What is a Hearing Loop?
Before we dive into the pros, cons and history of hearing loops, we must have a basic understanding of what a hearing loop is.
Hearing loops, or induction sound systems, are unique sound systems used by those who have hearing aids. These systems send a wireless, magnetic signal to the hearing aid, allowing them to hear specific sounds directly in their ears.
The hearing loop has a microphone to recognise when the spoken word and an amplifier to process the signal. It then connects to the final piece, the loop cable. This is a wire placed around a building or a room to act as an antenna that radiates the magnetic signal to the hearing aid.
This is extremely helpful to hearing aid users in their day-to-day life, as it makes hearing speeches in large rooms or conversations in areas with large amounts of background noise far easier to navigate.
HOW DOES A HEARING LOOP WORK?
To understand how great of a helps a hearing loop can be for someone who uses hearing aids, we must look at each part of a hearing loop and its purpose. Here is a more detailed look at how a hearing loop operates:
AUDIO INPUT- either from an existing audio source such as a PA system or someone speaking into a microphone. These microphones could be placed on the person speaking or near them (under a desk or counter).
INDUCTION LOOP AMPLIFIER- these audio inputs feed into an induction loop amplifier.
HEARING LOOP- the induction loop amplifier drives a current into a loop or series of loop wires.
MAGNETIC FIELD- a magnetic field is created in the required area as the current flows through the loop wire. The precise loop and amplifier design ensure that the vertical component of the field is even and free from any dead or dropout zones wherever the user may be.
TELECOIL- a small copper coil called the telecoil is built into most hearing aids, some cochlear implants and some bone conductive devices and wireless hearing aid accessories. This will pick up the signal. If you are curious about the hearing care you require, visit https://hearinghealthhub.co.uk/.
HEARING DEVICE- worn by the person with hearing loss, the hearing device will convert the magnetic signal into a high-quality audio signal adjusted for the user’s hearing loss and delivers it directly into the ear of the device user.
FIXED OR PORTABLE HEARING LOOP SYSTEMS
There are two different types of systems, fixed and portable- they can benefit in different ways.
A fixed hearing loop system will be a permanent system that is put in place for hearing aid users in different areas and buildings. These require cabling and calibration and will need to be fitted on site. These can be expensive and time-consuming to provide; however, many businesses and public spaces may have them already.
A portable hearing loop is personal to the user and easy to move from one location to another when needed.
Portable desk-top loops can be used for one-to-one conversations in many public spaces such as banks, post offices and reception desks if they do not have a fixed hearing loop or if it is deemed unsuitable.
The hearing aid user and the participant in the conversation must be within a metre of the hearing loop.
This hearing loop has no wiring or setup, so it can be ready to use within seconds. Desktop loops are undoubtedly practical for hearing aid users who want to ensure a hearing loop system is in place wherever they go.
Portable room loops work on a larger scale, ensuring a temporary hearing system is in place in larger venues. The loop is typically stored in a flight case and has an amplifier. As standard, there will also be a microphone and a loop cable included.
Room loops can be tricky and time-consuming to set up, and care must be taken when fitting the cabling to avoid trip hazards.
Portable loops are often helpful for someone on the move as they cost less and are highly mobile. However, a fixed hearing loop will be far more reliable when installed and maintained correctly.
PROS AND CONS OF HEARING LOOPS
Practicalities aside, a hearing loop will ensure that anyone with a hearing impairment can enjoy the little things in life like watching the television or listening to the radio and music. It is undeniable that hearing loops will ensure that day-to-day life is easier and more enjoyable.
Hearing loops can also be set up so that all background noise is blocked out. If you are in a busy place like a shop or a church, you would have the option to tune in on the person you are conversing with. This makes focusing and understanding conversation far more convenient and far less overwhelming.
The sound is also delivered to the hearing aids or implants, meaning you will not have to wear anything around your neck. A hearing loop is discreet and practical.
However, sometimes there can be difficulties with interference and the maintenance of hearing loops. The telecoil receivers are occasionally susceptible to electromagnetic interference from electrical equipment. Care needs to be taken when installing the system to ensure that any possible interference is eliminated.
Fixed loops can often be tricky to install and impractical in some settings. Fixed loops can often be expensive and require a professional to install, so it is a big decision. However, hearing loops can change the lives of several people, so arguably, it is worth it.
Due to sound spillover, perimeter loops cannot be used simultaneously in adjacent rooms. Wires can be arranged to prevent this, but it sometimes can be a tricky problem to combat.
Overall, hearing loops are technologically advanced devices that can significantly advantage the day-to-day life of a hearing aid user or someone with a cochlear implant. Although they can sometimes be expensive, they are worth the money and make conversation and communication far more straightforward. If you have further questions about hearing loops or all things hearing-related, head to https://hearinghealthhub.co.uk/.