This symbol has been popping up all over Minnesota, and if you’re unfamiliar with it, you may be curious about what it means. This signage is used in places that use a hearing loop, yet the hearing loop may be just as mysterious as this symbol popping up. First, let’s take a look at what a hearing loop does and how it functions. Then, let’s consider how the law has transformed regarding these hearing loops. Finally, let’s consider some of the benefits to those with hearing aids and cochlear implants.
A hearing loop is a public assistive listening system that sends sound directly to the assistive units a person uses to hear, primarily hearing aids and cochlear implants. The loop uses telecoil technology to provide a direct feed from the speaker to the person using the aids without the interference of background noise. What makes this technology unique is that the hearing aids do not need to use microphones to capture the sound of space. Instead they receive the sonic information directly from the telecoil before projecting that sound into the ears.
Hearing Loop Laws
In 2017, the Commission of Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans (MNCDHH) lobbied for new legislation that would require all public meeting spaces in publicly funded construction projects to incorporate hearing loop technology. The bill was signed into law, making it necessary to provide hearing loops in an array of new places where they had formerly not been required.
The MNCDHH had already made strides with the acoustic properties of public schools. In 2005, they successfully lobbied school boards to improve their acoustic standards. The logic is that good acoustics benefit everyone, not only those with hearing impairment. Children are acquiring language at exactly the age when they are in school, yet the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the Acoustical Society of America have claimed that American students can only understand 75% of what is said in classrooms that have not had improvements made to its acoustic environment. These students are missing out on crucial audible information simply due to the poor design of classrooms.
Furthermore, misunderstanding sound can be a frustrating and mentally taxing experience. School is stressful enough for many students, particularly those with learning disabilities or attention disorders. Imagine the added stress of being unable to properly understand what is going on in the classroom. By working to improve the acoustic properties of school classrooms, all students receive a benefit.
Acoustic design in these spaces has two primary goals. The first is to reduce background noise, crosstalk, and the ambient noise of structures, including fans, heating vents, air conditioning, and pipes. The second goal is to reduce echoes in structures. As we know, reverberation effects can complicate and muffle the sound of voices and other important sounds, making them nearly indiscernible. by reducing ambient noise and reverberation effects, schools became better learning environments for all students.
Hearing Loop Benefits
In addition to these improvements in school settings and the mandated use of hearing loops in public meeting spaces, you might wonder just how beneficial hearing loops are for those who use hearing aids or cochlear implants. The answer is that they are quite beneficial!
Users are able to access telecoil sound with just the push of a button. Many do not even realize that their hearing aids have this capability. Our staff at Hearing Health are here to ensure that you are familiar with the hearing aid technology available to you.
Hearing loops are available to anyone who needs assistance in a public venue – even if you don’t have hearing aids or cochlear implants. Sound from the hearing loop can also be sent to portable loop receivers with headphones. Any attendee at a public event can request to get a set of these headphones, making sound clear as a bell. Those who have hearing loss but who do not have hearing aids can use the technology in this way, as well. Imagine a noisy town hall meeting in a public building in Minnesota. If you are afraid you cannot hear well in that place, ask an official about access to the hearing loop headset. They should be able to supply the technology to anyone, making the room easier to hear.
Treat Your Hearing Loss
Do you struggle with hearing loss? Get started on your journey to better hearing health with a hearing test. Contact us at Hearing Health for more information.