This week, Dave Kemp sits down with Juliette Sterkens, AuD, and Susan Taulia, AuD, to about hearing loops. Dr. Sterkens is the HLAA National Hearing Loop Advocate and Dr. Taulia is a private practice owner in Lafayette, Indiana.
A hearing loop is a technology that wirelessly transmits audio signals directly to a hearing aid’s telecoil, providing clear and high-quality sound with low interference from background noise. It is commonly used in public places such as auditoriums, theaters, and churches to improve accessibility for people with hearing loss.
Dr. Sterkens explains that hearing loops are not just about the technology but helping patients with hearing aids who are unable to receive sound in noisy environments. Dr. Taulia talks about her experience advocating for loops in her community and hosting an event with Dr. Sterkens. The video provides an introduction to hearing loops and their many benefits for those with hearing loss.
All right, everybody,
and welcome to another episode of this Week in Hearing.
I’m very excited to be joined today by Dr.
Juliette Sterkens and Dr. Susan Taulia
So thank you to very much for joining me today.
We’re going to have a conversation all about loops.
you’re a very big proponent of looping and all things looping,
so it made a lot of sense to have you on for this discussion.
And I really appreciate that you brought Susan as well to provide
a sort of first hand experience as a clinician that is really
kind of advocating for this on behalf of her patients and
in her community. So we’re going to get into all of that.
But first, why don’t we start with some introductions?
So I’ll kick it over to you, Juliette,
a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Thanks very much, Dave, for inviting us.
And I’m Juliet Sterkens.
Moved here from the Netherlands over 40 years ago,
studied speech pathology, then switched to audiology,
owned a private practice for almost 26 years in Wisconsin.
And since 2012,
I have been the HLAA National Hearing Loop Advocate.
I get grant funding and that allows me to really focus
on assistive listening. It’s not just about loops.
I keep saying that to everybody.
It’s really about helping our patients here, everywhere,
where their hearing aids are unable to deliver.
Awesome. Well, thanks for being here and Susan.
Hi, I am Susan Taulia.
I’m an audiologist in Lafayette, Indiana.
I’m a private practice owner.
We own the Lafayette hearing center.
And I started my career in large teaching hospital
and with Ear Nose and throat clinics.
Moved around some early in my career,
have been in Indiana since 2007.
I love working with Juliette.
I always say yes every opportunity I get.
She is fabulous. And so, Dave,
thank you again for inviting both of us to spread
the word about the beauty of hearing loops.
Absolutely. Thanks for being here.
So let’s start for anybody that isn’t well informed,
either of you can take this,
but do you want to just maybe give a background on what
loops are, how they work, the science, I guess, if you will,
behind this, maybe this would be good for you to do that.
Perfect, hearing loops in its simplest form.
Broadcast audio straight from a microphone,
could be a television, could be a podium,
could be a pulpit in a church.
Wirelessly to a hearing aid.
As long as the hearing aid has a telecoil and the telecoil has
been turned on, activated by the consumer, literally, you can.
Walk into a church in an auditorium,
but also a city cab in New York City or London
or in the Underground information point.
Switch your hearing aid to telecoil and get the sound from
the announcement or the PA system wirelessly
in the hearing aid. And as such,
it provides the best sound possible with
very high signal to noise ratios,
which means that people who have trouble hearing a background
of noise usually say, I can hear every word.
It’s like the minister is sitting right next to me,
and it’s been around for 40, 50 years.
But what is new is the hearing loop standard.
in a nutshell,
hearing loop sends clear audio straight into
telecoils of hearing aids. Beautiful.
it really is a fascinating technology.
It’s a very old technology, which is neat,
we’ll overlay an image of the logo,
and it’s cool to see these.
Once you see it, you see it everywhere,
but it’s one of those things that it really does.
To your point,
I think it adds value to T coil enabled hearing aids,
ones that have the T coil, like, literally integrated into it,
as well as some non hearing aid assistive devices
that are almost standalone for this application.
So you think of older adults that might
be inclined to go to church often,
and this gives them the ability to tether right
into that sound source. So, like you said,
it’s like the minister standing beside them or the priest.
It’s really cool technology.
So I think it’s one of those things where even
as it’s been around for as long as it is,
it’s kind of a chicken and an egg thing where it’s like
you have to have the environments that
you would be going into to be looped.
And so there needs to be awareness,
there needs to be advocacy of making the argument
for why these different venues should be looped,
which is why I’m really excited, Susan, that you’re here,
because I’m curious to kind of, like,
hear about your experience.
