I believe that together we can forge a change in how America does hearing access.Image

It has taken me four years in Oshkosh and the Fox Valley but it is changing – I am proud to say. Hearing loops are now appearing in a variety of locales thanks to the support of the users, their family members, audiologists and hearing aid providers, AV engineers (who have stopped installing what is easy and what they know – FM technology – and are doing what is most likely to be used,  for many reasons,  by people with hearing loss) and ministers and venue operators who are finding out how pleased their patrons are with hearing loops.

Two stories I would like to share: 

Recently, while traveling as the HLAA Hearing Loop Advocate, I received an email from my business partner audiologist back in Oshkosh: One of our patients, a n experienced hearing aid  user told her that he found out while attending a funeral, that the loop at St. Andrew was not working. Could my husband Max (who installed over 50 loops in the area before he stopped due to my advocacy work) investigate further when we would be back in town?    I emailed her back: The loop at St. Andrew’s is not working because they don’t have one installed yet! 

The second story happened last November. While sitting in a church waiting for a community event to begin, I overheard a woman wearing hearing instruments tell her companion, who also was sporting hearing aids, say: “Be sure to turn your telecoils on before the program begins”.

That tells me that two things are happening in Oshkosh that may be unique to our nation: Hearing aid users are starting to expect that a hearing loop is provided in facilities and churches and the telecoil is becoming a part of the hearing instrument user’s vocabulary. I would have never guessed this when I started my advocacy.

Some new clients don’t know the telecoil or T-coil by name but come into our office referred by friends or ministers asking for that hearing aid that lets users hear in church. Ministers have thanked me for educating them about hearing loops and hearing aids. They now feel better equipped to advise their parishioners when they get complaints about intelligibility in church. There is also a greater awareness about the importance of using a microphone during all aspects of the service.  

Improving hearing access requires a comprehensive approach:  All those involved need to be educated:

  1. The hearing aid users and their partners and family members need to fully understand that wearing hearing aids with microphones on the ears will not restore hearing back to normal regardless of what the advertising in the newspaper leads them to believe and they need educated in the telecoil feature of their instruments.

2. The audiologists and hearing aid provides need to be educated that regardless of what they are being told by the hearing aid manufacturers’ reps hearing aids ALONE are not enough and that in order for their clients to utilize ALDs they need a properly installed and programmed telecoil.  

3. The venues operators of theaters and meeting rooms and the ministers need to be educated what constitutes effective hearing access and work towards implementing it with the proper sound mix. They also need to demand IEC standard meeting loop installs by well-trained AV engineers.

4. AV engineers need to undergo the training to do IEC standard meeting hearing loop installations and do a proper test PRIOR to a loop installation. They need to be able to demonstrate that the loop they installed meets the standard.