Hearing loops are common in public spaces as they assist people with a hearing impairment. They are however commonly misunderstood, forgotten about or even incorrectly installed. AV Unit are trained professional installers of hearing loop systems and in this article, we take a brief look at the purpose of hearing loops and the common myths and pitfalls that you need to avoid.
So, what is a hearing loop?
Hearing Loops, also known as Induction Loops, or T-loops, provide access to the facilities in public buildings by taking a sound source and transferring it directly to a hearing aid without background noise, interference or acoustic distortion. In most situations, this is done by a copper wire surrounding the area and creating a magnetic field that is picked up by the users hearing aid. Hearing aids have a ‘T’ switch that when activated will listen to the sound from the loop rather than the hearing aid’s internal microphone.
1. is it on, is it working?
Many people put in induction loops but fail to regularly test the system to check it is in working order…. cue last-minute panic!
Systems should be tested at regular intervals and before use. It’s easy enough to regularly test yours with a loop tester. These handy gadgets cost as little as £50.00, or we are currently offering these FREE with all induction loop installations. In addition, we offer training on how to operate and regularly test your system.
It is also a good idea to have a periodic test by a trained professional to ensure that background noise, frequency response and the field strength are within acceptable levels.
2. There is a standard (IEC 60118-4)
Often electricians and other contractors are asked to fit induction loops without really understanding the technology or being aware of the standard that these systems are required to meet. Check that your contractor is aware of these standards and is capable of meeting the required performance levels before allowing the commencement of any installation.
The elements that make up this performance standard are;
- Levels of magnetic background noise
- Field strength
- Frequency response
- Training, testing and maintenance
3. There has to be a sound source
A common misconception is that you can just place a loop system in the room and expect it to work without a sound source. A microphone is required to pick up the sound or the loop needs to be fed audio from another sound source such as a television or music system.
We find often that microphones have been installed in rooms in inappropriate places, for induction loops however in most cases close mic’ing is required. Close mic’ing reduces the chance of the loop system picking up background noise and unwanted speech from other conversations. By using a microphone that is close to the source of the sound, this is significantly reduced.
4. Is confidentiality an issue?
If you’re discussing sensitive material you need to consider confidentiality, a standard perimeter loop may allow people outside the room to listen in, if this is an issue you will need consider a low-spill loop or other methods to secure your communications.
5. One size doesn’t fit all
Different buildings and different interiors require different solutions, internal building materials can have a huge effect on assistive hearing systems and how well they operate. It is important to use a professional who can perform a test loop to determine metal loss, background noise levels and identify adjustments specific to your venue.
You must provide signage so that users do not have to ask whether there is a system in place, the sign must clearly indicate the location of the loop, if the area is limited a coverage plot may also be required.
7. Is it illegal not to have a hearing loop?
What are my legal obligations?
Equality Act 2010 – What this states is that service providers are required to make changes where needed, to improve the services for disabled customers, this is a legal requirement to make reasonable changes to the built environment in order to provide information in a format that everyone can access.
The Building Regulations Part M – What this regulation states is that in order to gain the full benefit of attending events and taking part in discussions, that a hearing enhancement system is to be put in place, Induction loop, infrared and radio are the three most common systems used to provide this enhanced level of sound.
BS 8300 – Code of Practice – This code of practice is about the design of buildings and the approaches required to meet the needs of disabled people, in reference to assistive hearing systems, the code states that a hearing enhancement system must be used in rooms and spaces used for “meetings, lectures, classes, performance, spectator sport or films.
If you would like any more information on hearing loop systems or would like to arrange a site visit please give our Installations Manager Darren Fynn a call on 01473 705205.