Adapting public address systems for hearing aid wearers
When we attend a meeting or any large gathering of people, those of us
with normal hearing manage to ignore background noise caused by coughing,
paper being shuffled, chairs scraping the floor and whispered conversation.
We concentrate on the speaker and although we may be annoyed by the
background noises, we can hear the speaker.
For the hearing aid wearer, it is much more difficult. All the background
noise is amplified by their hearing aid and any distortion in the public
address system will be amplified along with the speaker's voice. This makes
it extremely difficult to distinguish speech. It can also make being with a
large group of people quite unpleasant.
H O W T H E A U D I O LO O P W O R K S
The audio loop system makes use of an insulated wire strategically placed
in the conference room or hall. The wire picks up the audio signal from an
amplifier and serves as the transmitter for an electrical current that sets
up a magnetic field within the area encircled by the wire. User receivers
convert the magnetic energy back into sound. User receivers may be a hearing
aid set to the '"T" switch (or other special receivers).
There is no direct connection between the listener and the sound source.
As a listener you can stay "tuned in" as long as you remain within
a certain area of the room. The signals are sent in the form of magnetic
W H E R E C A N A N A U D I O LO O P
F I T T E D?
All public buildings which use an amplification system attached to a
microphone, such as meeting halls, theatres, churches, in fact any building
where a microphone is used. Cost is not great if an amplification system is
already in use. It does not affect the efficiency of this amplification
H O W C A N T H E A U D I O LO O P
B E F I T T E
Installing the loop is not necessarily expensive, especially if a P.A.
System is already in use. The whole room can be looped or an area such as
four or six pews in a church. Portable loops can be made. A cushion loop is
available to plug into TV, radio and HiFi and placed behind you on a chair.
A small loop can be hung around the neck. Looped mats similar in size to
desk blotters can be used on desks and counters.
W H E N S H O U L D A N A U D I O LO O P
F I T T E D?
They should be part of the planning for new buildings. Church councils,
city councils and all people in charge of public buildings are being asked
to consider installing audio loops to assist people wearing hearing aids to
receive better sound reproduction.
In libraries, small areas can be fitted with permanent loops or portable
room sized loops can be easily set up for specific activities such as
meetings and group discussions. Alternatively, looped mats may be used or
battery powered personal assistive listening devices may incorporate the use
of a "neck loop".
W H Y S H O U L D A N A U D I O
LO O P B E
F I T T E D?
Because it will encourage hearing aid wearers to attend functions at
buildings where it is available. You don't have to plug into the loop, you
just have to be seated within the magnetic field it produces. The person's
own hearing aid does the work. Therefore any number of people can benefit at
The audio loop would give hearing aid wearers access to live theatre,
films, concerts, lectures, meetings and church services, all of which they
rarely attend as the hearing aid picks up so much background noise that the
wearer cannot understand the speaker. When switching to "T"
switch, background noise interference is no longer a problem and annoying
feedback or "whistling" is eliminated.
W H I C H S Y S T E M TO C H O O S E?
When adapting public address systems to provide "access" for
hearing impaired people in the audience, take into consideration the
- effectiveness of the system
- cost of the system
- installation and maintenance of the system
- ease of operation of the system
- portability (if appropriate)
How will hearing aid wearers know the audio loop has been installed?
For libraries, churches, theatres or public auditoria where the audio
loop has been installed, laminated identification signs are available.
Small signs are available for rows of theatre seats or church pews which
are in the looped area.
Postcard sized signs are available for use at entrances to theatres,
libraries, churches and other public venues.
Extract from a Better Hearing
Australia brochure "Are you on the audio loop?"