Looping the World……Where are we? – Part II

Since Hearing International began the topic of Induction Loops last week, we have had many friends new and old, make suggestions on references and introduce us to colleagues that have information on their use around the world.     As noted in last week’s post, most induction loops seem to be used in Europe, especially Scandinavia, though recently there has been a big push for their use in the US by the Hearing Loss Association of American and the American Academy of Audiology.  I have found a couple of volunteers who will help us explore their use in some specific countries, but first let’s look this week at some of the issues about these systems.

First International Conference on Use of Induction Loops

In 2009, the first International Conference on the Use of Induction Loops was held in

Wintertur, Switzerland

Winterthur, Switzerland.  Organized by the European Federation of Hard of Hearing People (EFHOH) and by induction loop manufacturers, it was attended by representatives of hard of hearing and disability organizations,induction  loop installers, hearing aid providers, the hearing aid and cochlear implant industry, manufacturers of assistive listening devices (including induction loops), as well as by individuals with hearing impairment and cochlear implant users. The 100 participants represented groups from many countries, including  Australia, Austria, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Netherlands, Russia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and USA.

Almost all the conference delegates (98%) expressed their support for induction loop technology, strongly advocating the adoption of standard compliant loop systems.  As a result of this first meeting, two major recommendations were offered:

1) Manufacturers of hearing aids and cochlear implants, physicians, audiologists, and hearing instrument specialists shall communicate the benefits of hearing aid/cochlear implant telecoil receivers for phone listening and assistive listening and educate people who are hard of hearing accordingly.

2) venues and service points where sound is broadcast shall offer assistive listening, such as induction loop systems designed to the IEC 60118-4:2006 standard, that broadcast sound directly to hearing aids and cochlear implants, enabling them to serve as customized, wireless loudspeakers (without the need for extra equipment).

Last June, the second international hearing loops conference was attended by 235 people from 11 countries in Crystal City, Virginia (Dyer, 2011; BHI, 2011).  As Schwartz (2011) reports, the conference was “sold out,” with spillover of the loops into other rooms. It was a resounding success that further refined the international specifications for these devices.

In a discussion of the use of these systems, Karg (2011) of the EFHOH who chaired the first conference, said that hearing loops can provide universal, virtually immediate, stress‐free, and high‐quality communication access for telecoil users. However, he noted, quality control is essential to ensure excellent speech intelligibility and inclusion of people with hearing loss. In several European countries, surveys of hearing loops have shown that most were non‐operational or otherwise unsatisfactory. And the conference pointed out that in the United States and in many other countries, the lack of guidance or of a code of practice for programming telecoils has resulted in many hearing aid wearers experiencing uneven results with hearing loops or not having telecoils activated within the hearing aid.

Thus, among the conference recommendations was that for people with hearing loss to receive reliable communication access from hearing loops, many system issues need to be optimized, such as the design and orientation of telecoils in hearing aids and cochlear implant processors. Also raised were such issues as dispensing practices for telecoils; how loop installers are trained; how loop systems are installed and maintained;  the management of magnetic interference; how audio is delivered to the loop system; and television compatibility issues.

Also recomended on the international level was the need for coordination and dissemination of relevant, in-depth information, best practice guidelines and other recommendations, and loop‐related resources that would be useful worldwide. To facilitate this and other procedures to foster the use of this technology, the International Federation of the Hard Of Hearing (IFHOH) could host or link to a website containing this information.  Member consumer organizations that have developed loop‐related programs would ideally share information online about these programs, particularly those using online resources, so that fellow consumer organizations can build upon their work. An IFHOH committee might evaluate similar programs, such as online tracking programs, to explore whether it is possible and advisable to develop an online tracking system that can be used by all countries. If successful, IFHOH could then encourage all its member organizations to use this system; the national organizations would then communicate to local affiliates how to implement the tracking program on a local level. (The actual data about the local loop installations would be managed by the local or national consumer organization; the operator of the international website would merely provide links to the national organizations.)

Development of Induction Loop use in the United States

The push to use induction loops in the US is fueled by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. This Act requires all public facilities to provide assistive listening systems to allow communication access for patrons with hearing loss. To establish appropriate guidelines, the ADA used an advisory panel to make recommendations for the most effective means of increasing accessibility for patrons with hearing loss.

According to Blaha (2004) the recommendations submitted by the advisory panel on assistive listening systems in 1999, indicated that of the three major assistive technologies–FM, infrared, and induction loops–induction loop systems were seen as the least practical. Induction loop systems are most effective when coupled directly to a personal hearing aid through the telecoil feature. The advisory committee reported that only “30% of modern hearing aids in the United States include a telecoil” and it saw a “trend towards smaller and smaller hearing aids” that would not accommodate a telecoil.

However, Blaha’s personal communications with the researchers on the advisory panel revealed that these statements were not based on research data but were “educated guesses” based on annual hearing aid market reports published in trade journals.  She felt that a more accurate way to estimate of the number of telecoils sold in the United States market was to survey six major hearing aid manufacturers on their sales of hearing aids with telecoils. Data from the survey indicated that 48% of hearing aids sold in 2002 contained a telecoil. Sales trends for each hearing aid style were also analyzed; they indicated that, while smaller styles were gaining popularity, larger hearing aid styles still accounted for 65% of the market’s sales.  At Hearing Internationalwe suspect that the dramatic increase in BTE sales in the US since 2002 by all manufacturers may have changed this figure significantly and facilitated the use of properly

mapped induction loops built to the proper international standard.

Significant Places in the World that are Looped

At the 2nd conference in Crystal City, Virginia, Mulvaney et al. (2011) presented a slide presentation with many of the significant buildings and business that have been looped as part of the international effort. Check them out; the list is very impressive.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/20594488/FreeInternationalLoopPresentation.pptx

Next week at Hearing International we’ll have a guest editor on induction loops and their use in the Netherlands, Bert deJong.  Join us for an interesting presentation of how the Netherlands has incorprated these systems nationally. – RMT

 

References:

Ampetronic (2011). The first world hearing loops conference reveals global support for induction loop technology.  Retrieved December 7, 2011:  http://www.ampetronic.com/write/news/First-World-Hearing-Loops-Conference-Reveals-Global-Support-for-Induction-Loop-Technology.asp

Better Hearing Institute (BHI) (2011). Hearing loop conference.  Retrieved December 7, 2011:  http://www.betterhearing.org/blog/post.cfm/hearing-loop-conference

Blaha, R., (2004).  Hearing aid telecoils:  current numbers in the us market.  Masters thesis, Ohio State University, Department of Speech and Hearing Science, Columbus, Ohio.  Retrieved December 7, 2011:  http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi/Blaha%20Rebecca.pdf?osu1129571996

Dyer, C. (2011).  The 2nd international international induction loop conference.  Retrieved December 7, 2011: http://cindydyer.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/hlaa-hearing-loop-conference.pdf

Hearing Loss Assocition of America (HLAA) (2011).  2011 loop presentations.  Retrieved December 7, 2011:  http://www.hearingloss.org/content/2011loop-presentations

Mulvaney, D, Vickery, R, Mahoney, D., Myers, D., Sandlin, R. (2011).  Slide presentation on looped sites around the world.  Retrieved December 7, 2011:  http://dl.dropbox.com/u/20594488/FreeInternationalLoopPresentation.pptx

Schwartz, D. (2011).  Wired to fail:  The second international loop conference.  Retrieved December 7, 2011:  http://thehearingblog.com/archives/category/induction-hearing-loops

 

 

 

 

About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor is a board certified audiologist with 45 years of clinical practice in audiology. He is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager, and author. He has 45 years experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in various university audiology programs.