The Hearing Loop: It Could Transform Your Hearing Aid

A thin strand of copper wire installed around the edge of a room has the potential to transform the lives of tens of millions of Americans who wear hearing aids, reports the New York Times.

Called the hearing loop, it can bring crystal clear hearing in public spaces (theaters, churches, museums, airports) to those with hearing aids equipped with a tele-coil. The tele-coil, or T-coil, is a tiny copper coil receiver automatically built into two-thirds of today’s hearing aids and in all cochlear implants.

The loop works by sending sound signals directly from a public address or audio system to the T-coil. The result is that hearing aid users receive only clear sounds, not the annoying background clatter and static that can be so frustrating.

This could make a huge difference for the millions of older adults with hearing problems. The National Institutes of Health estimates about  30 to 35 percent of adults between 65 and 75 have hearing loss. For those 75 and older, hearing loss affects 40 to 50 percent.

The improvement the loop brings to the quality of sound at concerts, plays, lectures, even public announcements in subways and airports, is astounding, professor David G. Myers of Hope College in Holland, Mich., told the Times.

Myers, who wears hearing aids, said he first encountered the hearing loop at a church in Scotland, where he was “shocked to be able to understand every word of a service.” He has since campaigned to have loops installed at hundreds of places in Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Airport and the Michigan State University basketball arena.

Composer Richard Einhorn, who lost much of his hearing last year when he was 57, told the newspaper he wept when he heard a musical at Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center, which has installed a loop.  “For the first time since I lost most of my hearing, live music was perfectly clear, perfectly clean and incredibly rich.”

The hearing loop has been widely adopted in Northern Europe, but is just beginning to be installed in this country. New York has installed a loop in some museums and is starting to install them in the subway system.

Hearing loops also can be installed in your home, connected to your television or music system, for example. (For more information, see HearingLoop.org.)

For those with older hearing aids without a T-coil, some devices can be retrofitted for about $250.

To learn more about the campaign to push for more loops in public areas, check out  “Get in the Hearing Loop,” co-sponsored by the Hearing Loss Association of America and the American Academy of Audiology.

Photo credit: Iowaeyeblog.com