Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Need for Increased Use of Hearing Loops in Public Spaces

Hearing Loop Symbol
International Symbol for Hearing Loop

The need for increased awareness and use of Induction Hearing Loops has been highlighted in a recent report pointing at the slow adoption of this useful and relatively low cost technology, particularly in the US.
As we live longer lives surrounded by the sounds of traffic, construction and loud music in public, the rate of hearing loss in the general population has steadily risen, with more and more people using small discrete hearing aids to assist them on a day to day basis. A Hearing Aid is a device which typically fits in or behind the wearer's ear, and is designed to amplify sound. 

One of the problems reported by Hearing Aid users is that in noisy, open or public spaces all of the ambient noise is amplified, and therefore it is difficult to focus on particular sounds, like the sound of someone speaking, public announcements etc.  The technology is an Induction-Loop System (known as a Hearing Loop), whereby electromagnetic waves produced by a microphone, public address system or telephone receiver induce a current in the loop. The loop can broadcast the signals directly to a hearing aid equipped with an appropriate detector—specifically, a tiny copper telecoil wire, which picks up the signal (also via induction) and then sends it for amplification and transmission out of the earpiece.
Audio Induction Loops or telecoils have been described as “Wi Fi for Hearing Aids in that they  allow audio sources to be wirelessly broadcast to a hearing aid, which makes it easier for  the wearer to filter out background noise. They can be used with telephones, FM systems (with neck loops), and induction loop systems (also called "hearing loops") that transmit sound to hearing aids from public address systems and TVs.

In order for a Hearing Aid user to avail of a hearing loop in a building or public space, their Hearing Aid must be fitted with a T-Switch or must be programmed to be compatible with such loop systems.  Following the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act in the UK, every public building, wherever it is reasonable to do so, must fit a Hearing Loop in order to make their activities accessible for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities.
It is clear however, that the need for similar work elsewhere in the world is now more important than ever.  This has been highlighted by the recent “Get in the Hearing Loop” campaign by the American Academy of Audiologists.

For Qatar, there appears to be much work to be done, ensuring firstly that people who are hard of hearing know about and understand the benefits of Hearing Aids and secondly increasing the awareness amongst those responsible for buildings and public spaces, that providing a Hearing Loop can make all the difference in ensuring a more inclusive society for the country.

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