Accessibility Hearing Loops & Telecoils Hearing Technology

Hearing Loops & Telecoils

Assistive listening symbol: an outline of an ear in the middle with a slash at the top right and bottom left to indicate assistive listening. This symbol has a T which means it has a hearing loop and we can use our telecoils.
Assistive Listening Symbol with a T to indicate a hearing loop.

Hearing loops (also known as induction loops) transmit a magnetic signal to telecoils (T-coil) in hearing devices. A telecoil is a tiny coiled copper wire inside hearing aids.

Installation of a wire loop (various arrays) usually goes around the floor, and sometimes the ceiling, of a facility. Activating the T-coil in a hearing device allows the user to hear sound directly from any looped room or facility, stage, hall, playhouse, theater, conference area. The loop delivers a crisp clear sound.

Hearing loops & telecoils are NOT outdated.

Hearing loops are old technology (invented in 1937), but that doesn’t mean they are outdated. The U.S. lags far behind European, and other, countries in providing loops. They aren’t just for the Hard of Hearing (HoH), anyone can experience the clear and direct sound piped into their ears via telecoil receivers and devices.

Do you have a telecoil?

Julia: In various community gatherings, support groups, and classes, I hear knowledgeable people asking, “Do you have a T-coil?” The usual answers:

  • What is that?
  • My audiologist says only to use bluetooth, telecoils are outdated.
  • Is that my number three program for telephones?

As I write this, I wonder if I have ever heard anyone give the answer, “Yes. I use it for…”? Utah has state legislation that makes it mandatory for audiologists to talk about assistive listening systems when selling hearing aids. This includes hearing loops and telecoils. This helps patients understand what T-coils are, along with other options. When people have more questions than answers about telecoils, says something about the lack in the hearing health medical profession and patient care that currently exists.

What I have learned from HoHs who understand what telecoil function can be used for, is that they love it. It brings the sound of a room straight to your hearing aids.

Using my telecoil since the 90’s.

Chelle: I was one of the lucky ones. I had an audiologist who encouraged me to use the T-switch (telecoil) in the mid 90’s. I worked in a salon and the background noise could be horrendous, competing with the phone calls. The T-switch shutdown my environmental noise and concentrated on what came across on the phone only. Some background noise would bleed into the phone calls, but usually I could hear better.

Not too long after after I moved to Salt Lake City, our state Deaf/HoH center installed hearing loops in two meeting rooms. At long last, I was able to experience a hearing loop with my telecoil program. Hearing aid technology improved and went digital. It was no longer a T-switch but a dedicated program.

The meeting room tables all had microphones and as long as everyone talked into the microphone it was great! Hearing loops became my favorite assistive listening system. I hear much better through the loop than FM systems. For the first time in years, I did not have to concentrate so hard on lipreading. I didn’t depend totally on CART as I could look down while taking notes. (I still need captions as a backup for missed words.)

Use the ALD Locator

Here in the Salt Lake valley, we have our D/HoH center, Hale Centre Theatre and the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City. Check the ALD Locator (also lists other assistive listening systems) to find out what’s available in your city.

Audiologists will say hearing loops aren’t used anymore and talk more about Bluetooth. Bluetooth works great for personal devices but they have not come out with a public option yet. Bluetooth also drains battery power, T-coils have no extra battery drain. I encourage everyone to attend hearing loss conventions for many reasons:

  • The people who attend can become life long friends.
  • We learn a lot from each other in the workshops.
  • They provide CART/live captioning
  • They also install temporary hearing loops.

If you don’t have a telecoil in your hearing aid, you’ll miss a great hearing experience. Make sure the telecoil program is turned on in case you run across a hearing loop. It does not cost more to have a telecoil.

To be honest, my favorite time to wear hearing aids is in hearing loops. That’s when my hearing aids really come through. When I’m able to use my telecoils, I don’t have to pick up devices or worry about them being clean. That means I don’t have to return devices after the meeting or show either. I just walk in, turn on my telecoil program and I have my very own personal listening system. We put a simple hearing loop in my living room too.

Any sound aids lipreading.

Michele: Because I never benefited from hearing aids, I don’t have much experience with loops or telecoils. I always wondered if I could benefit from hearing loops in another way? Several years ago while visiting Chelle in Salt Lake, I was able to try out the looped room with headphones. The little bit of sound from the loop enhanced my lipreading skills. 

LoopBuds app turns my iPhone into a Hearing Loop Receiver

In June of 2018, I was able to try LoopBuds at the HLAA convention during a presentation by Thomas Kaufmann, the founder of OTOjOY and LoopBud inventor. I wound up buying them. The downloadable LoopBud app turns an iPhone into a loop receiver that lets you control the volume, balance, and equalizer settings. Again, the little bit of sound I get with the LoopBuds enhances my lipreading skills. I bought a second set to donate for the SayWhatClub convention silent auction. It was a hearing spouse who made the winning bid, impressed by Thomas Kaufmann’s (our keynote speaker) description of how hearing loops allow you to hear things that would normally be drowned out by background noise.

Hearing Loops in Europe

Living in Europe for almost four years (beginning in 2012) I noted the proliferation of hearing loops outside of the U.S. I’ve heard many hearing loop advocates speak about the benefits of bringing sound directly into your ears via telecoils in HAs and CIs. I’m not sure why we lag behind other nations in this area, or why audiologists often fail to inform consumers about the benefits of telecoils?

So much of what is available to the HoH community seems to be well-kept secrets and Hearing Loss LIVE! wants to help change that. If you have questions, contact us.

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If you liked this post, try Listen Tech with Listen Everywhere and Connecting with Hearing Aids & Cochlear Implants.

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