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Get Loopy at the Loop Utah Conference May 2 – 3

We love it when amazing people come to town, especially when those amazing people talk about something near and dear to our hearts. In honor of Better Speech and Hearing Month in May, Loop Utah and the local Utah Chapter of the HLAA have invited Dr. Juliette Sterkens as a special guest speaker.

Dr. Sterkens, a National Loop America advocate and an audiologist, will discuss the importance of the installation of hearing loops throughout the United States. She will also touch upon the subjects of advocacy and compliance for those with hearing loss.

Listen Technologies is very excited about this event as it supports Hearing Loop awareness, legislative compliance, and, in May each year, Better Speech and Hearing Month. Better Speech and Hearing Month is dedicated to raising more awareness about communication disorders. This year, the focus is on identifying the signs of communication disorders.

Get loopy with Loop Utah and support this event, which consists of two sessions. The first session on May 2 is for industry professionals, such as audiologists, architects, and facility managers, while the second session on May 3 is for the general public. If you’re interested in attending, please view the specific information below.

WHEN

May 2, 2014 (for audiologists, architects, and facility managers)

9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

May 3, 2014 (for the general public)

9:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

WHERE

Sanderson Community Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

5709 S. 1500 West

Taylorsville, Utah

All conference rooms are looped.

The Invisible Disability

At Listen Technologies we are passionate about educating people on the pervasiveness of hearing loss.  As part of this passion, we invite architects to participate in an open dialogue concerning the laws and new regulations surrounding assistive listening systems.

 
Quite often, sound is an afterthought when it comes to building design. Including assistive listening systems into designs isn’t just about following the letter of the law; it’s about helping people with hearing loss make a connection to their environment and enabling positive listening experiences wherever they go. 
 
Below are ten reasons to design with both your eyes and your ears.
  1. Nearly one-fifth of all Americans 12 years or older suffer from hearing loss severe enough to negatively impact communication
  2. Only 1.4 percent of the population uses a wheelchair, but more than 20.3 percent of Americans have hearing loss in at least one ear
  3. It’s the law! The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) stipulates that designing assistive listening systems into assembly areas is required
  4. With new legislation and rapid technological advancements, it is becoming increasingly important for architects to actively design assisted listening solutions into the project as early as possible
  5. About 26 million young people have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises at work or in leisure activities
  6. There is currently no cure for the underlying cause of hearing loss, due to damage of sensory and supporting inner ear cells
  7. The three top technologies used for assistive listening are RF (radio frequency), IR (infrared) and IL (induction loop, also known as hearing loop)
  8. Designing in an assistive listening system is much more cost effective than renovating and retrofitting
  9. In 2001, only 37 percent of hearing aids came equipped with telecoils (to receive a signal from an induction loop—today, more than 60 percent are hearing loop enabled
  10. The issue is not going away. As people age, hearing loss increases; at age 65, one out of three people has a hearing loss
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to leave a comment below. For more information about how architects can incorporate assistive listening systems into building designs, visit to http://bit.ly/LTArchitecture or call 1.877.760.9271.

Listen Builds Solid Assistive Listening Solution for Center for Architecture

The American Institute for Architects, founded over 150 years ago, represents the professional interests of America’s architects and demonstrates a commitment to excellence in design and livability in the nation’s buildings and communities. Saundra Stevens is the Executive Director for AIA in Portland. “We are now the 16th largest chapter in the country, and needed a space where we could bring people together for exhibitions, continuing education, and other functions,” she says.
 
The AIA’s search for a new location led them to an old building in the Pearl district of Portland, very close to the city’s downtown core. The Pearl district was an industrial area at one point but is now known for its art galleries, upscale businesses and residences. The chapter set to work designing a space that would be ideal for meetings, education and public gatherings. The main floor of the building, covering approximately 5,000 square feet, was divided into two sections. Half is devoted to a staff area and board meeting space; the other half is set up as an open room that can be used as a gathering place for meeting, educational events, and gallery exhibitions.
 
As a nonprofit organization, the AIA chapter asked for corporate help wherever possible to keep costs to a minimum. Listen Technologies assisted the AIA with the purchase of an FM assistive listening system for the facility, and system integrator Spectrum Systems Design donated the
overall AV system design and integration.
 
