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What do Westminster Abbey, the Opera House in Sydney, Australia, and the main chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives have in common?
They all have hearing loops installed.
What is the purpose of an induction loop?
A hearing loop helps persons who use hearing aids (or implantable hearing devices) that are equipped with T-coils hear sounds from a PA system directly and clearly in the hearing aids because it reduces or cuts out background noise.
How does a loop work?
A hearing loop provides a magnetic, wireless signal that is picked up by the hearing aid when it is set to ‘T’ (Telecoil) setting. The loop system consists of a microphone to pick up the spoken word; an amplifier which processes the signal which is then sent through the final piece; and the loop cable, a wire placed around the perimeter of a room or sanctuary to act as an antenna that radiates the magnetic signal to the hearing aid.
When a hearing aid user selects the ‘T’ setting, he or she can pick up the sounds spoken into the PA system’s microphone instead of the hearing aid’s internal microphone. This results in improved speech understanding because the listener receives a clear signal without any background noise.
How are hearing loops different from hearing aids?
Digital hearing aids have significantly improved in the last decade, but they still do not restore hearing to normal. What most hearing aid users need is an improved signal to noise ratio (or SNR) of +10 or greater. This is difficult to attain in reverberant places, such as auditoriums or churches, resulting in the typical “I can hear but not understand!” complaint. Hearing aids equipped with T- coils can help reduce this problem.
When a hearing aid is set to T-coil, the instrument becomes a personalized speaker in your ear for the sounds that are picked up by the microphone of the PA system. That way sounds are heard clearly, without distortion or background noise pick-up.
Do all hearing instruments come equipped with T-coils?
Most behind the ear hearing aids, and all but the smallest of custom in-the-ear instruments, can be equipped with a T-coil. Sometimes this T-coil is installed inside your instrument but not activated. Another option is the Mic plus T-coil setting or MT. This setting lets you hear a combination of sound all around you and the hearing loop.
Do T-coils increase the cost of hearing aids, bone-anchored hearing aids, or cochlear implants?
No. Having a T-coil in a hearing aid, bone-anchored hearing aid, or cochlear implant will not increase the cost of the device at all. For example, a behind the ear hearing aid without a T-coil will be the same price as that same model with a T-coil. The only difference is that the models with the T-coils may be slightly larger. However, the benefits that come from being able to use a T-coil are worth discussing with your audiologist when selecting your equipment.
How do I know if I have a T-coil?
The T-coil program is accessed by a push button on your hearing aid or via the use of a remote control. Audiologists often recommend this T-coil setting for listening on the telephone without whistling. Sometimes the T-coil is installed but not activated. Check the instruction booklet that came with your hearing instruments.
If your instrument has a push button allowing you to access a so-called “telephone program” where the microphone is turned off and you were instructed can use it on the phone without whistling, you most probably have a T-coil.
Ask your audiologist or your hearing instrument specialist.
What is the difference between a manual and automatic T-coil?
This is a particularly important question because only manual T-coils can access sound coming from a loop. The term “manual T-coil” means that you can turn the T-coil off and on by hitting a button or using a remote. On the other hand, an automatic T-coil only turns on when it is near a strong magnet (such as when placed next to an office phone handset receiver). The problem with automatic T-coils is that the magnetic force produced by an induction loop is not strong enough to turn on the automatic T-coil. So, if you only have an automatic T-coil, you will not be able to hear the sounds coming from the induction loop. Please discuss manual T-coils with your audiologist and ask to have them included in your hearing aids or implantable devices. That way, you can successfully access sounds coming from induction loops.
What is the difference between the T and MT program?
When you switch your hearing aid to “T” setting the hearing aid’s microphone is switched off. This allows you to only hear the signal from the hearing loop or listen on the phone, while reducing background noise and eliminating feedback (whistling).
When your instrument is set to “MT” you will hear a combination of sounds around you (picked up by the microphone) and signal from the “T-coil”. This setting can be used while watching TV in your home (if equipped with a home loop) or in church as it allows you to hear the person sitting beside you and hear the signal from the hearing loop.
- The M (microphone) position is for "normal" listening, that is receiving airborne sound via the microphone built into the hearing aid.
- The T (T-coil) position is for receiving the sound via induction of the T-coil, which is built into the hearing aid.
- Eliminates hygienic concerns when wearing assistive listening devices used publicly
- The MT position, which is provided on some hearing aids, allows listening simultaneously both to airborne sound via the microphone and to inductively transmitted sound via the T-coil
What can go wrong with a T or MT setting?
The new lighting and today’s flat screen monitors rarely have an influence on induction loops. Occasionally T-coils are susceptible to interference (low pitched buzzing) around malfunctioning or older fluorescent lights, conventional CRT (non-flat screen) computer monitors, electrical wires, dimmer switches and transformers. You may need to have your hearing aid reprogrammed, which should usually take care of this issue.
Do hearing loops interfere with heart pacemakers?
Under normal circumstances, a correctly installed induction loop system does not interfere with heart pacemakers. A minimum separation distance of 2 inches (50mm) should be maintained between loop cable and pacemaker to remove any potential for interference.
How do I know if a hearing loop is installed?
As hearing loops are very new to Arkansas, we can work with you to petition to have a hearing loop installed in public or private places.
Look for the following logo to determine if a loop is present:
I checked with my audiologist, and my hearing equipment does not have a T-coil. Now what?
If you recently received your hearing aids, bone-anchored hearing aids, or cochlear implants and just now realized that you do not have T-coils in your equipment, don’t worry! There are devices that you can purchase that will allow you to still access sounds from an induction loop. For example, the Comfort Audio Duett is a handheld device that has a built-in T-coil. This device can be used with a variety of headphones to meet your listening needs (for example, earbuds that go in the ear canal versus over the ear headphones that will cover your ear and your device’s microphone). For additional troubleshooting or suggestions, please feel free to contact us. And, when you are due to upgrade your hearing equipment, please remember to discuss adding manual T-coils.