When was the first time that this started to become something
that you felt strongly about to the point to where you wanted
to start to get involved with some of these things,
maybe outside of the clinic where you are involving yourself
in your community to have these types of environments looped?
Can you just kind of give us a background of what your
experience has kind of been like
in this realm of your profession?
Well, I’m glad you asked that, Dave.
It’s a great question.
So where I live, we 10-15 years ago,
there were no loops here at all.
And after going. To a seminar hosted by Dr.
Sterkens and another audiologist in the Chicago area.
Dr. Linda Remensteider,
the woman that started the private
practice where I now work,
and I hosted an event this has been more than
ten years ago now, at a community center.
We got some people to come.
One of the people that came to that event was
the the head bishop of the diocese,
the Catholic diocese where we live.
And in that presentation,
we had a temporary loop set up by a loop installer,
and we talked about the importance of the signal
to noise ratio, like what Juliet mentioned.
And Juliette has a wonderful presentation that she does where
she’s got all the acoustics recorded in a church with
a live microphone, and then through the loop,
where you don’t have that reverberation.
And that was a real eye opener for particularly Father Dan,
who was there at our presentation.
And he promptly went back to his diocese and got money
to get the St. Mary’s Cathedral here in Lafayette Looped.
And that was the first loop besides our waiting room
in our area. And after that, it just kind of spread,
not as fast as wildfire, but it just spread, like,
little bit by little bit by little bit.
At first it was St.
Mary’s, and that was St.
Mary’s and St. Lawrence. And then it was St.
Mary’s, St. Lawrence and the Red Room at St.
Lawrence. And then it was St.
Mary’s, St. Lawrence and St.
Bonaface And it was just like one after another after another.
Now, a lot of the Catholic churches around here are looped,
and it’s kind of you have to remember which ones aren’t,
because they mostly are.
And then the Presbyterians started looping and then
It’s just kind of, like, spread out.
And Linda and Juliette both have a saying.
They said loops beget loops.
And I think that’s very true.
And one thing that’s kind of neat now we have a list
that we try to maintain of all the loops in our area.
I’m at the point now where we’re finding out that, oh,
we didn’t know that place got looped.
And so there’s stuff that’s not on our list because nobody even
told us that it got looped because they did it on their
own. That’s awesome. Which is really great.
So do you feel that it’s really interesting how you just
described the cascading effect, loops beget loops-
I think that’s really a great way to put it.
Are you finding that the people that are really advocating
for this are the churchgoers themselves?
Is it the clergy
who are the ones that are spreading the word of, hey,
I just saw that this church was looped.
We should really be I’m assuming it’s kind of a mix,
but can you give me any sense of that?
who’s really kind of going to bat unbeknownst
to you about we need to have these things,
and we need to figure out how to raise money in order to do so.
I think this is one that both of us can probably address.
It’s a combination.
It’s a combination of patients and their loved ones saying,
Tell you how many times we’ve heard stories of
I almost stopped going to church because I couldn’t hear.
I almost canceled my theater tickets, my season tickets,
because I couldn’t hear anymore and it was not fun.
And now I can do it.
And people are excited.
It’s a combination of those people and then talking
to people who are in decision making positions.
So I call it people in power are people within for it.
You have to have those people in the mix and tied in because,
a church is a collection of people and not all,
not one person is going to make those kinds of decisions with
the church’s finances and the money and
then who’s going to do it and all of that.
So you have to have the push from people who would benefit
from it combined with people that are powerful enough
to make those decisions. Yeah.
And what I did, Dave,
for about a year and a half,
everybody who came into my office, I asked,
do you belong to a house of worship?
Do you like going to the library meetings or
do you go to the performing arts center?
And basically kept track of who went where.
And I live in a community with 75,000 people
and then surrounding communities.
Basically every time when somebody says, oh,
I belong to st. Mary’s, oh, I go to grace lutheran,
I basically put their name under the g for
grace lutheran and under the m from st.
Mary’s. So within a year I knew who went where.
And frequently our patients don’t know from
each other that they can’t hear in church.
They all sit there, they nod, they smile,
and they say amen because they know when they have to do that,
but they really aren’t hearing.
And by bringing those people together,
I was able to kind of literally get them to advocate.
I gave them tools,
but first you have to give them the experience.
So I don’t know, Susan,
if you sent lutherans to catholic churches,
but I did too, but I’m not catholic or I’m not Lutheran,
I don’t care.
in the beginning,
we would actually have a little list of like,
these are the service times,
you’re welcome to go go and experience this.
And it’s interesting,
I brought this up at the university where
I did a lecture just a couple of days ago,
and they said that’s a question we cannot ask of our patients.
