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Life Arts    H4'ed 4/23/10

It's Time to Get in the Hearing Loop

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It's Time to Get in the Hearing Loop

** 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.

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