Meandering Through the Hearing World

Hearing Loops and Assistive Devices

I learned a lot about assistive devices and hearing loops while listening to Dr. Juliette Sterkens’s lecture on the topic. Dr. Sterkens has an audiology practice in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and is a recognized advocate for hearing loops. It is clear that she works hard to ease the hearing burden of those of us suffering from hearing loss

 

Dr. Sterkens started her lecture by saying what we all know, hearing aids and cochlear implants do not restore us to normal hearing. She explained that hearing loss is a spectrum disorder. Individuals with hearing loss can have a number of psychological issues, socializing issues, and relationship problems. To complicate matters, every individual suffering from hearing loss hears differently. There is no one best treatment for hearing loss. Each patient has to be assessed individually. 

 

However, in her years of practice, Dr. Sterkens finds that most with hearing loss have effective ranges, that is, the ability to hear as one moves away from sound. The microphones on implants and aids have limited ranges. Usually one cannot be more than two feet away from the sound they are trying to hear. If there is background noise that range might be further diminished. Even if you are close to the source of the sound, many with severe and profound hearing losses have difficulty processing what is being said, particularly in challenging hearing environments.

 

Dr. Sterkens recommends peripheral devices and hearing loops to compensate. Most aids and implants have either a remote microphone or Roger’s Pen that can be purchased. These devices work from a Bluetooth connection, which brings sound directly into one’s hearing devices. My mini mic has helped me to hear in background noise and when conversing with someone wearing a mask. 

 

Apps such as Otter, Live Captions, or AVA, which work like closed captioning, can greatly aid conversation for those with hearing loss.

 

FM and RF systems, which are often used in classrooms. Hearing aids and implants have to be infrared abled in order for these systems to work. Most aids and implants have this capability. Should you choose to use this kind of system, you will need the help of your audiologist to adjust the settings on your aids and implants.

 

Hearing loops, another type of assistive hearing system, are like having another pair of ears. Rooms, concert halls, theaters, public buildings, and other venues that are looped have a system of wires placed in a square around the room or around the perimeter of the building.  Once you connect to the loop, usually through a setting on your hearing devices or through an app on your phone, you can hear music or what is being said sans background noise. Most implants have t-coils. That is not the case for hearing aids. It is an important feature to ask about when you are purchasing aids. 

 

Venues usually advertise their loops with a sign or announcement. If you don’t see anything displayed, ask. More and more churches, libraries, theaters, and concert halls are installing loops. The church where I attend is large and only certain areas are looped so when I go to a service, I have to seek those areas out.

 

Dr. Sterkens estimates there are 3 to 5 million loops worldwide. More needs to be done to loop public buildings in the United States. She suggested visiting the websites of Time2loopAmerica.com, completehearingsolutions.org and LoopFlorida.com. She feels people with hearing loss are the best advocates for loops. She recommends that we request the installation of loops in the public buildings we frequent. 

 

I am a fan of loops and chose to have one installed in my family room where my television resides. Now when I watch my favorite streaming series, I can hear every word of the actors and actresses and at times, I can forego captioning, a tribute to this technology. I also find that home-installed loops are cost effective. As most of us know that the TV adapters sold by implant and hearing aid companies, only work with a specific aid or implant. Each time you change hearing aids or implants, even within the same manufacturer, you have to purchase new peripherals. A hearing loop will work with any aid or implant as long as it has a t-coil. 

 

For further information or questions about hearing loops and assistive devices, Dr. Sterkens left her email, jsterkens@hearingloss.org.  

 

I am always filled with hope of better hearing as I learn more about available technology. I am willing to try anything that will make my meanderings through the hearing world easier.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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