Get in the Hearing Loop

No Time Like the Present
for Getting in the Hearing Loop

by Monique Hammond – hearing impaired author & current president of the Twin Cities Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA TC)

“Getting in the Hearing Loop” is the title of a joint public education effort between the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and the American Academy of Audiology. Audiologists and hearing instrument dispensers are the main resources for explaining the function and the advantages of hearing/induction loops and telecoils to customers as part of an inclusive aural rehabilitation program. People must be informed about their choices.

A discussion that can no longer be avoided

Now that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that induction loops meet the requirements for accommodating hearing loss, discussions about the advantages of the loop/telecoil system can no longer be avoided. I am not a lawyer but I would not be amazed if in the future non-disclosure of this technology might be construed as contributing to “limiting access.”

As the notion of induction looping is finally gaining steam across the nation, advocates push ever harder for looping, which is fast becoming an industry of its own. Yet, the excitement about “looping” threatens to eclipse the talk about T-coils that allow users to access the loops. Are those with hearing loss who are supposed to be helped by the technology being left behind?

Misunderstandings among patients are plentiful

Here are some questions and comments from a recent support meeting that featured “Looping and Telecoils” as its speaker topics. I share these in order to highlight that there is still widespread lack of knowledge and understanding among the target population.

  • Do I have Telecoils in my instruments? How can I tell?

If clients have to ask others, an important aural rehabilitation lapse has occurred. However, these were also my questions when I first came into the looped environment of my support group some years back. Obviously, I did not have any T-coils, and I did not know what they were. It is time for a change: When the blue induction-loop sign is displayed people should know if they have access to the loop or not and how to tune in.

  • Why are there no telecoils in my instruments?

In the past, the argument was that nothing was looped, and so T-coils were never even mentioned to the patient. But as Bob Dylan tells us:” The Times They are a-Changing…”

Maybe the manufacturer did not install them − but why was the client not informed about that? Maybe the hearing aids are too small or buried too deeply in the ear canal to accommodate coils. Make people aware of the access limits that ever tinier instruments impose. Does the customer fully understand the implications of sacrificing loop access? Document the discussion.

  • I have T-coils but they never work.

It turned out that this person actually tried to listen in non-looped environments. Weren’t telecoils meant to make people hear better? Yes, under certain circumstances. It is important to explain how “looping” actually works.

Also, telecoils do not work unless they are activated. In this case it turned out that they had indeed been put into service. The client did not know how or when to use them and needed a refresher course. However, the opposite is also often true: Telecoils may be manufacturer-installed but they are not activated or set.

  • My T-coils are no good. I have to move my head around to get a better reception.

For signal clarity, T-coil orientation matters and should be adapted to the situation under which the coils are mostly used. Does the client have the optimal position for tapping into the loop? However, quality of reception can also depend on the quality of the loop itself. This is why installers need to be certified and must be familiar with the international standards that apply to loop installation.

The importance of informed choice

Yes, it takes extra time to discuss, activate and tune telecoils. However, they are fast becoming quite the topic in the world of hearing loss. In the interest of customer service and trust, talk about them before patients do. People will be grateful for the information ─ I know that I would have been.

Although looping details are familiar territory to hearing specialists, they are not necessarily an easy grasp for the general public. People misunderstand and forget. Therefore, repeat the information and ask follow-up questions.

Draw up a “Loop & T-coil Talking Points” chart for education as well as for documentation. Then, if after the issues have been laid out, telecoils do not figure into their instrument decision, the hearing professional can rest easy as the clients made an informed choice.