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Get Looped In

Get Looped In

One of life’s great joys is attending a live play or concert. Whether a professional performance on par with Broadway or a high school play starring your grandchild in a featured role, the arts can raise the spirit and bring the community together. However, if you’ve recently been to a live performance, you likely understand how hearing loss can interfere with this experience. Unlike seeing the latest movie at a theater where captions are available, catching all the dialog or lyrics at a play or concert can prove difficult.

For those proficient in sign language, many venues provide interpreters for events. But if that is not an option for you, perhaps your hearing aid is equipped with a T-coil that could make all the difference.

T-coil, you ask? The telecoil (or “T-Coil”) is currently available on 85% of all hearing instruments, and can be used in conjunction with a “loop.”  “Loops,”—also called inductive loops—are an accommodation many live performance venues – as well as hospitals, boarding counters at airports, libraries, and other public locations – install so people with hearing loss can have the best possible experience while using the facility. If your performance theater has a loop, activating your T-coil will allow you to have the dialog piped directly to your hearing instrument.

Proven Technology

Loops have been available for nearly 25 years and still offer the best possible experience for hearing in a live environment. A loop is just a metal loop of wire that encircles the floor of a specific area – whether it’s a theater, for example, or even space around a ticket counter. Microphones installed in the area are connected to this loop. They could be mics on a performer, or a gate agent’s lapel mic at the airport. When that person speaks into the microphone, his or her words flow to the loop. The loop broadcasts the sound through a magnetic field, accessed by anyone with an activated T-coil on their hearing instrument.

Richard Einhorne, a Grammy award winning composer, described the profound impact of the experience.

“There I was, at ‘Wicked’, weeping uncontrollably and I don’t even like musicals,” Einhorne told The New York Times. “For the first time since I lost my hearing, live music was perfectly clear, perfectly clean, and incredibly rich.”

Loops have been widely adopted in Northern Europe, and thanks to the efforts of many fans, and advocacy groups like HLAA and ASHA, they are available more and more in the U.S. In fact, a website called loopfinder.com, and its companion iPhone app, makes it easy to search for performance locations with loops installed and available for use.

What about Bluetooth?

Given Bluetooth’s prevalence in hearing aids, people often ask if Bluetooth technology may one day replace loops. It’s a fair question.

Bluetooth is really a complementary technology to loops. Sound transmitted through the loop is clearer, and free of distortion because it’s a direct, electromagnetic connection to the user, and leverages the user’s personal hearing instrument tuning.

In contrast, Bluetooth is most effective for personal electronics, such as TVs, captioned telephones, and music players. It tends to drain the hearing instrument battery much more quickly than does the T-coil, and is greatly reliant on the user being close (usually within 30 feet) of the transmitter. Sitting beyond that distance can introduce interference and noise.

The best news is that loops are not only great for the user, but they’re relatively inexpensive for a venue to install, and can be installed just about anywhere. Many banks, car rental desks, and theaters have loops, and some people even have them installed in their homes in the TV room. And, unlike the special headphones you may have tried at a venue, using your own hearing aid’s T-coil is discreet; you just turn it on, and no one is the wiser! Just make certain your audiologist has tuned your hearing aid’s T-coil prior to use.

If you’ve used loops before, how did they work out for you? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page!

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Loops lend your hearing a helping hand in venues of all sizes. In the same way, New Jersey CapTel gives your hearing a helping hand on the phone, displaying live captions of your phone conversation so you can hear and read your calls. More information here or visit us on Facebook.


Posted by NJAdmin on Mar 01, 2017