A Loopy Idea That Works

Sep 23, 2010

Using Telecoils to Turn Hearing Aids into Mini Loudspeakers Hearing aids equipped with induction loops can deliver sounds broadcast from microphones and PA systems directly to the ears. Advocates say it's an underutilized technology in the U.S.

Whereas standard behind- and in-the-ear hearing aids work well in relatively quiet, more intimate settings, these devices often lose their effectiveness in larger, public spaces where background noise puts the hard of hearing at a disadvantage. Although the technology to solve this problem—induction-loop systems that broadcast sound directly to hearing aids and cochlear implants—has been available for years, implementation has lagged, advocates say, because not enough is being done to promote their use.

An induction-loop system, also called a "hearing loop," captures electromagnetic waves produced by a microphone, public address system or telephone receiver and broadcasts these signals directly to the hearing aid in a person's ear, provided that it is equipped with a tiny copper telecoil wire that can pick up the signal. (Hearing loops can also broadcast signals to cochlear implants, which are surgically implanted electronic devices that bypass damaged or nonworking parts of the inner ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve.) A hearing loop could be as small as a piece of wire worn around the neck (called a neck loop) or a large as a ring of cable placed around the perimeter of a room or space.

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