Hearing Loops: What They Are And How They Work

Hearing loop technology is now being implemented in more places than ever before. This incredible re-purposing of telephone technology has allowed people to hear better inside of public spaces. Since there is a growing community that is looking to get more adaptations in place for hearing impaired individuals, this inexpensive and easily-implemented technology is looked upon rather favorably. Since there are still so many who are unfamiliar with this tech, we will take a close look at what hearing loops are, where they are implemented, and how they work.

What Is A Hearing Loop?

The term “Hearing Loop” tends to throw many people off from discovering what this technology actually consists of. The loop refers to a cable that is run throughout a room so that it can pick up and transmits electromagnetic signals. The second part of the hearing loop is a hearing aid that is fitted with technology to pick up and translate electromagnetic signals. Together, these two parts make up the hearing loop and increase the hearing abilities of people in public spaces around the world.

Where Are They Used?

Currently, there is a push to have hearing loops implemented in just about every public building that is capable of affording them. Some lawmakers are even looking at a way to get federal funding for these hearing loops because they have shown such early success. Right now, you can mainly find hearing loops in meeting rooms, conventions centers and even in some parts of public transportation. These hearing loops allow people to hear all different manner of sounds without having to worry so much about signal interference and frequencies not working properly. Overall, there is a continuing push to see more buildings outfitted with hearing loops in the near future.

How Do They Work?

The process behind a hearing loop is not terribly difficult to understand. A hearing loop uses a microphone to pick up the sound and transform it into an electromagnetic signal. This signal travels through the cable of the hearing loop, and then transmits it into the open air in the same way that a radio works. From there, the sound needs to be picked up by a telecoil, a specific receiver that was initially used as a way to boost the transmitting power of a hand held telephone.
Most modern hearing aids have a telecoil built into them in the form of a t-switch. These can be manually turned on by the hearing device’s user. After it is activated, it can receive the signals put out by the hearing loop and translate them into sound that is able to be heard without as much background noise that ambient sound holds. This allows hearing impaired individuals to listen to speakers and clients in building settings much more effectively.

The Evolution Of Hearing Aids

Hearing aids have proven themselves to be some of the very best items ever created for hearing health. They allow people to live a life that is as close to normal as possible, and have even brought hearing to people who would not have had it otherwise. Looking forward, it appears that we are going to continue to develop new and wonderful additions to hearing aid devices as technology continues to improve. Let us take a brief look at the forms of hearing aids that we would have seen in the past, so that we can better appreciate this bright future.

Ear Trumpets

The first and most primitive type of hearing aid was the hearing trumpet. These devices were used by people for at least a thousand years prior to the invention of digital hearing aids and had a very simple premise. Essentially, the listener would put a tapered piece of metal or wood in their ear and have the larger end open to the world to gather sound. This would bring more sound waves directly into the ear where it would have a better chance of being understood. The limitations to this device made it necessary to use burgeoning technology for improvements.

Vacuum Type Hearing Aids

Vacuum tube hearing aids were an invention in the middle of the 20th century. They featured a vacuum tube that would be used in conjunction with telephone technology in order to produce sound that was amplified and much more clear than before. This used a phone transmitter and receiver to pick up sound, turn it into electrical impulses, and then make it come through to the individual in a loud and concise manner. With the magnified sound, the individual could hear many more ambient noises, and came with the bonus of being portable. It also helped to convince the public at large to use technology for medical purposes for hearing loss.

Carbon Microphone Hearing Aids

While these hearing aids predated the vacuum tube hearing aids, they were still very valuable due to their integration of novel technology in their design. The hearing aids used a carbon microphone as well as a battery and magnetic receiver. When sound hit this diaphragm, it would propel the carbon across the magnetic receiver, causing sound waves to make louder noises than what was originally put out. This allowed people to listen better than before, but came with many restrictions. First, the sound quality was extremely low because of the moving carbon pieces. It was also much too bulky to be moved around the room successfully, so the user had to remain rather immobile. Yet, it was still a better option than the ear trumpet in many respects.

3D Printing Revolutionizes the Hearing Aid Market

With 35 million people in the U.S. suffering from hearing loss, many are touting the relatively new technology of 3D printing for hearing aids to be a savior of the industry. While it’s not a brand new approach, it allows for a more efficient process of making and fitting hearing aids to each person. It’s also referred to as additive manufacturing and it’s called 3D printing. This process is pretty cool and more and more people are standing up to take notice due to the customization factor. It’s called additive manufacturing because it involves adding to the finished product rather than taking away, as in the case of specialized tools like lathes. 3D printing, used in many industries such as manufacturing and art, has been utilized in the manufacture of hearing aids for several years now. It’s’ gaining momentum as a revolutionary way to construct custom hearing devices.


