Assistive communication technology use to be surveyed

September 11, 2023

Millions of people use it – millions more could but don’t. To find out why, through a consumer survey, the Committee for Communication Access in America (CCAA) intends to document and quantify the experience and preferences of consumers in their use of a variety of different aural and visual assistive technologies used in large public venues like theatres, places of worship, convention halls and others. In such settings, even when wearing hearing aids, hearing and understanding the spoken word can be problematic for those with a hearing disability, denying them the opportunity to fully experience and be a part of the proceedings.

Collecting and reporting on the differences in the use of the various assistive technologies available in such settings by age, degree of hearing loss, type of technology and other factors, will provide valuable information. Established and new hearing device manufacturers, hearing care professionals, architects, providers of aural rehab and other services to the hard of hearing, and the public, will benefit from the survey’s findings. Those will be made available for review or to download at the Committee’s website ( when fully compiled and analyzed.

US based hearing aid and cochlear or bone implant users, as well as hard of hearing people who have no such devices, are invited to participate in the survey. Go to this site and follow the directions.

The survey contains 30 questions and should take about 10 to 12 minutes to complete. It will run from September 11 through September 30.

About Aural Assistive Technology

Assistive Listening Systems (ALS) are the wheel chair ramps for the hearing disabled. They include FM or RF systems that use radio waves, Infrared systems using invisible light beams, and Hearing Loops that use an electromagnetic field for transmission. WiFi systems are another version of FM or RF and also use radio waves for sound transmission. They all provide users with a silent wireless connection to a facility’s sound system using earphones or neckloops connected to a receiver. They are mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in most public places of assembly served by a public address system (PA), and they must be able to connect wirelessly to hearing aids. Such systems are increasingly found in places of worship, performing arts venues, legislative chambers and other places where people gather for the purpose of hearing the proceedings. Venues that have installed systems using any of these technologies, though, report they are little used by the many people who could benefit from them.

Users with telecoil equipped hearing aids connect to an ALS by the simple touch of a button if the system is what is known as a hearing loop. The loop surrounds an assembly area and emits a silent electromagnetic signal received by tiny wire coils called telecoils in hearing aids or implant processor where it is turned back into sound. People without such hearing devices can borrow loop receivers from the venue management that contain telecoils. Earphones or earbuds plugged into the receiver are worn by the user to deliver sound. If the ALS is an FM or Infrared system, users borrow appropriate receivers with earphones or a neckloop to access the signal transmitted via radio or infrared waves. Individuals with telecoil equipped hearing aids or implants borrow the same receiver but plug a neckloop into it instead of the earbuds/phones and the neckloop transmits the sound to their telecoils electromagnetically.

WiFi Audio systems use a venue’s existing WiFi router or a second, dedicated one, to stream audio over a WiFi network directly to a user’s smartphone. The phone can then be equipped with earphones or can stream sound to Bluetooth capable hearing aids or earbuds. Mobile apps with earphones are also made available for users in order to make such a system ADA compliant. Some users have found these systems to be problematic due to latency – the echo effect of transmitted sound arriving up to 50 or more milliseconds after natural sound is heard.

Though not commonly known, Bluetooth® technology is unable to serve groups of people such as a theatre audience – it

is basically a one-to-one system. A new version called Auracast™ does have that capability but is still in the development stage and it is expected to take up to a decade before it is sufficiently developed to begin replacing existing ALS systems.

About Visual Communication Technology

CART ( Communication Access Realtime Translation) is the major visual communication technology used in large venues to give the hard of hearing access to what’s being said at the podium or onstage. Where the ADA often mandates an ALS, CART or other forms of captions are offered solely at the discretion of the presenter. Spoken words are typed into a QWERTY keyboard manually or computer generated and projected onto a reflective screen, or appear on a large TV screen. In some instances they are wirelessly transmitted to hand-held devices loaned out by the venue or on a personal smartphone using such apps as GalaPro or GoTheatrical. This is relatively new technology that’s seeing increasing use in theatres. Some of these systems’ apps will even translate the dialog into a different written language.

The Committee has retained the services of the Frost Center for Data and Research at Hope College in, Holland, MI for help with the survey design and then for provision of the data collection, its analysis, and the writing of a report of the survey findings. The professional staff of the Center hold graduate credentials in the social sciences and provide an extensive breadth of data and research experience, knowledge and skills.

CCAA member Professor David Myers, an internationally known psychologist, educator and author, said:

“As social animals—as people who need people—hearing is vital to our emotional and cognitive health. Thankfully, today’s hearing technologies can enable those of us with this great invisible disability to escape the deafness that caused Beethoven to lament living ‘like an exile’ and experiencing social encounters with ‘a hot terror.’”

About the Committee for Communication Access in America

The CCAA is an ad hoc committee of nationally known advocates for people with hearing loss who have come together to gather and then share information on the use of assistive communication technology. The members of the committee are:

  • Dr. Abram Bailey – Audiologist and founder of Hearing Tracker. Co-founder of Hear Advisor, a testing and results reporting lab for hearing aids
  • Blake Cadwell – Hard of hearing founder and CEO of Soundly, an online marketplace that streamlines searching for and comparing hearing products.
  • Dr. Carol Clifford – Nationally renowned speaker in the Hearing Industries. Now in private practice after service as university audiology clinic director, education and training director for ReSound.
  • Shari Eberts – Writer, author, advocate and founder of the Living with Hearing Loss blog. Executive producer of the We Hear You award-winning documentary film.
  • Stephen O. Frazier, Founder and Chair – Former Publicity Director at Columbia Artists Management in NY. Freelance writer and longtime advocate for hard of hearing as a hearing loss support specialist.
  • Dr. Kevin Liebe – President and CEO of HHTM. Practicing clinician with experience in ENT, hospital, private practice and industry.
  • Dr. David Myers – Professor of psychology, internationally known author, founder of Former member of the Advisory Council of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders.
  • Dr. Juliette Sterkens – Audiologist, founder of Loop Wisconsin, author and national hearing loop advocate for the Hearing Loss Association of America.

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