in St. Louis, Missouri
If you use hearing aids to treat your hearing loss, you’re well aware of the significant benefits they bring. Modern hearing aids use super-fast algorithms to analyze and process audio information from your environments and deliver clear, natural sound. Many hearing aids offer features to discern between background noise and help you focus on the sounds you want to hear.
That being said, there are spaces where you may need a little bit of help. Large, cavernous spaces, such as auditoriums, houses of worship, theaters, public transportation hubs, etc. pose difficulties when it comes to easy listening. 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. Here, we take a look at how hearing loops work and where you can find them in St. Louis.
What is a Hearing Loop?
A hearing loop system, also known as an induction loop system, consists of several different parts. In the above diagram from Listen Technologies, audio from a PA system or microphone (1) is fed through an induction loop driver (2). The induction loop driver feeds into the loop (3), which creates an electromagnetic field (4) into the looped space. The telecoil (6) inside of the hearing aid (5) picks up this sound and delivers a clear, crisp sound directly to the wearer’s ears, without the distraction of external noises.
Does My Hearing Aid Have a Telecoil?
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, such as an infrared or FM ALDs. If you are unsure of whether your hearing aid has a T-coil, please contact us at Greentree Audiology.
How Do I Connect to a Hearing Loop System?
It’s as simple as flipping a switch! If you see the above symbol in a public venue, this means a hearing loop is available for use with hearing aids equipped with T-coils. Simply switch your hearing aid to the T-coil function.
The small coil, built into your hearing aid, works like an antenna and automatically picks up magnetic signals from the hearing loop system. These magnetic signals will convert to sound that will stream automatically to your ears from your hearing aids. Again, if you are unsure of whether your hearing aid has a T-coil or have questions on how to activate your T-coil, please contact us at Greentree Audiology.
For people who don’t wear hearing aids, sounds from hearing loops are also accessible through the use of neck loops or hand-held devices. If you don’t use hearing aids but could use an extra boost, ask a customer service representative to borrow an amplification device to connect to the hearing loop.
Where Do I Find Hearing Loops?
Though hearing loops are a miraculous invention, they are only slowly gaining traction in the US as an assistive listening option. In fact, hearing loops have gained popularity in recent years due to efforts by travelers with hearing loss who have experienced the benefits of hearing loops abroad. If you’re a frequent traveler, you may find hearing loop systems in places such as Westminster Abbey in London and the Opera House in Sydney.
In a New York Times article from 2011, Dr. David G. Myers, a professor in Michigan, says: “It’s the equivalent of a wheelchair ramp for people who used to be socially isolated because of their hearing loss. I used to detest my hearing aids, but now that they serve this second purpose, I love the way they’ve enriched my life.”
According to the Times, “After his first encounter with a hearing loop at an abbey in Scotland, where he was shocked to suddenly be able to understand every word of a service, Dr. Myers installed a loop in his own home and successfully campaigned to have loops installed at hundreds of places in Michigan, including the Grand Rapids airport and the basketball arena at Michigan State University.”
Similarly, Richard Einhorn, a composer in New York, “found himself frustrated by the sound quality, static and interference” of headsets at musicals and operas. When he finally connected to a hearing loop for the musical Wicked, he recalls: “For the first time since I lost most of my hearing, live music was perfectly clear, perfectly clean and incredibly rich.”
A Push for More Hearing Loops in St. Louis
Currently, hearing looped venues are rare in St. Louis; most of them are found at 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 website, 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.”
Since the publication of Dr. Valente’s piece, a few venues now offer hearing loops in St. Louis, MO.
Where to Find Hearing Loops in St. Louis
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 one of these spaces to try out this remarkable assistive listening option.
At St. Louis’s Repertory Theater, The Browning Mainstage is equipped with a hearing loop. From their site:
The Browning Mainstage is equipped with an Assistive Listening System. Headsets, available free of charge, may be picked up at the Patron Services Desk at the Loretto-Hilton Center staring 30 minutes prior to the performance. A driver’s license or another official form of identification is required to obtain a receiver.
Using FM sound waves these unobtrusive receivers with surround earphones amplify the spoken dialogue and singing in a production.
The surround earphone does not require the removal of hearing aids. If your hearing aid is equipped with a “T” switch or has a telecoil setting, there are a limited number of induction loops available or you may bring your own.
Learn more here: http://www.repstl.org/visit/accessibility
Mustard Seed Theatre
A hearing loop can be found at Fontbonne University’s Theatre, home of Mustard Seed Theatre. From their site: The assistive listening technology will allow patrons with varying audio deficiencies to better hear the productions. Generously sponsored by the Fontbonne Community Connection and Loop the Lou, Mustard Seed and Fontbonne can continue to uphold their missions by making theatre more accessible to everyone in our community.
Learn more here: http://www.mustardseedtheatre.com/about/hearing-loop-technology/
Two churches in St. Louis offer hearing loop technology: The Church of St. Michael and St. George (6345 Wydown Blvd.) and the Union Avenue Christian Church (733 Union Blvd.).
Anne Reed, a parishioner at the Church of St. Michael and St. George testifies on the benefits of hearing loops: “It is said when only one loses something is it truly appreciated. This I can affirm as the case with hearing. I lost my hearing very suddenly about five years ago… I joined the company of those wearing hearing devices which got me through the day but not without challenges and complications. I became aware of sounds I’d never heard before, yet was unable to filter out the unwanted sound… [With hearing loops] this pairing of technology bridges the space between the listener and the sound source, directly connecting the two, and eliminating the background noise.” Listen to the rest of her positive feedback on hearing loops here: https://www.csmsg.org/about-us/hearing-loop-information/
If you find the experience of hearing loops useful, consider joining the movement to push for more hearing loops in the St. Louis area. 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. Any public space that has difficult acoustics could benefit from the installation of a hearing loop system. If you are a frequent patron of a business or venue, you might ask them to consider installing a hearing loop system as an assistive listening option.
Greentree Hearing & Audiology
At Greentree Hearing & Audiology, we offer comprehensive hearing health services and are here to help you hear your best. If you’ve experienced changes in your hearing abilities or have been struggling with sounds and speech, contact us today for a hearing test. We can pair you with a solution that meets your hearing needs and get you on the road to better hearing!