So being in private practice,
maybe I have a little bit more leeway,
but I was so involved with my patients,
and so when they started coming back saying,
I can hear every word in church and say, well,
where else do you go?
Where else? Why go to the library meeting sometime?
Or go to City hall,
I don’t want to say nudge them,
but encourage them to speak up and not
keep their inability of hearing a secret.
We need to tell people or the world when
a person with hearing loss isn’t hearing.
And I know Susan has developed really cute cards that give
patients permission to complain and
then to also help spread the word.
That’s very interesting. So in my mind, there’s this piece,
right, which is, like, developing patient advocacy,
making your patients their own advocates.
And I can imagine that’s actually probably a great way to
just dramatically enhance your word
of mouth value in your marketing.
Because you imagine that as soon as people start
singing the praises of, I have this hearing aid,
or even this Amplified device that I’m using in this setting,
chances are they’re telling their friends that, too, right?
So that could be a great source of referrals, I would imagine.
And basically, when a church got looped,
I frequently got called in to do a hearing loop dedication
or a little brief presentation from the pulpit.
And then I’d say,
I’ll be here afterwards if you have any questions about your
hearing aids I’m happy to look at your hearing aid.
And basically, I would send and look at hearing aids and say,
you need to go back to your audiologist
and have the T coil activated.
So within no time in the community,
people had heard or seen me.
And that was good. Pray then.
because you have this this is one of the different pillars.
And then I think that demonstrating the value and just
being able, like you said, having people go Catholics,
go to Lutheran churches and that stuff.
But I almost think of, like and I’m curious to ask you, Susan,
in your clinic, how are you,
I would imagine are you showing off what a loop sounds like?
Do you have a small personal loop, more or less,
to demonstrate how this works for people?
We have the luxury of having a pretty wide waiting room.
And so part of it is
got kind of what I call normal clinical type of chairs that
aren’t super comfortable. I mean, they’re not uncomfortable,
but they’re not like, plush or anything.
And then we have another side of our waiting room that is
set up kind of like a living room, and that area is looped.
And we actually leave the TV volume off,
and there’s a sign under the TV that says,
if you want help hearing this TV,
ask us or put your hearing aids on loop.
And so that area is lubed.
And then we also can demonstrate other systems.
Transmit TV into their hearing game.
So it’s a very comfortable setting.
And so a lot of patients that use the T coil,
they’ll just come in and turn the TV on
and sit down and put themselves on.
You got to go look for them.
And it’s a nice way to practically show people how to
use the loop to walk them out there and say, okay,
now get your app out and put it on T coil.
And then they’re like, oh, I could hear the TV.
seeing is believing. Yeah,
that’s very interesting. Yeah, it’s hearing is believing Dave.
And they all say the same thing to their spouse.
Can you hear that? No, because they don’t have a t-coil.
And I would turn the volume very quiet on the television
so they could still hear it, but it was told very quiet.
And then I would make them switch back and forth so that
they fully understood that it’s really the loop
that’s helping them understand speech.
And that’s a great lead in to talk about TV Streamers,
because if you don’t do TV Streamers,
you’re missing this whole opportunity to get
people to hear television so much better.
I think that just the notion of being able to help
with communication across the board.
It’s positioning yourself as not just a single solution
I’m going to help tailor all aspects of your life
in any way that I possibly can to optimize it.
I think there’s tremendous opportunity there,
and I think that what you said, Susan,
setting up your waiting room in a way where you can
make it conducive to this, I think, is so powerful.
I’m sure you could attest to that,
whether it’s like proving the value of the
loop or being able to show people, like,
here’s what a TV listening device sounds like,
those kinds of things. Because to your point, Juliet, it is.
It’s like hearing is believing until you see it,
and you’re just sort of like reading the description of it.
It doesn’t click, it doesn’t register, I think,
the way that it does when you actually
get to experience it firsthand.
I think another thing that is really important for people
watching this to understand is that getting you can’t do
this as audiologists. We don’t have the background.
I mean, maybe a few of us do,
but most of us don’t have the engineering
background to do this ourselves.
You’re working, you’re doing your job every day.
You don’t have the time to go out and install loops,
for example, or things like that.
But you can empower your patients,
to empower the people in your community
to be advocates for this.
there are tons of hearing impaired people out there,
and they all need help in these big, large public environments.
And all it takes is one or two who know people,
who know people to keep them motivated to get it to happen.
We’re in Purdue University’s backyard.
And there was an architect there that.
That works at the university, but he has hearing loss.
And he’s been very instrumental in getting university
to invest in hearing loop technology.
And there are a number of buildings on campus now
that are looped and classrooms and things like that.
