Hearing Loss: The Invisible Disability

One out of five of adult Americans experience their worlds in varying degrees of silence due to hearing loss, the invisible disability. This is due to several factors. Some simply don’t want to admit that they have hearing loss; others don’t know that there are many resources available to help them. This needs to change. At some point, we will all be touched by this invisible disability, whether it is our own or somebody we love. No matter who it is, it is important to be informed about the technologies and innovations that are being developed to help those who have hearing loss, so that they can continue to listen to the things they love.

Assistive Listening 101

Have you or someone you love turned down an activity in a public space, because it’s frustrating trying to listen in a certain environment? Hearing loss can be incredibly isolating, but it doesn’t have to be. Assistive listening devices (ALDs) help people listen in difficult environments. They’re also mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. For more information on that topic, please visit our Compliance Page.

There are three main types of assistive listening technologies: RF, IR, and Hearing Loop.

RF: RF Systems work similarly to radios and use a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter transmits sound to the receiver, which a person wears with headphones or ear buds to listen to what sound is being broadcast.

IR: An IR System uses infrared technology to wirelessly transmit sound to a receiver. The difference between IR and RF systems is that an IR system offers more privacy, because the infrared signal is contained within a space.

Hearing Loop: Hearing loops create discreet listening experiences to those who use t-coil equipped hearing aids. If a venue has a hearing loop installed, they will indicate it with assistive listening signage that has a “T” on it. Otherwise, the venue has one of the other types of systems.

Neck Loop: A neck loop connects wirelessly to hearing aids or cochlear implants that are equipped with t-coils. Listeners simply hook the neck loop into their receiver, place the loop around their neck and the t-coil picks up the sound being transmitted.

Finding Locations & Venues with ALDs

Discover the places that provide assistive listening systems in venues near you with the ALD Locator. Its purpose is to provide access to assistive listening friendly facilities and businesses. The ALD Locator is located at

Your equipment made sure older members who could not otherwise hear services or classroom discussions able to feel included because now they could hear what was going on.

Gary T. Nakai
Coordinator, Buddhist Temple of Chicago
Listen Technologies