There seems to be several areas of agreement among the various sources, associations, and manufacturers on induction loop systems. One is that there are no reliable statistics on how many of these systems are in use worldwide. Another is that most of the world does not use these systems efficiently. There is also a consensus that the fastest growing market is the United States, but the most efficient use of loops is in Europe. To carry our discussion of induction loops one step further, this week Hearing International has a special guest author to give us a glimpse at how these systems are used in Europe. Our guest is Bert de Jong of the Hearing Loss Association of the Netherlands (aka NVVS). As Chair of the Accessibility Committee, Mr. de Jong has specific knowledge of how induction loops are used in his country. It is an informative snapshot of how these systems are employed in Europe and particularly in the Netherlands. – RMT
Induction Loop Basics
Who Applied an Induction System for the First Time?
The first hearing aid with a T-coil was manufactured by Multitone Electric Co. Ltd. of London in 1938. It was a vacuum tube model VPM and it was meant to make phone calls. The T position of a hearing aid is the abbreviation T for Telephone magnetic coil. The former patent for hearing with an induction loop system was granted to Joseph Paliakoff of Great Britain 1937.
In 1962, members of the Hearing Loss Association of the Netherlands, specifically in the region of Amsterdam, had difficulty understanding each other on the phone. They tried to find a solution. Member Andreae, head teacher at the Prof. H. Burgerschool for hard-of-hearing children, asked for help from his friend Van Oostrum, a technical engineer at the National Aviation Laboratory. Andreae and Van Oostrum worked with radio technicians Sunter and Baks to do thorough research, cooperating with other members, including an ear-nose-throat specialist, a hearing aid specialist, and other experts, to arrive at a magnetic solution.
This solution was a coil able to receive an electronic sound signal to be spread through a room by cable, since 40% of the hearing aids included this coil. Thus their idea of an induction loop system was born: Connect sounds to an amplifier, send this signal through a loop along the floor or ceiling, and instruct the hard-of-hearing person to put their hearing aid into the T position.
The First Induction Loop System in the Netherlands
Early on the Amsterdam members of the Hearing Loss Association were very proud to show a mobile induction loop amplifier to other members. They asked the manager of the City Theatre (pictured) to install the system. Ever since, the Amsterdam group has actively promoted the use of this system. As of 2011, Amsterdam has over 500 buildings equipped with induction loops. In 1982 the task of promoting these systems was taken on by the Accessibility Committee (the former National Technical Committee). The Accessibility Committee is a unique corps of well-trained volunteers working all over Holland for the installation of induction loop systems. The committee also offers expert advice as well as checks and controls the installation of induction loop systems. Thanks to its work, thousands of public buildings in the Netherlands now have properly functioning induction loop systems.
The Importance of the Installation
The induction system is part of a low-current installation. All reputable installation companies can install them. The person who will use the system or offer it to their clients in their business can demand that the installation comply with minimum specifications, such as IEC/EN norm 60118-4. There are various specifications, depending upon the intended use of the system. The choice of the amplifier depends on the technical specifications given by the manufacturer. The expertise involved in installation is critical and a properly installed system is given a stamp of approval by NVVS, certifying that it was installed according to the international norm, IEC 60118-4:2006. It is very important to have a properly functioning system system as an improper installation makes speech barely understandable. A lot of mistakes are made in these installations, so the Hearing Loss Association of the Netherlands provides inexpensive inspections of installations to ensure that the system works flawlessly.
What are the most common complaints?
Even though induction loop systems are widely accepted, they still receive a lot of criticism. Critics are usually concerned about the following:
- The induction loop system is not functioning correctly
- The volume is set too low.
- The hearing impaired clients or customers don’t realize it is available
- The hearing aid does not have a T-coil.
Are the Systems Installed Properly and Where are they Used?
Most of the induction loop systems that the The Hearing Loss Association of the Netherlands (aka NVVS) inspects have been installed correctly. While the first installation in the Netherlands was conducted in a theater, currently theater technicians are not in favor of induction loops due to spillover. In theaters and other situations where spillover is an issue, infrared (IR) and radio frequency systems (FM) are preferred.
Is it Important to Make an Induction Loop System Visible?
Yes. The international Induction Loop Signage (ILS) poster should be displayed at the front entrance of a building.
Who Can Use The System?
There is always a choice between a hearing aid with or without a T-coil. If the market does not ask, the industry will always sell a device with a T-coil included. In the Netherlands, 90% of behind-the-ear hearing aids have telecoils. Other models such as in-the-ear, canal, and completely-in-the-canal devices may be too small for telecoils. The users of the system are often irritated, as there is no explanation that the system is available and they may not know how to use these systems.
What About Insurance Companies?
Insurance companies in the Netherlands will compensate a hearing-impaired person for a simple systemat loops a small-room, FM, or infrared system if they have a hearing loss of at least 40 dB in the low frequencies or an average loss in the high frequencies of at least 50 dB or more in the better ear. For the user to obtain insurance reimbursement, a prescription from a specialist is necessary. Maximum compensation for any of these systems is € 150.00 depending upon the insurance carrier.
• 1.5 million Dutchman are hearing-impaired, more than 10% of the population
• 650,000 use hearing aids
• 750,000 people who need hearing aids do not have them
• 998 Hearing Aid Specialists
• 48 Audiological Centers
• 473 Otolaryngologists
- 80% standard BTE hearing aids possess telecoil in the general European population
- 10-15% in ITC (0% in CIC)
- 90% of hearing aids in the Netherlands have telecoils
What is the induction loop population?
- 350 installations a year of new and and replacement amplifiers are provided to 7000 churches, theaters, music halls, reception rooms
- 3000 installations have been certified by NVVS since 1986
- 300 verifications a year are provided by 10-35 inspectors
- Advice has been provided for 40 designs and installations
- The Hearing Loss Association of the Netherlands has developed a very useful online tracking and evaluation system for facilities with different kinds of assistive listening technology, including loop systems.
Guest Author Bert de Jong is a Dutch Strategic Procurement Manager and Chair of the Accessibility Committee, Hearing Loss Association of the Netherlands. His committee is responsible for promoting and maintaining AFILS in public venues. Although he is not hard of hearing, his passion for technology that provides a better quality of life to persons with hearing loss in the Netherlands has motivated him to be involved with loops for the past two decades. He is a member of the Mobility & Accessibility Advisory of The Dutch Council of the Chronically ill and the Disabled. Many thanks from Hearing International to Mr. deJong and the Hearing Loss Association of the Netherlands for their insight into how induction loop systems are used in the Netherlands and Europe.
Links to Other Programs in Europe
Hearing Loss Association of the Netherlands: www.hoorwijzer.nl
International Federation of Hard of Hearing People: www.ifhoh.org
European Federationof Hard of Hearing People: www.efhoh.org