Hearing loop campaign spreads and grows, as does coverage in the media

By David H. Kirkwood

In the month since Hearing News Watch reported on the giant strides being made to “loop America,” the campaign to make induction loops as routine in public venues in this country as they are in parts of Europe has picked up new momentum. As a result, more and more people with telecoil-equipped hearing aids now have the opportunity to enjoy plays, movies, concerts, sermons, lectures, and other auditory experiences that their hearing loss had previously made difficult or impossible.

As my colleague Bob Traynor reports this week in his excellent post on Hearing International, hearing loops have long been used outside the U.S.  But, as you can see from the following items, this country is beginning to catch up:


Ten theaters add devices to aid hearing-impaired

Thanks to a $72,457 grant to the Hearing Loss Association of Sarasota (HLAS), that Gulf Coast city in Florida is fast becoming one of America’s friendliest places for people with hearing loss. The gift from the William G. & Marie Selby Foundation, which was announced on November 21, will provide funding to install hearing loop systems at 11 theaters, concert halls, and other facilities in Sarasota.

Even before this, loops were already widely available in Sarasota, including at a public library, a retirement facility, two restaurants, and even at the local Whole Foods Market. In addition, many churches and other gathering places have announced plans to install the technology.

In announcing the grant, Edward Ogiba, president of HLAS, said, “We’re the only place in the country that will have the majority of its theaters looped.”

The organizations benefiting from the grant will receive money not only to loop their main hall, but also to loop a box office. The grant will also pay for portable loop receivers for people with hearing loss who do not wear aids. There will also be funding to train ushers and other staff to help hearing aid wearers take advantage of loops.


NPR tells the nation about looping

“To a regular hearing aid wearer, a church service can sound muddled because the voice of a speaker at the front reverberates and melds with ambient noise around the room. But listening to the same service with the assistance of a telecoil makes the speaker’s voice immediately intelligible without the background noise.”

So said Ashley Milne-Tyte, on a November 25 segment of All Things Considered on National Public Radio (NPR). Entitled “With the Flick of a Switch, It’s Crystal Clear to Hear,” the feature story explained, “Even if you wear a hearing aid, trying to hear in places like airports, theaters, and places of worship can be tough. But a group of advocates is changing that by putting a not-so-new technology called telecoils to work. The coils are small wires hidden inside a majority of hearing aids that, when activated, amplify sound emitting from magnetic sources, like loudspeakers.”

The NPR broadcast was the latest in a series of national media reports that are making more and more Americans aware of the potential benefit of hearing loops. As was the case if a feature story in the October 24 New York Times, NPR focused on the success that David Myers, PhD, in  Michigan; Juliette Sterkens, AuD, in Wisconsin, and Janice Schacter Lintz in New York City, have had in persuading the powers-that-be to install loop systems in dozens of facilities—from airports to churches to stores to baseball parks to subway information booths.


New Hampshire gets its first looped public facility

Thanks to the efforts of the New Hampshire Academy of Audiology (NHAA) and funding from Oticon, the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center’s planetarium in Concord became the first public facility in the state with a looping system.

Activated on November 12, the magnetic loop enables hearing aid wearers to fully enjoy the wide variety of planetarium shows that explore the universe and beyond.

Katie Harrington, AuD, president of NHAA, is one of the founders of Loop New Hampshire, a newly formed non-profit organization. Harrington, who was named Rayovac’s 2011 Hearing Professional of the Year for the Northeast, noted, “What people do not realize is that induction loops have been around for quite some time. Most people do not even realize that such a technology is available; it is the NHAA’s job to educate, inform, and empower our patients.”

More and more Americans are becoming aware of the benefits of hearing loops. Positive publicity from national media such as NPR and The New York Times, the partnership between the American Academy of Audiology and the Hearing Loss Association of America, and a growing number of individual activists like David Myers, are all helping to bring the looping movement to more and more places.