Hearing Loops and Telecoils 

Better Hearing in Noise and Over Distance

   


One way to hear important words and rich music clearly in noisy surroundings or across 
distance is to use an amplification system that supplements the hearing device. 
There are several systems to choose from, and they all require a transmitter 
and a receiver.

Each technology excels in certain applications, yet one type works well in a wide range
 of circumstances.  It is called the “Hearing Loop -- Telecoil System.”  It is easy to 
operate, produces the clearest signals, and is economical.  


If you are hard of hearing, especially if you are profoundly to severely hard of hearing, 
this system can deal better than other solutions with noisy and “distance” situations
of any scale -- from close proximity conversations like a grocery check-out terminal to huge
places of worship and stadiums such as the Michigan State football field.

Below in blue are frequently asked questions. Click on one to link directly to the answer, 
then scroll up to return to this point.  Alternatively, browse the entire page by scrolling.

What is a hearing loop?

What is a telecoil?

Why should I use a hearing-loop telecoil system?

How does it work?

How can I get started?

How do I become aware of rooms equipped with a Hearing Loop?

How do I get a hearing loop and install it?

How do I learn more about this approach?

How can I help spread the word about hearing loops and telecoils?

What to ask your provider -- i.e., your audiologist or hearing instrument specialist?



What is a Hearing Loop -- Telecoil system?

Answer: the system has a transmitter, called the Hearing Loop, and a receiver
that each listener wears -- that usually includes an internal feature of a hearing aid or other 
hearing device -- called the telecoil, or T-coil.  

What To Ask Your Provider?

Answer: Ask the following:
  • When would I use a telecoil?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Will it work in my current hearing aid?
  • How do I activate it?
  • How do I turn it on when I need it?
    

Why should I use a Hearing Loop –Telecoil system?

Answer: A wide range of applications exist, for example:
  • Watching TV

  • Listening to others in a car while driving in traffic

  • Communicating with others in a noisy restaurant

  • Conducting business at a noisy counter or bar

  • Focusing in a place of worship or meeting room of any size

  • Listening to a public meeting

  • Hearing the public address system above the crowd noise in a stadium or arena

How does it work?

Answer: several parts work together to make it work.

The transmitting component is an amplifier and peripheral wire loop.  The amp is attached to a sound source and an electrical source:

  • 1) The amp is attached directly or wirelessly to the sound source.  Often the source is a microphone placed a few inches from the speaker’s mouth. It can also be attached to the public address amplifier and/or music amplifier.
  • 2) The wire loop is a simple bell-wire that goes around the room. Or, at a minimum, the wire goes around the section of the room where the hearing-challenged audience are located.

The amplifier sends the signal over the wire loop as an electromagnetic wave, rather than a radio or infrared carrier. 

At the receiving end the person wears a hearing device with the T-coil feature in it.  The hearing device is usually the user’s hearing aid that has been programmed and then turned on. The person must be located inside the Hearing Loop’s emitting field in order to receive the crystal clear sound signal. 





Hearing Loop Applications: For small applications, the Hearing Loop amplifier is portable, about the size of a briefcase or a cable box with several wires attached.  It is easy for a layman to use it.  Its cost is from one to several hundred dollars, and there is nothing to the installation. 

For larger applications like a meeting room or conference center, the loop is a longer wire that is permanently installed around the periphery of the room or at least around the audience that need to use the system. And the amplifier used is stronger.  The amp’s power depends on the room size and other considerations. For this reason, the Hearing Loop must be designed, configured and installed by a certified installer.  Its cost is a couple thousand dollars or more, depending on the room characteristics.


What is a Telecoil?


The Telecoil, or T-Coil, is the feature installed in a user’s hearing aid or cochlear implant at time of purchase.  For certain hearing aids it can be retro-fitted at additional expense. One’s audiologist or hearing instrument specialist must then activate the T-coil before it is used.  In addition, the user must select that particular program to activate the t-coil when he or she is inside the area surrounded by the Hearing Loop.

The T-coil is a miniature spool of wire. It receives and amplifies only the sound of the Hearing Loop, so all ambient (background) noise is eliminated.  The signal is loud and clear.


When the user turns the T-coil program on in his or her hearing device, the T-coil picks up the loop transmission and delivers it through the hearing device to the user’s brain. Hearing devices include hearing aids, cochlear implants, or special ear-neckloops for those folks who have no hearing aids. For these folks, there is the option of bringing a compatible T-coil-equipped ear-neckloop with them or asking the facilities manager to borrow one for the duration of the event. These devices have a T-Coil, some electronics, and a battery in them and cost one to two hundred dollars. 




What other alternatives are there to hear in noise or over distances?


Answer: there are three other types of wireless hearing assistive technologies that compete with the Hearing Loop –T-Coil system for user preference. They are:


  • Infrared (light beam) system
  • FM (radio frequency) system
  • Bluetooth technology


Each has advantages and limitations.  In a hearing benchmark, these systems are no contest when compare to a Hearing Loop – Telecoil system.


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The remainder of this webpage is organized into a Telecoil Section and a Hearing Loop Section.

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Telecoil Section


 What other uses are there for Telecoils?

Answer: “Telecoils can improve hearing on hearing-aid compatible phones and can be used with neckloops to replace headphones. A neckloop is worn around the neck and can be plugged into other devices such as music players, smart phones, or FM and infrared receivers.  It transmits the audio signal directly into the hearing aid telecoil, bypassing the need for headphones.” (Source: “Getting in the Hearing Loop,” a brochure published by HLAA, Washington, D.C.)


Why have I not heard of a Telecoil?

Answer: There are several reasons. It depends where you live and what others have told you.  Europe and sections of the United States have been looping their rooms for years and audiologists have been fitting telecoils into hearing aids there, as well.  Delaware has a law requiring fitters to tell customers about the telecoil option.

In Fairfield County, Connecticut, about 50% of folks who own hearing aids have t-coils in them, which are used to listen in several community rooms with Hearing Loops. Other rooms are equipped with other Hearing Assistive Technologies (HAT).



How do I get a hearing device with a T-coil?

Answer: Ask your audiologist or hearing instrument specialist for a t-coil when you order a new set.  Ask him or her whether a telecoil can be retro-fitted into your current aids or cochlear implant.



Hearing Loop Section

How do I become aware of rooms equipped with a Hearing Loop?


Answer: Ask the building facility manager or look for the following signs near the entrance to meeting rooms:


.............


           

How do I get a Hearing Loop and install it?

Answer: Tap the Links page on this website, then look for suppliers and installers, or contact our chapter.  We are more than happy to help.  Remember, a successful room installation must be done by a certified Hearing Loop installer, not an electrician, telecommunication or video specialist – unless they are certified by a hearing-loop amplifier manufacturer.


How do I learn more about this approach? 

Answer: Do Google searches on this solution and read their websites; browse the National HLAA website; and talk to our chapter leaders.  Discuss options with your Hearing Instrument Specialist or Audiologist.


How can I help spread the word about hearing loops and telecoils?

Answer: Talk it up with providers, friends, social media, and facility managers where there is a need.  Become a champion for increasing their use.


In Conclusion

In many cases, hard-to-hear environments are caused by loud background noise or the extensive distance between the source of the desire sound and the listener.  There are several technology solutions that fall under the term Hearing Assistive Technologies (HAT). However, a great approach is often a “Hearing Loop – Telecoil” system.  The sound reproduction into one’s ears using such a system is outstanding at a reasonable cost --- especially for large rooms and/or noise -- both music and speech are reproduced with no interference.