Ampetronic is keen to support and work closely with relevant organisations in all countries to help them to provide all assistance possible to the hearing impaired.
One example is Holland’s Nederlandse Vereniging voor Slechthorenden (NVVS). Celebrating its centenary this year, the NVVS is a highly active organisation whose mission is to ensure that those with any kind of hearing impairment or disorder are able to play just as full a part in society as those with normal hearing.
Through the core activities of information, advocacy and support, the NVVS plays a vital role in not only supporting those with a hearing impairment, but also ensuring that, by working closely with other disability organisations, the needs of its members are helped by the provision of relevant facilities and that those facilities operate most efficiently.
It has been clearly established that induction loops are the most effective form of assistive listening system. Invented in 1938 by the London-based Multitone Electric Company, the principle of the induction loop was originally to assist hearing aid users with making telephone calls.
However, it was in the Netherlands in the 1960s that using induction loops for larger scale audio reinforcement for hearing aid users was refined into the widely recognised technology of today. Ever since then, Leon Pieters - the founder and technical director of Ampetronic - has been one of the true pioneers of induction loop technology, devising ever more sophisticated loop amplifiers, preamps and ancillary equipment to maximise the effectiveness of induction loop systems, from the simplest and smallest counter-top system to stadium-sized loops and complex low-spill arrays.
“Nowadays there are a number of different kinds of induction loop systems, including simple perimeter, 8-shape, pretzels, meander, orthogonal, low-spill, neck loop and cushion systems. They are all designed for maximum effectiveness in different situations,” says Bert de Jong, Project Manager of the NVVS Accessibility Committee, a section of the NVVS that consists of a large number of volunteer inspectors.
“In recent years, induction loops have been installed more and more in public spaces. The word public means ‘accessible to everyone’, which includes those with a hearing impairment. That is the reason why we advocate great attention being paid to the installation of induction loop systems, because if the system is to work properly it is critical to install the correct type of loop and ensure that it is designed for the unique circumstances of each location.
“It is not good enough to simply put in a perimeter or counter loop in any location, because every location is unique and these may not be the most effective solutions.”
Mr de Jong’s point is highlighted by the many different locations at which induction loops will be of benefit to the hearing impaired. For example churches, theatres, cinemas, concert venues, conference facilities, schools, colleges, places of work, museums, public transport facilities, shops, information points, town halls, bars and restaurants. All will have their own unique circumstances and layout, both of which affects the choice of the most effective kind of loop system.
In addition, the construction of buildings also has to be taken into account. Metal - for example the steel rods in reinforced concrete - has a pronounced adverse effect on the efficiency of induction loops. The effect can be minimised through careful loop design, but it again highlights the need for great care to be taken and testing done to ensure that the most effective type of loop system is commissioned.
As Mr de Jong says, “Induction loops are low-current installations and all competent electrical installation companies are able to install them. However, there is no legislation to prevent anyone at all from installing them. This means that a system can be commissioned, but in use it may be completely ineffective
“A lot of mistakes are still being made, incorrect or incomplete systems being installed. For those who need to use them, these are at best only partially useful and at worst completely useless.”
It is the responsibility of the facility that commissions the design and installation of an induction loop system to ensure that it is done to maximum effect. In Holland, the NVVS can not only check installations and recommend improvements, but it also operates a ‘secret shopper’ style scheme, in which an anonymous user checks the effectiveness of loop systems in public buildings and reports their findings.
“We recommend that clients demand from the loop installer that their system complies with ‘best use’ conditions which have been agreed beforehand,” says Bert de Jong. “As an organisation, for us the IEC/EN norm 60118-4:2006 is the minimum condition, but all circumstances unique to that installation must also be taken into account.”
Ron Vossen of Tau Audio, Ampetronic’s distributor in The Netherlands knew that it was important to work within the guidelines set down by the NVVS. “When we started working with Ampetronic, one of the first issues was to find some kind of approval from the NVVS,” he says. “We’ve always found it an open organisation willing to listen to our comments and input from the industry.”
As well as supplying equipment, Ampetronic provides unsurpassed design and testing services, which apply the company’s many years of experience to designing, the most effective kind of systems for even the most difficult locations. In addition, the company provides a range of high quality training services to ensure that local contractors are educated to the very highest level in loop design, installation and commissioning.
“In our experience, this combination means that Ampetronic loop systems are the best in their class,” says Mr de Jong.