To put it simply, everyone has the right to hear what they love. I am obviously not the only one who feels this way. In an effort to spread more awareness about assistive listening, many groups are working to get bills passed in certain states that require audiologists to inform every patient about the availability of hearing aids with a t-coil switch and the benefit of t-coil.
How Hearing Aids Work with T-Coils
Hearing aids are fantastic in many ways and work well in quiet environments and conversations within close proximity. However, they fall short when the hearing aid user walks into a venue. Many of us have a difficult time understanding why. Shouldn’t hearing aids work well in all environments?
Hearing aids use their own microphone to pick up sounds, like a conversation. While this works well when the distance between the sound and the hearing aid user is in close proximity (3 – 6 feet), it does not work well in venues or public spaces, because the hearing aid user is typically away from the loud speaker and the venue or public space has background, ambient noise.
A t-coil or telecoil, is a tiny copper wire found inside most hearing aids that can be used with assistive listening technology to deliver the sound from the venue’s sound system, directly to a person’s hearing aid via the t-coil. Seventy percent of hearing aids are equipped with t-coils and 100% of cochlear implants utilize t-coils. When the t-coil switch is on, the hearing aid user hears the desired sound directly in his or her ear without the unwanted background, ambient noise. The sound hearing aid users hear when their t-coil switches are in use is transmitted via induction loop—room hearing loop or personal neck loop with RF or IR technology.
Assistive Listening Technology and the Americans with Disabilities Act
While there was a requirement that venues and public spaces provide assistive listening systems when the original Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990, there was no requirement that venues or public spaces provide assistive listening systems that worked with people’s existing hearing aids, meaning hearing aids with t-coils. By now you can probably see why involving the audiologist community is necessary.
When the ADA went into full effect on March 15, 2012, there were revisions to the requirements that made it mandatory for venues and public spaces to provide assistive listening systems that accommodated and worked with people’s hearing aids. In other words, venues and public spaces are required to have a certain number of assistive listening devices that work with the t-coil in users’ hearing aids.
I highly recommend visiting our ADA page for more specific information on the ADA and assistive listening requirements. You can even download a white paper on the subject.
Current T-Coil Legislation
In order to spread more awareness about assistive listening and t-coils, hearing loss advocates are working to get bills passed in certain states, or have already gotten bills passed, that require audiologists to inform every patient about the availability of hearing aids with a t-coil switch. These states include: New York, Rhode Island, Arizona, Florida, and now pending in Utah.
Many dealers have told me that the assistive listening technology rarely gets used. This is because the people who this technology are simply not aware that it’s available. By educating people, audiologists can help their patients better understand technologies, like assistive listening systems, neck loops, room hearing loops, and how they work with t-coils. This is an important step in bridging the gap between venues that offer assistive listening technology and those with hearing loss who assistive listening technologies are intended to help.