Frequently Asked Questions about Hearing Loops
Q 1. How many Americans live with hearing loss?
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, "approximately 17 percent (36 million) of American adults report some degree of hearing loss." Unlike those challenged by mobility or vision loss, people challenged by hearing loss are often an invisible and forgotten minority. About 1 in 4 -- some 8.4 million -- have hearing aids, a number that would surely increase if hearing aids could double as wireless, customized receivers of clear, comfortable sound.
Q 2. Why are hearing loops needed? Don't hearing aids enable hearing?
A hearing aid is basically a microphone, an amplifier, a battery, and a speaker. A hearing aid takes in through the microphone desired sound (a presenter's message, a performer's music, etc.) and all the other sounds in the room, amplifies them, and plays them through a speaker in the ear canal of the wearer. It's "all the other sounds in the room" -- the background noise -- that cause problems.
Today's digital hearing aids effectively enhance hearing in conversational settings. Yet for many people with hearing aids the sound becomes unclear when auditorium or TV loudspeakers are at a distance, when the context is noisy, or when room acoustics reverberate sound. A hearing loop magnetically transfers a sound signal from a microphone, TV, or other sound source directly into hearing aids or cochlear implants by way of a built-in tiny, inexpensive copper coil called a "telecoil" or "T-coil." The hearing aid amplifies the signal received by the T-coil and plays it through the speaker in the ear canal of the wearer. The wearer thereby hears the desired sound clearly and comfortably without hearing the background noise.
Q 3. How many hearing aids have a T-coil for receiving input from a hearing loop?
From its survey of hearing professionals, the Hearing Review (April 2008) reported that "Respondents said that 62% of their fittings included a telecoil, [an] increase ... from 37% in 2001." In its 2009 review of hearing aid models, the Hearing Review Products showed that most hearing aids -- including all 35 in-the-ear models -- now come with T-coils. Moreover, the greater people's need for hearing assistance, the more likely they are to have hearing aids with T-coils -- as did 84% of Hearing Loss Association of America members in a recent survey. New cochlear implants also are available with T-coils.
Q 4. Can hearing loops serve those without T-coils or without hearing aids?
Yes, portable receivers and headsets, which are required components of other forms of assistive listening, are available with T-coils for receiving a sound signal from a hearing loop.
Q 5. How much does a hearing loop system cost?
Costs range from $200 to $300 for self-installed home TV room loops up to several thousand dollars for professional installation in an average-sized auditorium or sanctuary. In most houses of worship, a hearing loop system can be installed for about the same cost as one pair of high-end hearing aids.
An auditorium installation of a hearing loop typically costs somewhat more than an assistive listening system that requires receivers and headsets to be maintained, checked out, and checked in. However, the cost per user of the hearing loop system is typically less because many more people will use the hearing loop which is hearing aid compatible. Moreover, hearing loops offer long-term savings from purchasing and maintaining batteries in fewer portable listening units than a system that requires portable units. For the user, the T-coil cost is nominal and typically does not add to the price of a hearing aid.
More FAQs will be added soon.
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