Approximately 20% (48 million) of American adults
have some form of hearing loss in at least one ear,
making it the most prevalent form of disability in the
United States. Despite legislation and available
technology to provide access, many individuals find
their communication needs to be misunderstood and
unaddressed. Consequently, they seriously cut back
on attendance, reducing audience size at
performances, events, meetings and religious
services throughout our community.
Most places of worship, schools, and businesses have
made themselves accessible to the visible minority of
people in wheelchairs. For less money, they can also
make themselves optimally accessible to the large,
but largely invisible number of people with hearing
loss, about 90,000 people just in Santa Barbara
county, and thus comply with the Americans with
Hearing loop systems take sound straight from the
source and deliver it right into the listener's hearing
aid without extraneous noise or blurring. To them, it
sounds like the speaker is right in their head. It turns
their hearing aids into wireless earphones that
broadcast sound customized for their hearing loss.
Hearing Loops are the only assistive listening
system to send clear, pure sound directly to
hearing aids. They are the international
standard for universal hearing access.
All the user needs to do is switch his or her hearing aid to the "T", telephone, or hearing loop program.
All but the very smallest modern hearing aids tend to be supplied with an internal t-coil. However,
may not have been enabled when the device was initially programmed. If the user is not sure whether
his or her hearing aid has a t-coil and/or does not know how to access the T program, his or her audiologist
or hearing aid specialist will be able to advise.
Yes, there are portable receivers available. They are not as convenient to use as a hearing aid with a
built-in t-coil and are not fine-tuned to suit individual patterns of hearing, but can still be helpful to people
with hearing loss who do not wish to wear hearing aids on a regular basis.
Hearing loops have almost infinite applications. They can be used in theaters, auditoriums, churches,
class rooms, at ticket counters, drive-thru windows, banks, doctor's offices, pharmacies, and even with home TVs.
The first hearing aid ever equipped with a telecoil was developed in 1936 to help with hearing on the telephone.
The first patent for an induction hearing loop was filed in 1937, but the benefits with the technology at the time
were limited. In the 1960s and 1970s, experimentation with these systems was very prevalent in Scandinavia.
Univox, one of the leading hearing loop manufacturers, was founded in 1965 and developed the first true
hearing loop amplifier in 1969. During this time, hearing loops were installed in places of worship and schools.
In 1987, Ampetronic opened their doors in the United Kingdom and developed the first phased array hearing
loop system in 1991. In the mid-2000s, further advancements were made with computer modeling of the
magnetic fields sent out by hearing loops as well as in audio processing to optimize the sound quality and
help with compensating metal loss. In 2006, the new IEC 60118-4 standard was released, which dictates the
performance standard for hearing loops to date.
In October 2013, the 3rd International Hearing Loop Conference in the United Kingdom was attended by more
than 200 industry experts. The concluding statement of the conference was that currently, no new technology
is on the horizon that is as cost-efficient and universal and creates equal access for individuals with hearing loss
with such simplicity as hearing loop technology. Per Kokholm Sorensen, Director of Research & Development for
Widex, German hearing loop engineer Hannes Seidler, psychology professor and hearing loop advocate David
Myers, as well as Cynthia Compton-Conley, former audiology professor and one of the leading authorities on
assistive listening technology in the United States, all concluded that it will be a long time before Bluetooth or
any other alternative wireless connectivity can match the virtues of hearing loops.
In the vicinity, there are over 30 hearing loops in Santa Barbara County, as well as the Rubicon Theatre, the
Ojai Playhouse and Temple Beth Torah. A comprehensive list can be found under Locations. Hearing loops are widely
accepted across the UK and Scandinavia where you can find them in virtually every place where information
is verbally communicated.