Why Patients Need Hearing Loops

By: Sterkens, Juliëtte AuD

doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000524326.95376.e5
Hearing technology has improved significantly in the past decade. However, even the very best hearing aids do not restore hearing. Although hearing aids can restore about half of the lost hearing sensitivity (i.e., loudness), they are unable to correct distortions from within the ear or poor auditory processing ability. That is, hearing aids make sounds louder, and some hearing aids are better than others at reproducing all the natural sounds required to make sense of speech in noise. We counsel clients to use the best possible hearing aids, use different hearing aid programs, activate closed TV captions, use directional microphones, and use TV assistive listening.


The dramatic benefits of hearing loops have been documented in two studies. A survey in 2014 asked 866 people to rate the performance of their hearing aids or cochlear implants using a 10-point scale (Hear Rev, 2014). The average response was 4.9 in a non-looped setting and 8.7 in a looped environment. A 2016 study by Faivre found that hearing loops greatly improved speech understanding and sound quality, and reduced listening effort (Hear Rev, 2016).

How can a hearing loop deliver such dramatic improvements? Simple. In a hearing loop, the microphone of the PA system is the microphone to the hearing aid. The distance and reverberation limitations of hearing aid microphones are overcome in a loop. Instead of acoustically transmitting sound, this setup transfers sound via a magnetic field. Those in a loop hear the cleanest and purest sound possible, often at signal-to-noise ratios that enable even those with severe and profound hearing loss to understand speech.

The hearing loop movement is spreading across the United States, with new equipment vendors and dozens of trained installers. There are thousands of installed hearing loops across the country, from small areas (i.e., all new New York City taxis), to medium-sized worship places and auditoriums, and to sizable airports and stadiums (including the Michigan State Univeristy’s basketball arena). This increased hearing aid functionality bodes well both for hearing care providers and those we serve.

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