INDUCTION LOOP SYSTEMS IN ST. LOUIS
Since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), public venues are required by law to offer accessibility options for patrons with disabilities. Most venues offer an assistive listening device (ALD) option in the form of infrared or FM devices. In recent years, induction loops, or hearing loops, have gained more popularity as an ALD option for people wearing hearing aids. However, hearing loops are difficult to find in St. Louis.
What are hearing loops?
Hearing loops consist of a wire, installed into a room or space, that is connected to the PA system. This wire transmits an electromagnetic signal carrying the sound that is picked up by hearing aids, thereby delivering clear, crisp sound directly to the wearer’s ears, without the distraction of external noises. Most hearing aids come with a telecoil (T-coil), a feature which receives the electromagnetic signal directly in the wearer’s personal hearing aid. This eliminates the need for another device, as with infrared or FM ALDs, though hearing loops are also accessible by people without hearing aids (with neck loops or hand-held devices).
Where are loops helpful?
Hearing loops are perfect for spaces such as theatres, live concert venues, museums, auditoriums, and conference/convention centers, as well as public transportation hubs, banks, and pharmacies. Currently, hearing looped venues are rare in St. Louis; most of them are hearing aid centers. As such, there has been a push from the Greater St. Louis chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) to encourage businesses and public venues with hearing loops.
In their May 2015 newsletter, they write,
“Looping systems are growing in popularity, but businesses have to know there is a demand for them. When going into a business, you can ask if they are looped, or have a looping system. If they do not, or don’t even know what it is, you can tell them. You can carry information with you to hand to them. Looping can be in a building, a room, or even a floor mat you stand on, or a chair.”
Their efforts are complemented by Dr. Michael Valente from Washington University, St. Louis, who wrote a piece for Audiology Online in which he advocated for more hearing loops to be installed in the St. Louis area. He writes,
“When I started to become interested in this topic, I was curious who in the St. Louis area provided looping for our patients. I found www.loopAmerica.com. When you go to that site, you will find a map. I clicked on Missouri to find looped venues in the state. According to this Web site, the only place that did looping was all the way over toward Kansas City. There was nothing available in the St. Louis area. That was the catalyst for us here at Washington University to create and provide looping for our patients, as well as for anyone in the St. Louis area that might be interested.”
Currently, the only place with clear information about their hearing loop accessibility in St. Louis is the Repertory Theatre (http://www.repstl.org/preview2015/special/). Their main auditorium is equipped with a hearing loop. If you live in the St. Louis area, wear a hearing aid, and are curious about the experience of listening with a hearing loop, stop by to see one of their excellent performances. If you find the experience useful, consider joining the movement to push for more hearing loops in the St. Louis area.