For the “gallery” area, Spectrum Systems Design’s Lindsey McGill installed a Listen LT-800 Stationary FM Transmitter with the LA-122 Universal Antenna Kit. LR-400 Portable Display FM Receivers are available to visitors needing auditory assistance. The LR-400 is an ideal choice as the guests do not need to regularly change channels. “I’ve dealt with Listen many times,” says McGill, “and as always the system installed easily and worked great.”
 
The “gallery” space in the Center for Architecture is in constant use, says Stevens. “In addition to music, we are doing continuing education in that space for AIA members throughout Oregon,” she says. “An assistive listening system was very important to our plans for using the space. We have events in here that hold anywhere from 20 people up to over 100 (standing room only) for any
number of events. The system from Listen Technologies enables our membership and the people we’ve invited to attend, whether it’s a film, lecture or continuing education, to be able to hear properly. We are pleased to have that ability.” Stevens says that as word spreads through the community that auditory assistance is available, more people are likely to attend events at the center.
 

ADA Before & After….

In September 2010, the government made changes that were very significant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The specifications and verbiage related to assistive listening were modified to help both the public venues to become compliant and those who would need the accommodation for assistive listening. The major changes included the following:

1.     
The 4% rule was eliminated and replaced with a table adopted from the International Building Code.
a.       2003 IBC
2.      The wording “fixed seating” was replaced with “capacity.”
3.      The addition of T-Loops was added.
a.       T-loops address the T-coil functionality on some hearing aids.
4.      The “less than 50 seat” rule was eliminated.
a.       All venues that have an audio source need to have an Assistive Listening System.
Table 219.3 from Section 706 outlines the quantity of assistive listening devices and neck loops that make it easier for large venues to be compliant. Before the changes, larger locations would have been required to have thousands of receivers on hand making it expensive and unrealistic to the number of people that needed to be accommodated…this has been reduced to hundreds. The table also addresses smaller venues as it requires them to provide assistive listening even if they have a capacity of less than 50.

The math around the new requirements can be a little confusing so we created an ADA Compliance Assistive Listening Calculator. All you have to do is plug in the capacity of your venue and it outputs how many assistive listening devices and how many neck loops you need to meet the standards.
listen-ada-calculatorYou can download the calculator by [clicking here].
The ADA Compliance Assistive Listening Calculator App is also available as a free app for iPhones and iPads at:
iTunes Media > App Store > Productivity > Listen Technologies Corp. (ADA Compliance Assistive Listening Calculator)
 
Knowing that it would take time to change, and time to institute the change, the government gave us a deadline of March 15, 2012 to bring all future projects into compliance. This date specifically addresses:
1.      New construction projects
2.      Remodel or retrofit projects
I recently kicked off Listen’s Quick Info Webinar series with “What You Need To Know About 2010 ADA Assistive Listening Changes & Compliance Deadline.” Watch this 24 minute webinar for details about what has changed, impacts to projects, understanding the math, enforcement, and the ADA compliance deadline.
 

Sound Amplification Basics

Sound amplification needs to not only make sounds louder but more intelligible. A loud overhead sound system that no one can understand has no value. The effect of quality sound amplification for presentations and trainings is significant.  Studies have shown that sound amplification in small- to medium size rooms can increase people’s retention by as much as 30%.
For sound amplification to give everyone in the presentation or training room a full sound experience, it must deliver sound that is:
 
• Clean—free from noise and artifacts
• Intelligible—clearly recognizable and comprehensible
• Natural—full range of frequencies are properly reproduced
• Balanced—different audio sources produce the same level
• Evenly dispersed—loudspeaker coverage is such that everyone can hear
When you consider the cost of attendee time, particularly higher salaried employees, any downtime due to issues with the room is wasting company money. A recent study of IT managers who support presenters in company presentation rooms found that on average, each problem wastes up to 31.5 minutes of the meeting time—from the initial attempts by meeting participants to resolve the problem to the final resolution. Multiplied by the average number of meetings and the wasted time added up to 21.2 hours per attendee per year.1

Exploring Sound Amplification Options
For most small organizations, choosing a solution is a balance between the sound quality they are willing to tolerate and their budget. Here are three possibilities:
 
