Recently a consumer was told this facility operates an “FM loop” on FM 88.1 – this is nonsense.  There is no such a thing and as an “FM loop.” The facility either has a hearing loop (that is accessible by anyone who walks into that church with a hearing aid or cochlear implant with a T-coil or Mic+T-coil program) or the facility doesn’t.

I have seen venues that offer FM systems (systems that require the user to locate, use and return a handheld receiver, that hopefully is in working order with a good battery) add a couple of neckloops to their existing FM receivers and call it an “FM loop”.  I call them “hearing loop wannabes.”

While hearing loops need to meet the IEC 60118-4 international loop standard, the neckloops used with FM (and infra-red) systems are not required to meet any standard and thus often don’t. The good news is that work is being done to develop such a standard for neck-loops. Hearing loops installed to meet this IEC standard, ensure that that the magnetic signal is loud enough, operate over a broad frequency response (100-5000 Hz), and free of electro-magnetic interference. Users will be so pleased and often talk about ah-ma-zing clarity and fantastic understanding in IEC meeting hearing loops. Watch this video : 

When a neckloop isn’t strong enough, or lacks the dynamic range output, hard of hearing users report they cannot hear or they can only hear by draping the neckloop over their ears (see photo below right). This is because we have let audio engineers – who do not understand hearing loss, hearing aids or neck-loops, make decisions for the type of assistive listening systems that are put in facilities.neckloop

Permit me to get on my soapbox: THERE IS NO EQUIVALENCY BETWEEN A HEARING LOOP and an FM/Infra-Red/FM-Loop system. Period.  One system allows a user to walk in, sit just about anywhere and when unable to hear simply and discretely turn on a t-coil programmed for their hearing loss, on their personal device and, in some cases, use a smart app (on newer ReSound  and Widex devices) to vary the M+T mix. The other system is not directly hearing aid compatible, a hassle for the user as well as the venue operator and user unfriendly.

Audiologists and hearing care providers who get this – and speak up and educate their clients – help foster a better world for every person with hearing loss. Consumers who get this, have found out that by speaking up they can change how hearing access is done.

There are no hearing loops in your community, you say? Start by fostering one. I am happy to help you. Email me at jsterkens@hearingloss.org There were half a dozen loops in WI in 2009 and look at us now: WILoopswww.loopwisconsin.com/Images_PDF/WisconsinLoops.pdf

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