Telecoils to the Rescue! (When Performers Can’t Hear)

Gael Hannan
July 4, 2017

If I didn’t already have enough reasons to love the telecoils in my hearing aid and cochlear implant – I recently discovered another one. 

Telecoil and loop systems let me hear myself!  

As a public speaker and performer, I use the amplification system provided by the venue. Often, hearing my voice as it goes out to the room, there’s an echo, environmental or audience noise that interferes with how well I hear. At hearing loss events, however, the room is usually ‘looped’ to allow people with hearing loss to hear. This audio induction loop system provides a wireless signal that is picked up by the telecoil-enabled hearing aid or cochlear implant. I can’t explain it any better than that, because I really don’t understand how it works. But it just does, OK?

Recently, I had the honor of performing my show, “Huh? Life with a Cranky Cochlea”, renamed “I’m Hearing as Hard as I Can” in Canada, at two major hearing loss conferences – the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association national event in Victoria, BC and the Hearing Loss Association of America annual convention in Salt Lake City.

For the first time, I had included piano players in my show; I mean, who wants to listen to one person blah-blah-blah-ing for an hour? Music adds emotional spirit to performances and telecoils let people enjoy, once again, what had diminished with their hearing loss.  Two fabulous musicians joined me: Patrick Godfrey in Victoria and Stu Nunnery in Salt Lake City. (Because at least 99.99999% of North Americans have never heard of me, I don’t have the star power to draw large crowds and travel with my own piano man!)


At both events, a coalition of hearing loop installers led by the amazing Richard McKinley of Contacta, looped every single meeting room, banquet and performance space. This involved hundreds of person-hours and many thousands of feet of wire and tape to create effective hearing access. When you stand or sit inside the pink or blue tape, and flick to telecoil, you’re hearing pure, quality sound in your technology. This moment of connection never fails to delight telecoil users because the strain of listening is immediately and drastically reduced. 

All performances should have a “tech run”– where the technicians make sure the sound and lighting systems are working, I try to remember my words, and the piano man makes sure the piano is in tune. With this show, Piano Guys and I also had to be able to hear ourselves and each other on stage. Professional musicians and singers rely on monitors so that they can hear themselves. Stage monitors sit on the stage facing to the performers, and singers also wear IEMs, in-ear monitors, so that they can stay on musical track, because if they can’t hear themselves, they can’t sing properly.  If you have hearing loss, you can relate to this – the better you hear yourself, the better your speech and less chance of speaking too loudly or leaving out important speech bits like the ‘s’ sounds or ends of words.

At the technical run-through in Victoria, Richard taped the headset to my face. This device was new to me; I had always worn a mike clipped to my clothing, which had the unfortunate effect of cutting out my voice whenever I turned my head while speaking. I didn’t mind the headset this time, because I no longer wear a hearing aid on that side, so the two wires weren’t competing for space, and the beige color blended in with my skin, kind of. But I did have an issue with the piece of band aid he used to secure it to my face. How can a guy who had just done a very large, detail-oriented job such as looping an entire building, be out of sticky tape? (Alas, there is no pride in this business; you go with what works.)

Then Richard said, “OK, now turn on your telecoils.”  Excuse me?! Why turn on my telecoils – I was the one doing the talking? But, a miracle!  I heard my voice clearly in my own ears, just as the audience would hear it. The stage had been separately looped and as long as I didn’t fall off the stage, my active telecoils turned my hearing technology into IEMs, freeing me up to focus on my performance rather than my voice.  

Patrick Godfrey is ‘hearing’, so he could hear me well, and a stage monitor helped him hear his own music. But in Salt Lake City, there was a different challenge: Stu Nunnery also has severe hearing loss. This is what he said on his Facebook page (edited):

Two performers with significant hearing challenges get up on a stage. There is a long script that is to be presented and followed by the musician who must hit exact cues.

At rehearsal, thing go poorly; the sound on stage does not provide enough volume or clarity for the performers to hear each other. Cues are missed and there is real concern about the evening’s show.

In the intervening hours, Contacta reset the stage with a better hearing loop configuration.

Gael and I take the stage not at all sure how we will compensate – only to discover that every word of Gael’s presentation and my responses are clear and full.

Gael is on fire. I hit the musical cues on time. The performance is a great success technically and artistically. 


Telecoils and loops keep saving the day for people with hearing loss. It just gets better and better all the time.

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  1. You just gave me an additional argument why telecoils and Audio Frequency Induction Loop Systems (“Hearing Loops”) have to stay. I am in the middle of preparing my presentation for the 4th IFHOH International Hearing Loops Conference in Berlin, Germany, October 6-8, 2017. Thank you, Gael.

  2. That is really interesting. As a piano accordian player in a band playing dance music I suffer as I have to hear both myself and the other musicians. Mostly we play with no amplification, microphones or loops, obviously that is the norm when at a small outdoor venue. What help,is there for me in this situation? I have two National Health hearing aids with telecoils .

    1. Hi John, thanks for writing. Do you mind if I forward your question to Contacta in the UK for ideas on how to solve your issue? If you could send me your email address to, I will ask them to respond to you.
      Regards, Gael Hannan

    2. John, do you mind if I forward your question to Contacta in the UK? If that’s OK, please send me your email address to Thanks, Gael

    3. John, I am going to forward your question to someone and I will get back to you.

      1. John Norfolk, please contact Contacta in the UK. Andrew Thomas has some suggestions for you.

  3. I have bluetooth hearing aids. The bluetooth (BT) streaming devices, often called things like TV streamer, etc., are simply line level input interfaces. So one of these can be plugged into a mixer and you can stream audio direct to your aids through an iPhone, or through an interface in some cases. If you have aids that have a cellphone app, that can be used to mix BT sound with sound from the hearing aid microphone. The range of the BT transmitter / streamer is good – I get about thirty feet with mine. The sound quality is very good – as good as the hearing aids can reproduce. And no noise, either. Oh, yes, and in stereo.

    Newer aids have standard high power Bluetooth, so they work just like a BT headset without the need for an interface.

    I’ve used my BT streamer live and in the studio and it works great. There is a very small lag, but it is too small to cause problems.

    1. As I understand the technology, each BT connection requires its own transmitter. Should there be a number of people requiring assistance, the mixer would need an equal number of available output ports. And, each person would be required to supply their own transmitter and “pair” with it. Hearing loops and telecoils circumvent all that. One mixer connection to the hearing loop driver seamlessly delivers sound to as many people as can be fit inside of the loop – about 12,000 at Michigan State U – with a simple “turn on the telecoil” switch!

  4. Gael, I was so worried when the new letters stopped because the last one I read was when you were trying to get used to your new implants. You said that ‘you wished you could tell the difference between a truck rumbling down the street and your husbands voice’ l (or something to that effect).
    I’m so happy and relieved they have worked out for you and we haven’t lost you and the newsletters! Congrats on what sounds like an amazing couple of events. I’m excited to follow your new found hearing journey!

  5. In a digital world, most of the modern hearing aids have wireless capability.This wireless technology allows two hearing aids to operate together as one complete system, in another phase of acting as two independent devices.telecoil is the good option and it makes them easier to use the hearing aids. thanks Gael for such words

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