Loop NM has learned that management at Providence, Rhode Island’s TF Green International Airport has recently signed a contract with Hearing Loop Systems of Holland, MI, a division of Parkway Electric and Communications, to loop the concourses and all twenty-two of the airports departure gates. They will also be installing counter loops at the airline ticket counters.
It’s anticipated that the installation will be completed sometime in the first quarter of 2024. This will be the 22nd US airport to offer this assistive listening technology to hard of hearing travelers.
Airports and Accessibility
With the typical cacophony of today’s busy airports, hearing gate changes, boarding call, pages and other announcements is problematic for many with normal hearing. For those with hearing loss it can sometimes be impossible.
Twenty-one US airports have now joined the hundreds of airports abroad that have addressed this problem with hearing loops, a technology that connects certain hearing aids , implanted devices and other types of receivers directly to the PA system. It can also eliminate a good deal of the background sounds that would otherwise make speech sound like incoherent babel to the hard of hearing.
Technically known as Audio Frequency Induction Loop Systems (AFILS), hearing loops broadcast sound as a silent, electromagnetic signal that is picked up by tiny receivers called telecoils that can be included in most hearing aids and hearing implant devices.
For devices without the telecoil receivers there are small portable receivers that contain telecoils. They, too, receive the signal from a hearing loop and stream it to hearing aids (or to earbuds) using Bluetooth. When turned on, the sound from the telecoils improves what is known as the speech to noise ratio, making it easier for telecoil users to clearly hear and understand announcements made over a public address system. Hearing loops can also be used to improve communication with personnel at information, ticket or car rental counters and similar locations in terminals.
Hearing loops are found in all of the major airports in Australia, the UK and much of Europe including all four of Moscow’s international airports, but are just establishing a presence in the US. The Gerald Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, MI was the first American airport to install the technology. Now, airports ranging from major hubs like Phoenix and Minneapolis to smaller ones such as Oshkosh, WI have followed the recommendation of the Hearing Loss Association of America to, “Get in the Hearing Loop”.
Getting in the Loop
Elsewhere in the transportation industry, the New York and San Francisco subway lines have installed hearing loops at their information/fare kiosks. The former has 1,000 new subway cars on order that feature hearing loops and the latter already has most of a planned 775 fleet of “looped” cars in service. Amtrak has ordered 83 new trains made up of about 500 passenger cars that will be “looped” and has an option on an even larger number.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey issued new disability accommodation requirements for the air, rail, ferry and bus terminal it operates that require the installation of the technology in any new or significantly upgraded terminal.
A list of known US airports featuring some form of hearing loop technology to travelers and a very partial list of known foreign terminals can be viewed or downloaded at http://www.loopnm.com/News.html.