And they even have a few classrooms
with what they call a reverse loop,
where there are microphones that can then feed back
into the system for anybody with a hearing loss,
whether you’re the lecturer or a participant in the room.
And of course,
that really requires smart and savvy hearing loop installers.
And not just a hearing loop installer,
but somebody who fully understands audio and knows how
to tap into the audio signal and whether a loop needs
to be fed with a handheld microphone, wireless,
or whether perhaps it can be done with microphones
hanging from the ceiling in a classroom.
So this segues nicely into kind of the
last big section I wanted to discuss,
which is if I’m putting myself in the shoes of a provider that
is listening to this and they’re really excited about it all,
that the question is sort of like, where do you start,
in a way?
And a big part of this whole thing is the loop installation.
So I’m curious from both of you,
just what can you share with either your experience, Susan,
of what you’ve gone through?
It sounds like you’ve made some great connections that are
people that are savvy and they’re good at
this kind of thing, but just like in general,
where can you turn to find
any kind of existing installation
partners or anything like that?
Because it seems like this could be kind of part of the gap is,
I believe in this. I really want this to be a big part of it,
but how do I get that theater or that church looped?
It’s a process, right?
And so what are some of the things that
I’m sure you get these questions a lot.
How can people be thinking about this
and how can you speak to that?
we’re in the Midwest,
and we’re lucky enough to have a couple of loop installers
in our area. There’s a wonderful company,
Thunderhearing, that’s based out of Wisconsin,
got a husband that went right through.
Yeah, tom and his son.
They have done a lot of the loops in this area.
And then there’s another gentleman who was
he ran an audio he runs an audio business and he went and
got specialized training from Contacta and has
done a lot of the loops in our area as well.
so, developing that relationship,
if you don’t have if you go to the manufacturer’s websites and
they don’t have anybody in your area listed as a contact person,
you might be able to foster a relationship with
somebody that it is really those audio,
the people that do audio in your area and talk to them and.
And see if you can get them interested in getting
some training to add this to what they do.
I was lucky enough that I had an engineer husband who said,
honey, if you let me retire, I’ll become the loop installer.
But it quickly dawned on us that we were not going
to loop Wisconsin. Right. It was its physical work.
It means installing the wire.
It’s ceilings in basements, crawling over floors.
The wire has to be installed where it must be
in order to create a strong magnetic field.
And these installers need to be trained.
This is not just, let’s put in plug in an FM system,
plug and play. In the Midwest,
there’s some really great installers,
and the first place to look would be hearing
loop.org under the word vendors.
So if you Google hearingloop.org and vendors,
there’s a number of vendors that pop up.
There’s another website called Time 2 Loop America.
Time number 2, loop America.
He also has a list of vendors.
And then frequently I get emails from audiologists.
There’s a church or there is a theater that’s getting
ready to remodel. Now is the time to put in a loop.
And that’s kind of when I jump into gear,
because there are loop installers who will literally
travel hundreds of miles to loop installations.
They’re efficient, they know what they can do,
and they can do it in a very short time.
And every hearing loop that has to be installed needs to a site
visit. You cannot just look at a picture and go, oh, yeah,
we can put a loop in this place because it really depends on
the amount of metal in the building, the size of the venue,
and the difficulty hiding the wire in effect.
So if there’s a beautiful Torazo floor,
it’s going to be a lot trickier than if there is a dropped
ceiling where the wire can be hidden in the dropped ceiling.
So this installer needs to come do a measurement,
verify that it can be done the way he envisions it can be done.
And that’s when you will end up with a quote.
Some of my patients literally stepped forward and said,
you mean a loop in my little Lutheran church cost four grand?
And I go, yeah. And they wrote out a check.
Wow. No lie.
These are the same patients who complained about the
high cost of hearing aids and they turn around.
Have you had the same thing?
frequently. Money is not the issue.
It’s they don’t know about it.
And if it’s something that will benefit the community,
people step forward.
Yeah, 100%. Is that you’ve gone through the same thing?
Susan oh, yeah.
I’m just thinking of my patient.
that paid to loop his own church,
and then some of his other people that
went to his church have come to us.
Do I have the T coil?
Can you turn it on your hearing aids?
It just feeds on itself.
And then of course,
it helps if you have connections with the newspaper.
We have a church lady who writes a column every Sunday,
and basically I would feed her information,
information in the beginning, every six months.
Now it’s been every couple of years.
We just looped 500 churches in Wisconsin.
So it’s a huge mile marker, over 850 venues.
Lot of libraries. There’s grant funding available for libraries.
Community foundations are frequently very
interested in learning about hearing loops.