Did you know that 10 million 3D printed hearing devices are being used by deaf or hearing impaired individuals right now? It’s true. While you may think that science has taken over what was once considered to be an art form, you simply can’t dismiss the accuracy, speed and efficiency that this technology has afforded the hearing device industry lately. Thanks to the highly customized nature of these devices to each person’s ear, 3D printing represents a big step forward in the industry. That’s because they’re made using a process called additive manufacturing, ensuring a snugger overall fit and a higher comfort level for users. When used with 3D laser scanning, the process can incredibly take only one day – something that used to take weeks. First, an audiologist creates a digital image of the ear canal using a special laser scanner to develop what’s known as a pointcloud, then he quality checks everything. When the model is ready to be made, the printer spits out a shell or mold of the hearing aid in a resin form. Then, it’s possible to add the right acoustic vents, electronics and other components, with 150,000 points of reference created through digital cameras to apply the template to the mold. Amazingly, countless geometric patterns and combinations are put through testing prior to printing the final product. This product, which boasts efficiency and quality, features  complicated circuitry that acts as the hearing aid’s road map to project the sound.

Why 3D Printed Hearing Aids?

Thanks to the many benefits of 3D printed hearing aids, customization is at the forefront of the many benefits, which is imperative because no two ear canals are the same. As such, each and every hearing aid made in this manner is truly a custom fit. If you were to go with traditional manufacturing processes to create hearing devices, it would be extremely difficult to achieve that perfect fit across the board. The high-impact effect of this technology on the hearing impaired and medical communities has turned a formerly labor-intensive process into a more efficient, automated one.

Closed-Captioning Glasses allow people with hearing loss to enjoy the the movies!

Most people go to the movies without ever considering what would happen if they were not able to listen to the movie. Sadly, this is the case for thousands of people around the world who suffer from various forms of hearing loss. These individuals must wait until the film comes out on DVD in order to have a good idea what the story is about. Fortunately, there has been new closed–captioning glasses released that will help these people enjoy movies while they are still in the theater.

Comfortable Design

These closed-captioning Access Glasses are made so that they will fit around the majority of people’s heads comfortably. They can also be worn over prescription glasses without any drawbacks. The glasses resemble a pair of sunglasses with the detectors on both sides of the rims which pick up the close captioning signals. They are very lightweight, and will not cause fatigue when worn for hours at a time.

Where Can You Find Them?

Currently, these glasses can be found at 6,000 different screens as a part of Regal Cinema’s promotion period. There is no news on how long the test phase will last and whether it will result in more widespread usage, but most people are convinced that the future of these glasses is dependent on the crowds they draw.

Conceptual Fixtures

These Access Glasses were developed by Sony Entertainment in partnership with Regal Cinemas. They have been the dream project of Randy Smith, a chief administrative officer who has a son that is hearing impaired. After years of testing other glasses, he remains optimistic that these will be the future of closed captioning in movie theaters.

The Way They Work

Each pair of access glasses has many features that make them incredible for people who suffer for hearing loss. The glasses can be adjusted to help you see the captions from just about any point within the theater, though most people have noted that the best captions come when you are in the middle.

After the customer service individual adjusts the glasses to fit your needs, the projection device sends out a signal that will generate the captions in your visual field. This will allow you to see the captions projected about ten feet in front of your eyes. This will allow you to comfortably view the movie while reading the captions. For people who suffer from hearing loss, this is a great step forward in enjoying films with as few problems as possible.

A Primer on Hearing Aid / Cellular Phone Compatibility

Hearing aids have not in the past always worked effectively with cellular phones, because of electronic interference between the 2 devices that triggered static, whistling or screeching noises, or lost words. Thankfully, advances in technology and new government regulations have made the issue “Will this phone work together with my hearing aid?” easier to answer. The regulations mandated new labeling requirements and ratings that help you to easily find a cell phone that works well with your hearing aid.

The first thing you need to understand is that hearing aids operate in two different modes – microphone or “M” mode, and telecoil or “T” mode. When your hearing aid is in M mode, it uses the built-in microphone to pick up audible sounds from around you and amplify them to make them easier for you to hear. In T mode, the hearing aid instead uses an inductive process to pick up electromagnetic signals inside the phone directly, without the need for a microphone. The T mode is important when shopping for a phone, because at least 60% of hearing aids sold in the United States have one.

The rating system for these two modes of hearing aid operation uses a scale that ranges from the lowest sensitivity (1) to the highest sensitivity (4). To be labeled as hearing aid compatible (HAC) a mobile phone must carry a minimum rating of M3 or T3.