• Attaching external speakers to a laptop, for example, will amplify music and video audio that is played from a laptop as well as from Skype remote callers. But it won’t amplify the presenter’s voice, improve intelligibility, accommodate speakerphones, or make it easy to use.
• Purchasing a microphone, amplifier, and loudspeakers will make it easier to hear the presenter—particularly if the loudspeakers are properly placed in the room. But it won’t accommodate additional audio sources or remote callers.
• Installing a feature-rich solution that provides microphones, loudspeakers, digital-signal processing, numerous input and outputs for audio devices, and a variety of control options will deliver excellent sound quality. However, it will probably cost upwards of $4,500.
In reality, an installed system like this has far more horsepower than most organizations need for their multi-purpose rooms. But if you could strip an installed system down to only the most necessary components, you would have a complete sound system that includes:
 
• Wireless microphone for the presenter
• Ceiling speakers
• Device with a VoIP port, audio inputs, control interface, and wireless microphone receiver
• Equalization and filtering capabilities
• User-friendly controller

Components of a Complete Sound System

The illustration below depicts the basic components of a sound system for training rooms or presentation rooms. It is a system that is able to deliver rich, full sound. This system uses four loudspeakers to distribute audio throughout the room, creating a soundfield. It also includes a microphone with volume control, a control unit that interfaces with audio devices and provides volume control and device selection. Finally, the room module ties the system together and delivers audio signals from the various inputs to the loudspeakers.

 sound-system-components
1 The Meeting Room Marathon – A Waste of Corporate Time, Dynamic Markets research commissioned by Casio, July 2010.

A Comparison of Loop, FM & IR Technologies For Assistive Listening

There are many options for assistive listening technologies. This blog post provides a comparison between the three technologies used in assistive listening.

There’s been a lot of discussion about Hearing Loop technology for use in assistive listening. The recent New York Times article “A Hearing Aid That Cuts Out All The Clatter” points to the many benefits of using induction loops in theaters, places of worship and other venues.  Thus, the purpose of this blog is to provide a comparison between the three technologies used in assistive listening.
RF (Radio) Technology – This uses the same technology used by a radio station or a two-way radio to wirelessly deliver audio to your ears using an RF receiver and earphones.  The system uses a small transmitter with an antenna to cover an entire theater or stadium.
IR (Infrared) Technology – This uses infrared light (yes, the same IR technology as in your TV remote control) to transmit audio to your ears using an IR receiver and earphones.  These systems use IR radiators (it’s like a headlight on a car) to flood IR light into the facility.  Most facilities require about four radiators to be installed throughout the venue.
Induction (Loop) Technology – Hearing Loop technology uses a magnetic field to wirelessly transmit audio to your ears using either a “T-Coil equipped” hearing aid with a built in “T” switch or or, with a Hearing Loop receiver with earphones.  These systems use a wire, or flat copper tape of loop(s) that are typically installed on the floor of the entire venue.  The added install cost is the reason that hearing loop systems can potentially cost more than RF or IR system, especially in retrofit installations.
If you’re like 10% of the population and you struggle to hear, assistive listening systems like these can dramatically improve your ability to enjoy the content delivered by the venue.  All three of these technologies offer this advantage whether you have a hearing aid or not.
The “Magic” Of Loop Systems
Now, if you do have a T-Coil or, TeleCoil equipped hearing aid and it has a “T” switch, a hearing loop system makes it very simple to use. You simply walk into the venue, set your “T” switch and presto you hear audio right in your ears.  You don’t need a receiver or earphones. It’s magic!  This is why hearing loop systems have such a wide appeal for people who have “T” switch hearing aids.
In North America, many people who have hearing aids don’t have a T-Coil or, TeleCoil equipped hearing aid with a “T” switch where as in Europe most hearing aid users do have a “T” switch. My hearing aid does NOT have a “T” switch, and thus, no matter what type of technology a facility might have, I have to request a receiver and earphones to hear the audio.  Maybe my next hearing aid will have a “T” switch.
(NOTE: When this article was originally written the percentage of Tele-Coil equipped hearing aids in the U.S. were fairly low, but now most hearing aid manufacturers are offering this technology and the percentages are increasing)
Thus, the “magic” of a hearing loop system can only be enjoyed by those individuals who have a hearing aid with a “T” switch.  Everyone else must use a Hearing Loop receiver and earphones.  The fact is that the majority of people who are hearing impaired do not even own a hearing aid.
Advantages Of RF And IR Systems
RF and IR technology assistive listening systems offer two main advantages:
1. Low cost
2. Ability to deliver multiple audio sources.
The cost of a typical RF system is less than $5,000 and the cost of an IR system is less than $10,000 for an average venue. Hearing Loop systems can potentially cost much more.  The lower cost of RF and IR is because the building does not need to be modified to be installed.  In Hearing Loop systems, (depending upon the design) the loop must be installed over the entire floor of the venue and it must be carefully designed and installed to ensure complete coverage and no interference to equipment within the facility.
Additionally RF and IR systems can also be used for multiple audio sources.  For example, at the Kennedy Center they use their IR system not only for assistive listening but they also use it for audio description and audio instruction.
While the New York Times article “A Hearing Aid That Cuts Out All The Clatter” referenced this facility, the Kennedy Center does not use loop technology* because of their requirement to transmit multiple audio sources.
If a person does have “T” switch or, “T-Coil equipped” hearing aid, they can still use an RF or IR system to connect directly to their hearing aid. This is done by plugging a neck loop into an IR or RF receiver (it’s worn around the neck). The neck loop inductively connects to the hearing aid.
It is great to hear the enthusiasm and the interest in Hearing Loop systems for assistive listening.  Hearing Loop systems offer a great convenience and “magic” factor people with “T” switch hearing aids.  And no matter what technology a venue chooses, anyone can use and benefit from the system.
When you consider 10% of the population is hearing impaired (just like me…) it’s important that we have the ability to enjoy a play or enjoy the music.