Schools have ADA funding that they can
at least contribute to the cost of a loop.
But it means that you need patients who will praise loops
and announce that there’s or the venue
announces that there’s a loop.
And that brings me to that last point that we already talked
about before we went on the air, and that’s Google Maps, right?
It’s kind of the missing link.
How do you know where there is a hearing loop and there’s
a committee, the HLAA get in the Hearing Loop committee,
And we are working with Google Maps to map every
hearing loop in this country on Google Maps.
So you need your phone app.
You Google a name under the term about.
You can then see whether a venue has a loop.
You can also write a review if you’ve used a
loop and you can also make a comment.
This place would really benefit from a hearing loop.
And there’s all kinds of tools on HLAA’s website
if you Google Get in the hearing loop,
githl toolkit for audiologists who are watching this,
there things you can share with your patients,
lots of information, and it can sound all very overwhelming.
This doesn’t happen overnight.
And I know that there’s discussion about new technology
coming around the corner. Bluetooth LE Audio.
It’s very promising. I’ve heard it at a conference in Budapest.
But it means every hearing aid, every smartphone,
every smart TV,
every silent TV at an airport is going to have to
be equipped with this Auracast technology.
It’s going to take time, and in the meantime,
our patients deserve to hear now, today.
I think it’s something that’s cause to be excited about on
the horizon. And in the interim, I think that there’s.
A lot that you can do.
I mean, I’ve learned a lot today just talking with YouTube.
I’ve kind of known about loops,
but I didn’t know the ins and the outs of it like this.
And it’s really good to know about these different resources
that you mentioned about where you can find a
local vendor that could do the loop installation.
I think the Google Maps piece integrating that is huge.
More visibility into this. Very cool.
So just find this to be
I think, as Susan can attest here, it’s just a great way to,
really enhance the overall perception that your patients in
the broader community has about the hearing healthcare
professional and the role that they play is not just
a place that you go to get fit with hearing aids,
but it’s much more than that.
This is a place that can and a professional that can really
enhance all of these different parts of your life
and these things that really matter to you.
I think that, as we’ve discussed today,
some of the different scenarios that mean a lot to people.
You don’t have to give up your season tickets at the theater.
You don’t have to stop going to church.
Those things can actually really be made.
You can give people the gift of restoring the ability to feel
like they’re connected again to those they belong.
They belong. And I think if I can make one more plug sure.
That is that we as a hearing care provider community,
have failed their patients by not checking out assistive
listening systems every time we go to the theater.
Because if you’re going to a theater and you pick up an FM
device or an infrared device and you find
out that it’s not working, or worse,
that they’re not feeding any sound into these systems,
these systems should come equipped with neck loops.
And I’ve certainly heard of consumers that they like using
the neck loop. At the Oriental Theater in Chicago,
they have listening devices that come with neck loops.
And that can certainly work.
But you first have to educate your patients,
and we have to try these devices out to be able to give the
feedback to the venues. Like you’ve got this system,
it’s not working. If you’re looking at upgrading,
may I make a suggestion?
You put in the loop and now you’ve kind of planted a seed,
right? Yes. Well said. Susan, closing thoughts?
don’t wait. If you thought about this, get out there and do it.
No one else is going to do this in your community.
You have to do it yourself.
So waiting isn’t going to help.
Get out there.
Put together a presentation,
invite everybody in your community that you can invite,
host a meeting and get it going,
because you’re the one one is going to have to do this.
And I’m happy to share powerpoints and slides.
Do not have to reinvent the wheel if
you’re watching this presentation,
I get grant funding from
fund to help. Kind of fuel this momentum, right?
So you do not have to go at it alone.
That’s awesome. What’s the best way to contact you?
I’m at Juliet- Jsterkens@hearing loss.org
Perfect. Awesome. Well, Susan, Juliette,
thank you so much for coming on today, sharing all of this.
It’s been really enlightening, so I appreciate that.
And thanks for everybody who tuned in here to the end.
We will chat with you next time.
About the Panel
Dave Kemp is the Director of Business Development & Marketing at Oaktree Products and the Founder & Editor of Future Ear. In 2017, Dave launched his blog, FutureEar.co, where he writes about what’s happening at the intersection of voice technology, wearables and hearing healthcare. In 2019, Dave started the Future Ear Radio podcast, where he and his guests discuss emerging technology pertaining to hearing aids and consumer hearables. He has been published in the Harvard Business Review, co-authored the book, “Voice Technology in Healthcare,” writes frequently for the prominent voice technology website, Voicebot.ai, and has been featured on NPR’s Marketplace.