Looping The World

For more information on audio induction loops and the opportunities available for your business, attend Ampetronics' Ken Hollands' seminar on Saturday, March 18, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at NSCA Expo 2006.

Assistive listening systems (ALS) are a category of technology dedicated to the enhancement of communication for America's hearing impaired people. Whether the ALS is infrared (IR), frequency modulated (FM), or induction loop, the basic objective is the same: to maximize signal to noise ratio and speech intelligibility by in effect, bridging the distance between the sound source and the hard of hearing listener.

While induction loops are the oldest form of wireless ALS, this technology remains viable and its applications continue to grow. The primary advantage of this technology, and the reason for its longevity, are beyond debate: all telecoil-equipped hearing aids have the capability to receive induction loop ALS transmissions without the need for special receivers and earphones. In America, almost one-half of new hearing aids are telecoil-equipped and as a result are 100 percent compatible with all induction loop ALS.

The basis of this hearing assistance technology is magnetic induction. Current flowing in one conductor induces a current in a nearby conductor. Inside an increasing number of hearing aids is a small component called the "telecoil" that enables the direct reception of electromagnetic signals. In effect, the listener receives prescription fit amplification, as opposed to a generic coupling via dedicated ALS receiver with headphones.

All telecoil-equipped hearing aid users, plus those with newer model cochlear implants or with portable loop receivers and headsets, benefit by the improved signal to noise transmission from the loop system. Because loop reception by a hearing aid is inconspicuous and hassle-free, it is much more likely to be used. In public facilities, the use of this technology creates a win-win situation for the facility as well as the hard of hearing listener: less costs for dedicated receivers, and less maintenance and replacement of old or damaged receivers.

So why has this approach not caught on? Conversations with hearing aid dispensers and professional sound system installers suggest a major misconception that loop systems are obsolete and/or difficult to implement.