** by Brenda Battat and Patricia Kricos
For 36 million Americans with hearing loss, communicating in public spaces can be hard. While hearing aids and cochlear implants help, there are still problems, for example, in understanding public address systems in terminals, when acoustics reverberate sound in houses of worship, and when the speaker is a long way off in auditoriums.
There is, however, an easy, cost-effective solution. A simple wire loop around an enclosed area, such as a theater or auditorium, enables people within the loop to hear clearly what is being delivered through the sound system as long as they have the necessary connector in their hearing aids a telecoil. The telecoil is a way to seamlessly connect to sound through the hearing loop without having to contend with annoying background noise and without the need to check out headsets or receivers.
The hearing loop system doubles the function of hearing aids and cochlear implants with the flip of a switch. A hearing loop transfers microphone or TV sound signals to hearing aids and cochlear implants with a built-in tiny "telecoil" receiver through magnetic energy from the wire loop around the area in which the listener is situated.
Relatively few Americans with hearing loss, however, have experienced the truly startling benefits of this technology. That's because few buildings and public spaces are "looped" in this nation. In England and much of Scandinavia, by contrast, hearing loop systems are common.
We urge city planners, builders, and architects to plan for and install hearing loops in buildings and homes to assist the growing population of those living with hearing loss.
It's not expensive. You can put one in your TV room for $100 to $300 if you do the work yourself. You can also loop your car inexpensively. Professional installation in an average-sized auditorium or worship space costs much more but most churches can install a hearing loop for the cost of one set of high-end hearing aids.
At the same time, hearing professionals must educate patients about telecoils so they can connect with available hearing loops. Three states, Arizona, Florida and New York, require them to do this. But most hard-of-hearing Americans know little or nothing about it. That's why the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and the American Academy of Audiology have launched a collaborative educational effort called "Get in the Hearing Loop."
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