I sat on my couch, astounded by the quality of the sound streaming into my ears. I could hear the network newscaster, announcing current events, crisply and clearly. I closed my eyes, realizing that I was understanding every word he was saying without having to view closed captions. I looked over at my husband, and with tears streaming from my eyes, I told him that I had not watched a television program without captioning since its inception in the 1980s. This dramatic change in my ability to hear television came after a hearing loop was installed in my family room.

Hearing loops have been around since 1937 but were not widely used until about twenty years ago. Loops emit a magnetic wireless signal which is picked up by the tele coil or t-coil in an aid or implant. To install a loop, wire must be placed around a room or public gathering place in a perfect square on the floor, around the ceiling or in an attic. Visible wiring can be pushed under carpeting or baseboards. Once the loop is established, an amplifier picks up output signals from a microphone, or a building’s sound system. At home, amplifiers receive signals from the audio output of your television or computer.

In the United States, one can find loops in churches, concert halls, and theaters. In Europe, they are common in airports, train and bus stations, and in most public venues. The Hearing Loss Association of America and The Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA) are trying to promote the use of hearing loops in train stations, airports, and other public gathering places here in America. You can go to the websites of these organizations to find more information about their loop initiatives. The Let’s Loop America website provides a great deal of information about loops and how they help those suffering from hearing loss.

The cost of a home loop varies depending on the size of the area that you want looped. Loop kits can be purchased online, and if you’re into DYI projects, you can install your own system for an average cost of $400.00. A friend of mine self-installed his family room loop and said it took him several days to figure out the technological nuances. He described the experience as frustrating. In the end, he was successful in getting his loop up and running. If you’re not able or unwilling to put time and effort into such a project then google search local companies who provide loops for homes. The company I used gave me a free quote and a great deal of advice for the area that I wanted looped. I was comforted by the fact that the salesperson wore hearing aids and knew and understood the nuances of what I was trying to achieve.

Though some may find the cost of a home loop high, you have to keep in mind that there is no maintenance and that loops work with any hearing device with a t-coil. So when you upgrade or purchase new devices from a different manufacturer, you will never have to buy another television adapter. I’ve used adapters from various hearing aid manufacturers and have paid as much as $500.00 dollars only to find that when I upgrade I have to have a new adapter. I now know that the sound quality on my new home loop is far superior to an adapter.

Hearing loss of any kind disrupts one’s ability to enjoy all aspects of life. Hearing aids and cochlear implants do not restore normal hearing and depending on the severity of the loss, many wearers of these devices have to turn to technology to enhance their hearing, particularly when ambient noise is present. As we meander through the hearing world let us help ourselves by doing what we can to enhance our hearing capabilities.

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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