs include a figure eight or snowman, which is a continuation of the figure eight design to three or four loops. This design can be done in many churches around each pew area or in rooms where a perimeter loop does not give the signal required to meet IEC 60118-4:2006. This is all dependent on testing prior to installation.
To cover larger area, control signal spill outside of the loop, account for metal loss in the floor or ceiling or accommodate rooms where there is not fixed seating, a phased array loop design is the best overall design. Two independent loops, typically called the master and slave, are staggered over each other and are driven by separate amplifiers with a 90 degree phase shift of the input signal. The resulting signal is quite uniform in both vertical and horizontal planes, making this the best choice for many venues.
Other loop designs may include a cancellation loop at one end such as where there is a stage and spill could be an issue upon the stage for microphones or musical instruments.
How to Choose a Loop Installer:
Make sure that the loop installer you are talking with has the experience and training to properly install the loop system. The loop system must conform to the IEC 60118-4 standard noted above. The installer must provide a Certificate of Conformity indicating that the installation meets the standard. If the installer does not know what this is or does not have the equipment and meters to test the loop for compliance, a red flag should go up. Some companies that have dabbled in loops over the years still think you can run a wire around the perimeter and, if it sounds ok, then all is well. Do not let this happen to you! Check references and ask questions. A poorly installed loop system benefits no one and puts a black mark on otherwise wonderful systems! Please do your homework.
We offer your church, auditorium, corporate meeting room, bank, senior center or private venue the support you need to successfully go “live” with the hearing loop. Assist 2 Hear specializes in phased array installations for optimal user satisfaction.
- Custom design and installation to ensure you get the right product for your venue
- Signage to inform that a Hearing Loop is installed
- Plaques to commemorate the generosity of any donor(s) available upon request
- Hand outs to educate users and the general public
- Publish-ready announcements for your newsletter, church bulletin or emails
- We can help you with a news release to send to the newspaper, church magazine or blogs
- We will post your location on our website directory as being accessible for persons who use hearing aids
With each installed hearing loop system, we will be available to answer questions, offer hands-on instruction and verify that the system works to the satisfaction of the end users. The loop will be in working order as soon as installation is completed. We typically have a “shake down” time and we ask that a few known hearing aid users provide us with feedback.
Successful use of a hearing loop is a process that will require your support as well.
- Include the hearing loop logo in all your newsletters, announcements, bulletins, etc. We can provide examples.
- Prominently post the hearing loop symbol at your entrance. For this purpose we can offer laminated signs or plaques.
- Post the hearing loop logo on the venue’s website (if used).
- Mention the hearing loop availability during services or productions when you have many visitors.