Hearing aids and cochlear implants have a similar M and T rating system to certify how sensitive they are in each mode, and how resistant they are to radio frequency interference. When shopping for a phone, to determine its compatibility with your hearing aid, simply add its M and T ratings together with those of the phone to create a combined rating. If you get a combined total of 6 or more, that is thought of as excellent, a combination of hearing aid and phone that will be highly usable. A combined rating of 5 is thought of as normal, and suitable for most people. A sum of 4 is considered acceptable, but if you are a heavy mobile phone user, you may be disappointed or frustrated with this choice.

This combined rating system makes it easy to shop for a mobile phone online, because it easily allows you to determine how compatible it will be with your hearing aid. If you are able to shop in a store that allows you to “try before you buy” and actually use the phone you want while wearing your hearing aid, that is of course a better idea.

An Introduction to Hearing Aid Battery Performance

Although it seems to be a simple question to ask just how long hearing aid batteries will last, it’s actually not. How long hearing aid batteries will last depends upon numerous factors. Just how long a battery will last depends on who manufactured it, and can even vary between different models from the same manufacturer. The length of time your hearing aid batteries will last will also depend on the manner in which you use your hearing aid – hearing aids demand constant power when they are switched on, so the more hours of the day you use it, the faster you’ll use up batteries.

The hearing aid batteries themselves are a crucial factor. Batteries of the same size from different manufacturers will have different lives. And there will be variance within one battery manufacturer if they offer premium or extended-life lines. Battery type is another factor in longevity. For example, zinc-air batteries will begin to burn stored energy the instant you remove the tab on the bottom and will continue to lose power even if the hearing aid is turned off while other types will only discharge when they are in a hearing aid that is powered on.

If consider new hearing aids, it’s advisable to do some research on the different models and the types of hearing aid batteries they use to help you determine the best choice for your lifestyle. If you have an existing hearing aid and are looking for the longest lasting batteries for it, the Internet can be a fabulous source of comparative ratings and reviews.

Fortunately, when shopping for hearing aid batteries, their manufacturers have made things a little easier for you by standardizing their sizes and color-coding each size; the same color codes are used by all hearing aid battery manufacturers. The hours listed below for each battery size are approximations, but will give you a basic idea of how long hearing aid batteries of each size ought to last given normal use:

  • Size 10 – Yellow – 80 hours
  • Size 13 – Orange – 240 hours
  • Size 312 – Brown – 175 hours
  • Size 675 – Blue – 300 hours


To ensure the longest life for your hearing aid batteries when they are in the hearing aid, turn the hearing aid off when you’re not wearing it. Store your unused batteries at room temperature, indoors, and in their original, unopened packaging to ensure their longest possible life.

An Introduction to Analog versus Digital Hearing Aids

A bit of background and an explanation of how analog devices work versus how digital devices work is essential to understand the differences between analog and digital hearing aids. Analog hearing aids came out first, and were the standard in the majority of hearing aids for a long time. Then with the arrival of digital signal processing (DSP) technology, digital hearing aids also started to emerge. The majority of (up to 90%) hearing aids sold in the United States today are digital, although you can still get analog hearing aids because some people have a preference for them, and they’re often cheaper.

The way that analog hearing aids operate is that they take sound waves from the microphone in the form of electricity and then amplify them, delivering louder versions of the sound waves to the speakers in your ears “as is.” Digital hearing aids take the sound waves from the microphone and transform them to digital binary code, the “bits and bytes” and “zeros and ones” that all digital devices understand. After the sound is digitized, the micro-chip within the hearing aid can process and manipulate the data in sophisticated ways before converting it back to analog sound and passing it on to your ears.

Both analog and digital hearing aids carry out the same work – they take sounds and boost them to enable you to hear better. Both varieties of hearing aids can be programmed by the dispensers of the hearing aids to produce the sound quality desired by the user, and to create configurations ideal for different listening environments. The programmable hearing aids can, for example, have one setting for listening in quiet rooms, another setting for listening in noisy restaurants, and still another for listening in large auditoriums.

Digital hearing aids, due to their ability to manipulate the sounds in digital form, often have more features and flexibility, and are often user-configurable. For example, digital hearing aids may offer numerous channels and memories, permitting them to save more environment-specific profiles. They can also employ sophisticated algorithms to identify and reduce background noise, to eliminate feedback and whistling, or to selectively prefer the sound of human voices and “follow” them using directional microphones.

Cost-wise, most analog hearing aids continue to be less expensive than digital hearing aids, however, some reduced-feature digital hearing aids fall into a similar general price range. There is commonly a perceivable difference in sound quality, but the question of whether analog or digital is “better” is up to the individual, and the ways that they are used .