This chart offers a side by side comparison of some of the considerations for each type of technology.

Consideration RF Technology Infrared Technology Induction Loop Technology
Can be used with a hearing aid that has a “T” switch without ANY other equipment No No Yes
Can be used with a hearing aid that has a “T” switch but requires a neck loop plugged in to an FM or IR receiver Yes  Yes Not Applicable
Relative convenience level for individuals with a hearing aid that has a “T” switch  Medium Medium Very High
 Relative convenience level for individuals with a hearing aid that DON’T have a “T” switch  Medium  Medium  Medium
Relative cost of installation for a new building Low  Medium  High
Can be used for applications beyond assistive listening such as audio description, language interpretation, etc. Yes Yes No
Maximum number of simultaneous channels 6 32 1
Secure. Signal does not travel outside the room No Yes No
Relative audio quality High High Medium / High
May interfere with equipment within the facility (such as a mixing console) No No Yes / Possible
(* The NY Times article was reference a onetime event that had a temporary loop system installed)

Factors that Impact Sound Quality

It would be nice if all a presenter had to do was speak louder to ensure everyone could hear. But it’s rare to find a powerful voice that carries all the way to the back of the room. 

If they did, it would likely be too loud for the people in the front of the room. But volume is just part of the battle.

Sound quality is affected by a number of conditions, chief among them:
 
• Distance—between the listener and the person speaking
• Room noise—such as HVAC systems, paper shuffling, and people whispering
 
These factors make it difficult for people to hear regardless of how loud the presenter tries to talk.
 
Distance
In physics, the inverse square law tells us that sound decreases by 6 decibels (dB) every time the distance from the person speaking to the person listening doubles.
 
The typical presenter’s voice measures 60dB at a distance of 4 feet from the listener. Double that distance to 8 feet and the volume drops to 54dB. At 16 feet, the volume is 48dB.
The effect of distance on sound is the reason we huddle around speakerphones and try to move closer to the person speaking. But in a large group meeting, that’s clearly not a practical solution.
 
Room Noise
In addition to distance, we also have to contend with noise. All rooms have noise. This noise is created by a number of things: projector or computer fans, building systems (HVAC, plumbing), people whispering or shuffling papers, external noise (traffic, construction), etc.
 
The combination of these noises is called ambient or background noise. Loudness is measured in decibels.
 
For a person to be heard clearly, the level or loudness of their voice needs to be significantly above the room noise. An acceptable separation of speech to background noise is about 15dB. For example, let’s say the ambient noise level in the meeting room depicted in the figure above is 45dB. The presenter is speaking at 60dB so her voice is 15dB louder than the room noise and can be easily heard and understood.
 
However, the room has noisy fans that just turned on so now the ambient noise is 50dB. Now with only 10Bb of separation from the background noise to the speaker, intelligibility starts to suffer.
 
At this level, while the people in the front, near the speaker may be able to hear, it would be very difficult for the people sitting 16 feet from the presenter in the previous example to hear, because being farther away from the speaker’s voice, the speech would start to blend in with the background noise.
 
