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Hearing loops change public experience for hearing impaired – but are they deployed?

Getting into the hearing loop arena.  Again a chance to note -- the dramatic enhancement of sound for hearing aid wearers in a looped setting -- that is, a room enhanced with a telecoil loop transmitter -- in a public environment.  The cost, according to the writer, ranges from a few thousand dollars to $130,000 for the entire airport.The result? Transmission of announcements directly to the hearing aid’s switched-on telecoil – and both GrandRapids and Healthrow airports have these installed. Not all hearing aids have a telecoil feature – apparently audiologists aren’t required to mention them when configuring a new user’s hearing aid. For a dramatic example of the sound difference with a hearing loop enabled versus off, check out this video.

So where are hearing loops installed? This looks like amazing progress – all of these locations noted in HearingLoop.org is a nationwide advocacy group that tracks and notes, to the extent that they are told, what public venues have hearing loops. But then wait, look at their map by location – not too impressive – the entire city of Boston only has 12 churches enabled when Wikipedia lists 69 pages of churches. And when you zero in on the map, in the midst of a city with a ridiculous number of hospitals, the only looped hospital is Children’s? The Coolidge Corner Cinema? New York only has 69 hearing loop-enabled churches – in a city with least 2000 churches, 1000 synagogues and 100 mosques.    

Now how large is population of people with significant hearing impairment?  David Myers is so pleased that the hearing loop deployment in Grand Rapids matches his needs – that of an owner of a hearing aid with telecoil functionality. But there are nearly 50 million people in the US with some loss of hearing.   Apparently only 30% of those with disabling hearing loss wear hearing aids – and that’s an increase since this 2012 article.   Increasingly popular – personal sound amplification devices (PSAP) – other new devices (hearables) surfaced after this past year’s CES.

A groundswell of telecoil looping of churches, mosques. Some airports and libraries.  But every place else?  This process does not seem organized or scientific. When looking at the map – aisle 1 checkout counter in one Whole Foods store?  A movie theater in Brookline, MA?  To what degree is this process following (or attempting to follow efforts to make buildings or subways accessible?  And why isn’t this part of the code for new public building construction – like this one in NYC? Just asking.


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