As an audiologist for close to 27 years in a small private practice, I think I've stumbled on what will finally make many of my patients happy. I have been in houses of worship and other public places where, although I have normal hearing, it was difficult to hear. That made me think about my patients: If I could barely hear, how would they fare? I know that few of them speak up, pick up an assistive device, or move closer. More often they will complain about their hearing aid (to me!) and just sit there or stop attending these events.
The seminars I've given at churches and senior centers did little to increase use of FM assistive devices, and advocating for neckloop purchases rarely turned them into believers in FM technology. I have tied myself in pretzels trying to get them to advocate for themselves. That is, until I heard Dr. Dave Myers speak at a meeting about his success in looping Western Michigan.
Hearing loops turn any telecoil-equipped hearing instrument into a speaker for the PA system. This simple, unsexy, low-tech t-coil turns your hearing aid into a personalized listening device that significantly and effortlessly improves the signal-to-noise ratio—that elusive goal we all are looking for when we fit directional-microphone instruments.
As audiologists, we also know that the small SNR improvements these D-microphones provide rarely satisfy the needs of the patient, who, besides having a hearing deficit, frequently has auditory processing challenges and therefore needs an SNR improvement not possible with an ear-level device, no matter what its level of technology. This is a physics problem, not a hearing aid problem.
Enter the hearing loop, also known as “Wi-Fi for hearing aids.” It circumvents the physics problem. It does for hearing aids what no other assistive device can: Make our patients hear better in situations where heretofore they could not. It is truly the missing link in our practice. Hearing loops use the t-coil, which is present in 60% of all hearing aids sold in the U.S. and in over 90% of high-power instruments. The t-coil is low cost, low in power consumption, and, best of all, easy to use.
As audiologists, we need to advocate for our patients. Our advocacy will help them hear so much better. I will even go as far as to say that, under some circumstances, persons using the loop will hear better than the persons sitting beside them.
Advocating for hearing loop technology is easy. You start with your own waiting room: Install a small loop driver and start demonstrating it. Contact a reputable professional audio company and explain that you would like to work with them in bringing this technology to area churches. Donate a hearing loop driver/amplifier to your own church, community theater, or seniors meeting room to get it going. And start giving speeches to service clubs or retirement centers. Trust me, hearing is believing!
Collectively supporting “hearing loop initiatives” in our local communities will result, sooner rather than later, in a “Looped America,” as Dr. Dave Myers has written in the Sept./Oct. 2008 Hearing Loss Magazine.
No technology now or in the near future can do what induction hearing loop technology can do today! Our advocacy will let America know we truly “Care for America's Hearing” and we will benefit with increased acceptance and use of hearing aids.
Juliette Sterkens, AuD
Fox Valley Hearing Center, Inc Oshkosh, WI
Hear the proof!
To hear just how powerful a loop system can be, go to thehearingjournal.com and click on Podcasts. There, Dr. Sterkens's recording made in a church dramatically demonstrates how much clearer speech is in the loop than out of the loop.