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Aloud and clear

ALTERNATIVES TO LOOPS
All of which suggests that a hearing loop may not always be the best option for a space. There are alternatives.

Infrared systems use invisible light to project sound via an IR transmitter. Receivers then convert the light back into audio, giving listeners with or without hearing aids clear sound. These work well in theatre auditoriums or conference spaces, but have a particular advantage where confidentiality may be an issue and sound needs to be contained – courtrooms, for example, or meeting rooms where the spillage of sound into neighbouring spaces has to be avoided.


Assistive technology should be integrated from the outset, so loop cabling can be buried into concrete floors or laid before flooring goes down

Radio frequency systems wirelessly transmit sound sources across large areas. Unaffected by a building’s structure or fittings, RF systems can broadcast to multiple receivers simultaneously, making them perfect for conferences, exhibitions and museums. The transmitters can be rack-mounted or portable, so speakers who like to move while they talk can do so easily.

A specialist installer will have the knowledge and experience necessary to specify the most appropriate system. It’s easy to install an off-the-shelf solution, but without expert assistance there is no guarantee it will work in the space or for the intended purpose. There is no such thing as a standard installation, because every space is different – a specialist installer will always advise a bespoke solution. The specialist will, for example, factor in not only the structure and fittings of a room but also its size, to make sure a loop driver or transmitter has enough power to generate the signal. A site survey and specialist installation should be incorporated early into the project management schedule and budget. This will prevent costly redesigns further down the line.

Hearing loop cabling is chased into the brickwork at Grade II listed Chester station. The listening area is positioned near seating and within view of the information boards, with clear instructions telling users where to stand

IMPORTANCE OF SIGNAGE
Installations have no value if potential users are unaware of them, or don’t know where to sit or stand in order to use them. This means signage is essential. People can be reluctant to disclose their hearing loss, or they may not view it as a disability. By clearly indicating that a hearing loop or similar system is available, it allows them to access the technology with discretion. Systems are developed to international standards, so businesses that welcome visitors or staff from overseas can be confident their hearing aids will be compatible.

Following installation, systems need regular testing to make sure they are working properly, as users won’t always mention that something is wrong. Employees can carry out regular basic testing, and some systems incorporate a remote monitoring system that alerts the installers to problems.

Problems should, however, be few if a well-designed and appropriate system has been selected. This will benefit employee welfare and productivity and visitors are offered a welcoming and inclusive space, all of which results in a positive outcome for the business.

HOW HEARING LOOPS WORK

Copper wire is placed beneath the flooring around the perimeter of a space, or in a series of loops across a larger area. Sound from a microphone or PA system is converted into a magnetic signal by an amplifier. The loop transmits this signal to a wearer’s hearing aid, which converts it back to sound using its built-in magnetic coupler or ‘T-coil’.

 

Hearing loops have a broad application:

⇒ Large-area loops for places of worship, conference rooms or airport terminals
⇒ Short-range or ‘one to one’ hearing loops at till points and service desks, or integrated into speech transfer systems at secure windows.

About Sarah OBeirne

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