How to Ask Church or Theatre Managers to Install a Hearing Loop

Many businesses and gathering places have made themselves wheelchair accessible, but what about that extra assistance for people with hearing problems? Installing a hearing loop clarifies speech and other sound for patrons with telecoil compatible hearing aids, is less expensive than other modifications and may increase visitors or customers. If you’re having a difficult time hearing the speakers at church, the dialogue at the local theatre, or at any other place you frequent, it may be possible to have a hearing loop put in with a little effort.

Churches and other places of worship. While many places of worship are fitted with hearing amplifiers, many are incompatible or inconvenient and there are many places without them at all. If this is the case, let the congregation and worship leaders know of the benefits of a hearing loop, such as being able to push a button to customize your ability to hear the sermon clearly through your own hearing aid.. Introduce the idea in a newsletter or bulletin by explaining how a hearing loop works and how easy it is to install.

Theaters and public gathering places. The guidelines for the Americans for Disabilities Act require that assembly areas have a method of audio amplification for their visitors and this requirement is filled with the installation of a hearing loop. To promote this need, you can write to or meet with the people in charge of these public spaces and business to explain the need and benefits. Installing a hearing loop can allow the business to tap into a new segment of the population which sometimes has limited entertainment options.

Information you’ll need. When you approach the managers of these venues, you’ll want to be prepared with information so you can build understanding and awareness. Educate them in what a hearing loop is, how it works and how much it costs. Have a prepare list of benefits from the patron’s perspective and the venue’s perspective. Explain to them the benefits of their increased business. Even if they do not engage in the idea the first time, make yourself available as a resource for further information and inquire if you can touch base with them every couple of months to continue the discussion.

Exactly What Are “Multiple Listening Programs” on Digital Hearing Aids?

Listening to a person speaking in a hushed room is very different from attempting to hear a conversation in a packed diner. Many digital hearing aids are equipped with various listening programs to help adjust to changes in listening environments. These listening programs give your hearing aid the flexibility to help you hear at your best in a wide range of situations.

When you first receive your hearing aid, your hearing professional will program your device with an external computer. The software will give him or her the ability to “fine-tune” the way your hearing aid processes sound and to create a series of distinct listening programs for different scenarios. Once you begin using your hearing aid, these programs may be selected manually or automatically (depending on the your particular device and its configuration) to suit your listening environment.

There are many different types of listening programs that can be accessed through your hearing aid. There are programs that help block out distracting background noise, programs that reduce feedback, programs that can shift high frequency sounds into lower, more comfortable frequencies, and programs that can make speech patterns clearer in quiet environments. These are just a few of the programs you can take advantage of – talk to your hearing professional to find programs that are most relevant to your situation.

The method you use to access these different programs varies from device to device. Some hearing aids are sold with a small external controller that allows you to switch from program to program as well as access other features. Other devices may be controlled by a small switch, while still others may automatically determine which program is best suited for your situation.

Young children with hearing issues may be good candidates for hearing aids with multiple listening programs. Having a number of available programs allows parents to quickly find a setting that is most comfortable for their child. This can help audiologists determine what settings will lead to the best hearing experience for the child.

The multiple listening programs feature in hearing aids can play a significant role in allowing the hearer to enjoy a more natural listening experience.

The Way to Install a Home Hearing Loop System

Congrats on your recent hearing loop purchase and getting started on the path to a more satisfying hearing experience for your household. Deciding on which system to purchase may not have been an easy task, but setting up your hearing loop won’t be difficult. Fortunately, a professional is NOT needed to install a home hearing loop, because the steps are quite simple.

Before you begin. There are four primary components to most hearing loop systems: a sound source (a phone or TV, for example), an amplifier, a wire loop and a sound receiver (probably your hearing aids). Prior to jumping into your new project, be sure to have all the equipment you might need to install your home hearing loop system. Dependant upon your particular hearing loop system, some additional equipment would be good to keep on hand, such as a staple gun or a screwdriver.

The steps involved. The first step is to find a place for your amplifier near your television –either sitting on a shelf or affixing it underneath or beside a cabinet with the tape or fasteners provided. Second, plug the loop amplifier into a power outlet and also into your television’s (or other sound source) audio output jack. Finally, string the amplifier’s wire around the perimeter of the room you are working in either along carpet edges or around the ceiling edgesBe sure to staple it in place over doorways. And that’s really all there is to it! The last thing left to do is adjust the volume settings using the manufacturer’s instructions. The volume controls differ by system and can be located on the amplifier or a standalone control pad.

Safety advice. Never place any electronic equipment in or near water, or in places where moisture may accumulate. Always use a clean, dry cloth to clean the components of your new hearing loop. Moreover, keep the device away from heat sources, such as a fireplace, stove or heater. To prevent overheating your device, place it in an area that allows adequate air flow instead of inside a closed cabinet.

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