We need to keep everyone in the loop

Did you notice the lady signing before the REM Lee audience?

Did you notice the lady signing before the REM Lee audience during the recent all candidates forum for city council? About 500 patients are being treated for hearing loss in Terrace. Up to 30 percent of people over the age of 65 have hearing loss, according to one report.  And with the loud music young folk favour, that estimate is likely to climb as our children age.

Enter the Hearing Loop.

The hearing loop is a thin strand of copper wire radiating electromagnetic signals that can be picked up by a tiny receiver or tele-coil already built into most newer hearing aids. The wire is typically installed on the floor around the periphery of a room, under the edge of the carpet or taped or stapled to the bottom of the wall.

When the receiver is turned on, the hearing aid receives only the sounds coming directly from a microphone, not the background static and interferences that typically frustrate hearing aid wearers. The loop provides superior sound to any corner of a  hall even as one as large as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.

Installation of this large loop costs roughly $10 to $25 per seat. But this provides crystal clear listening for anyone hard of hearing wearing a modern hearing aid, seated anywhere in the room. Because there are no special headsets to borrow and wear, fellow attendees have no way to know if someone is hard of hearing.

Three personal sizes are also available. The chair loop kit provides sound to a single person sitting in a favourite chair at home. The kit comes with  pad containing the loop, which you place on your chair cushion and sit on. Once the amplifier, connector cords, and power adaptor are hooked to your TV or stereo, you have excellent listening at whatever volume you choose, without disturbing anyone else in the room.

A second small car seat loop is designed for personal use in a car. It comes with a seat loop pad similar to the chair kit, a microphone and a car power adapter. After attaching a lapel microphone to a driving companion, and plugging in the adapter to the car’s cigarette lighter socket, the hearing aid wearer is able to converse during the trip, instead of riding in silence.

The car loop is easily portable from one vehicle to another, or to farm machinery cabs. 

A room loop kit will provide quality sound to more than one telecoil user in a space of about 400 square feet. This could be a welcome addition to the common room of a seniors’ home.

The cost of these personal kits range around $300 or less, which, when you consider the isolation that comes from being unable to comfortably and clearly hear what is going on in social settings, could be money well spent. A Christmas gift to a loved one, perhaps?

In Northern Europe and the U.S. Midwest, the hearing loop has been installed in many public places including airports, basketball arenas, banks, stores, museums, subway stations, and taxicabs. New York City has installed loops at ticket windows of Yankee Stadium, the information kiosks at Ellis Island, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. Now the Big Apple is installing hearing loops at 500 subway fare booths.

At the April 26, 2011 Terrace city council meeting Devon Huning of the Northern Health audiology department gave a presentation on the hearing loop.  One councillor confessed his hearing loss gives him difficulty during council discussions.

Council asked staff to “investigate a potential hearing loop system for Council Chambers”. Northern Health now has a demo system up and running which they can soon demonstrate for city council and staff.

There’s more hearing loop information online.