This is similar to when you’re sitting in a crowded restaurant and you can hear the person next to you, but have a hard time hearing people across a larger table.
 
Room noise can be minimized by installing sound-absorbing materials such as ceiling tiles and wall panels. However, that can be a costly endeavor. In many multipurpose rooms, the easiest way to overcome the effects of distance and room noise is through mild or slight sound amplification.

Sound Matters

If you ask how to improve a presentation, the first suggestion you’d likely receive is “add a graphic or an effect.” As presentation software has improved over the years, the focus on visual elements has eclipsed audio. We’ve been so distracted by cool transition effects that we’ve forgotten to make sure everyone can hear.


Studies conducted in classrooms
have found that students in the back row miss 30% of what the instructor says. That’s alarming since many company and sales meetings are held in multipurpose rooms of equivalent size.
Straining to hear is stressful and frustrating. It becomes easier just to tune out. That same study found that when sound is properly amplified in a room:
 
• Attention improves
• Interaction and participation increases
• Stress is lowered
• Retention improves
This is not to say that visuals are not important. In fact, the combination of seeing and hearing is by far the most effective method of communication. Another study found that three days after an event, people retained 10% of what they heard from an oral presentation, 35% from a visual presentation, and 65% from a visual and oral presentation.
Sound affects listeners in four key ways, according to Julian Treasure, chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses on how to use sound. If you’d like to learn more, watch this short clip from his 2009 TED talk.
 

What do you think – does sound matter? Do the visual aspects of preparing for a presentation or training session sometimes get more planning and preparation that the audio?

For more details on the impact of sound and some practical ideas to those impacts look into ListenPoint

New ADA Calculator By Listen Technologies

My motivation for the first ADA Calculator was simple. 

 

I simply knew there had to be a solution to repeatedly answering the question, “What do I need to do to meet the ADA’s Assistive Listening requirements?” 

 
Every day I was grabbing the 2010 chart and a calculator and running through the math for someone.  It got to be a redundant task pretty quick.  I knew there had to be a better way; I just had to define it. 
 
I originally created a short spreadsheet that covered up to five hundred seats.  When a call came in exceeding the chart, I would take a few minutes and extend it out a little farther.  Then it struck me.  What if I took it out to 100,000 seats, and gave it pop-up window functionality?  
 
I enlisted Deb Weeks, Regional Sales Support, and Tim Schaeffer, VP of Strategic Business Development and we worked as a team to make it a reality.  Now I answer the telephone and we get right into the legislation and the solutions.  We don’t waste the time on the mathematics.  That’s the way it should be.
 
The calculator allows you to enter the number of seats in a venue to calculate the minimum number of assistive listening devices and neck loops needed to meet new 2010 ADA requirements. 
 
To download the calculator go to www.listentech.com/ada-solutions
 
 

Listen ADA Standards Update – Assistive Listening

Are you aware of the recent changes to the ADA Standards as it relates to assistive listening devices? I can appreciate how that the guidelines can be complex to navigate and understand.

I am hoping this short video helps you understand the main changes around assistive listening requirements.
 

 
In addition to this video, Listen Technologies has several resources to help you understand the requirements of the new standards.This table is taken from Section 706 Assistive Listening Systems of the 2010 ADA Standards and provides an overview of the number of receivers required based on the seating capacity. It also shows how many receivers must be hearing-aid compatible.

 
Table 219.3 Receivers for Assistive Listening Systems

Capacity of Seating
in Assembly Area
Minimum Number of
Required Receivers
Contact Listen for customized quote to accommodate area
Minimum Number of
Required Receivers Required
to be Hearing-aid Compatible
(using Listen LA-166)
50 or less
2
2
51 to 200
2, plus 1 per 25 seats
over 50 seats*
2
201 to 500
2, plus 1 per 25 seats
over 50 seats*
1 per 4 receivers*
501 to 1000
20, plus 1 per 33 seats
over 500 seats*
1 per 4 receivers*
1001 to 2000
35, plus 1 per 50 seats
over 1000 seats*
1 per 4 receivers*
2001 and over
55 plus 1 per 100 seats
over 2000 seats*
1 per 4 receivers*
*Or fraction thereof

2010 Changes to Assistive Listening Systems

Let us know if we can be of further assistance on this topic. We’re here to help in anyway we can.
 

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