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Telecoils in Hearing Aids in the USA


What is a T-coil?

A t-coil (telecoil) is a very effective device that can be part of all but the tiniest hearing aids (ha's.) It is far more popular in certain other countries where its beneficial uses are many.

Do all hearing aids have t-coils?

No. Many of our better hearing aids are made in countries where t-coils are required or are used heavily by hearing aid wearers. Often such foreign-manufactured hearing aids will automatically come with a t-coil. Often in the USA, the uses of t-coils are not fully explained as an option to the hearing aid buyer.

It is believed that only 30% of hearing aids in the USA have t-coils, and many of the people owning such hearing aids do not really understand the benefits/uses of t-coils.

What does a t-coil consist of?

A t-coil is a very small coil of wire built within a hearing aid that serves as an antenna which can be activated by the switch on the hearing aid when it is set in the "T" position.

What is the basic use of the t-coil?

The common use of the t-coil is with the telephone. Here, the t-switch is turned on allowing much clearer hearing without feedback. If there is a need for more volume, then the volume control on the aid can be turned up and no feedback occurs resulting in a much clearer amplifiable sound and a more relaxed conversation by HOH people than is obtainable via telephone amplification devices. When on, the t-coil shuts out other background noises. Though some aids allow the regular mike to be on (or off) when the t-coil is on.

Some of the other uses of the t-coil;

Frequently, when HOH people have meetings their room will be "looped." Meaning, a wire (telephone like) will run around the room, either at the floor or ceiling, exposed or concealed. The wire creates a circle or loop that as it joins itself, it has a short straight piece that has a jack on the end of it that plugs into an output plug on the PA system box.

When anything is said into the mike, it sends the sound to the loudspeakers but also through the "loop," creating a magnetic induction field within the loop. This means that anyone in the room within the loop with their T-switch on will be able to hear very clearly all that is said into the mike. Often, even better than people who have normal hearing. The result is called a better �signal-to-noise ratio (a term that can be better explained by audiologists than here.)

An example of typical use of the t-coil technology.

In a bank, etc., the area that the customer stands in is looped (a hidden wire that runs around that immediate area of the customer.) The sound of the teller's voice is picked up by a nearby mike. The HOH person with the t-coil will switch the HA to t-coil and be able to hear very clearly what the teller is saying even though there may be considerable background noise.

What is a "personal neck loop?"

As a large loop around the room creates a proper field (magnetic induction) so can such a "loop" of wire around a person's neck create a usable magnetic induction process.

In this case, the jack that is part of the loop of wire around the neck, is plugged into any sound source including a TV, radio, cassette player, transmitter receiver, etc.

As many HOH people are aware, using an audio headset over their hearing aids to hear, for example, a portable radio, etc., is not a viable choice. The headset hurts when it presses into the hearing aid(s) and/or the sound is not clear, and/or it lacks sufficient sound volume. By wearing a personal neck loop (worn under clothing if desired) and plugging it into the sound source, (radio, TV, etc.) the need for a headset is eliminated and much better hearing is enjoyed.

Are there other uses of a t-coil and neck loop?

Absolutely. Some foreign countries have developed uses for this process that are too lengthy to describe here. But, for more basic uses;

As sound in public places is transmitted over loudspeakers, it can also be transmitted (wirelessly) to small receivers (about the size of a deck of playing cards) that are loaned to or owned by HOH people who are seated anywhere in the audience.

Such people can plug their neck loop into their receiver, and with the t-coil turned on, hear the sounds that others are hearing via speakers, much clearer than normal hearing people. This is called a personal FM system. HA wearers, in trying this with a t-coil, are amazed at how well they can hear and ask, why didn't we know about this? The answer, we are just not being educated in the process.

How old is this t-coil process?

It is far from new and has probably been in use for over 50 years in Europe, particularly the Scandinavian countries. Every church in Denmark is looped. The VA, the largest issuer of hearing aids in the USA and probably in the world, includes t-coils in all their hearing aids given to vets unless there is an unusual reason for not doing so. To date, I know of no teachings by their audiologists on the full use of t-coils. Something that would benefit not only the vets but others as well.

Why is the USA so slow in this process?

The apparent reason that T-coils are not popular in the USA is that hearing aid wearers don't usually know of them and those who sell hearing aids do not educate HOH people of its many benefits.

What does a t-coil cost?

While t-coils do vary in quality and it is vital to insist on a good quality one, the prices have no standard. They cost the hearing aid seller about to and they add little to his costs except an explanation of it to the buyer so that it would seem that a fair charge for one would be which should accompany a clear explanation of the uses of the t-coil.

All public places in the USA are supposed to provide , hearing access, as per the American Disability Act. Meaning, public rooms are to be looped or have F.M. or Infra red systems. Looped rooms require nothing except a HA with a t-coil. F.M. and Infra red device rooms do require a receiver. F.M. systems can transmit directly to the ha's receiver which would have the neck loop plugged into it. Infra red systems may only provide headsets which are effective for mild to moderate losses. Better Infra red systems have a jack that a neck loop can be plugged into allowing the use of a neck loop and t-coil equipped hearing aid.

Theaters, etc., are cost conscious and too often put in low cost systems. Something that may comply with the ADA law but not to the satisfaction of many HOH people. That will not change unless HOH people complain.

The largest users of t-coils;

The Hearing Journal (Sept. 95) reports; 88% of the members of the Self Help for the Hard of Hearing organization wear hearing aids. Of these, 55% use their aids when on the telephone and 65% of these have telecoils in their hearing aids, which represents about twice the national average for telecoil users. Of those polled, 55% found whistling or feedback to be their major problem.

The apparent cause of this higher usage of telecoils is because when these people come together they help educate each other, and telecoils represent a serious solution for many.

Secondary would be those who have a severe or profound hearing loss. Because of the many problems they have, they are forced to use every resource available to them. As part of this, they learn of t-coils and realize they are essential for them to hear where they otherwise cannot.

People with lesser hearing losses can also benefit, and the earlier they become accustomed to t-coil uses the easier it is for them to function in different situations.

Direct Audio Input; is a technique used, I believe, only with over-the-ear hearing aids that have an appropriate receptacle that permits an electronic connection. (It does not relate to the use of a telecoil.) A small boot is snapped on to the base of the aid, a wire is connected to the boot that can be connected to sound sources. It provides superior hearing but the connecting wire attached to the aid is, for some, a problem. While the percent of such hearing aids is quite small, the consumers who have been advised of it, have boots, and are using them, is very small.

For additional information about loop systems see: www.hearingloop.org/


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Hard of Hearing Advocates, PO Box 1184, Upton MA 01568, Phone: (508) 875-8662, FAX (508) 529-4069, Email: hoha@charter.net