Check out Hearing Loops and What They’re Used For

You’ve heard of hearing aids, but what about hearing loops? They’re similar, but different. Working in conjunction with one another, hearing loops use the latest in technology to help people in crowded places or group situations hear what is being said. Often times, in a group setting like a meeting, background noise and additional frequencies can make it difficult for the hearing aid user to distinguish what’s being said. But thanks to big strides since the days when hearing trumpets took were the most popular way to amplify sound, we are now seeing the advancement toward filtration of background noise. This new form of technology has come about in part as a result of the acceptance of the hearing impaired community and in part to the advancement of technology. Present in meeting rooms, concert halls, and businesses around the globe, hearing loops are taking center stage.

What are Hearing Loops?

For a more crisp detection of sound that makes group conversation easier to distinguish, hearing loops seamlessly combine two types of technology. Taking its cue from both the technology of hearing aids that so many people wear daily and a physical cable that is incorporated in a building or — more specifically – a single room, hearing loops allow these components to work in parallel with each other. They then help transmit ambient sounds that are detected throughout the room to the individual’s hearing aid.

A Closer Look

When you take a closer look at the technology, you’ll see that the loop wire circles the room to bring sound to hearing aids made possible by potent electromagnetic signals. Those sounds are picked up on by telecoils inherent in hearing aids, which is actually not really a new technology. It was borrowed from the same technology that maximizes range and signal for handset telephones that are away from their base. There’s a two-part basic system that works thanks to research into how telephone technology works.
As part of hearing aids and remote telecoil technology, t-switches are a crucial component in modern-day hearing aids and cochlear implants, helping the user to hear sounds more clearly and with less background noise. This device clears up the confusion when the t-switch is activated to pick up on the channeled electromagnetic sounds to the advantage of the user. Thus, the user can hear conversation much better than through the use of a hearing aid on its own. You can even use a microphone in conjunction with a hearing loop.

Implementation

This increasingly common fixture in public places, town halls and conference rooms is a big boost for the hearing impaired community. Did you know that many states and even countries may impose laws requiring the use of hearing loops in some public places?

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    How Have Hearing Aids Evolved to Where They are Today?

    Today’s hearing aids should give a nod to the devices of yesteryear. Thanks to innovative technology, hearing aids have experienced exponential growth over the last two centuries. It’s pretty important to document how far this technology has actually come. Let’s explore in-depth how hearing aids have evolved since the early designs. Hearing aids, used by millions of individuals all over the planet, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. As the decades have whizzed by, the devices have become smaller and more compact, offering an unprecedented comfort level for the user.

    The First Hearing Aids

    Designed to capture sound from close by, this primitive form of hearing aid — the ear trumpet — was developed for the widespread use of the hearing impaired community. Although hardly uniform in size, they did share a common attribute in that they were shaped like horns, funneling this sound into the inner ear so the user could hear slightly better. However, these early devices weren’t the best at amplifying sound and only really served to give incremental acoustic improvement.

    Then Came Carbon Hearing Aids

    Then came the late 19th century and the carbon hearing aid came into existence. These first models of hearing aids as we know them were invented with inspiration from Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone. The carbon microphone works alongside a magnetic receiver and battery. Sound waves struck the outside of the microphone, sending the carbon pieces in the hearing aid pressing against the diaphragm to create sound. These pieces moving through the diaphragm acted much the way sound waves do but they still lacked the sophistication we know of hearing aids today. They suffered from low-quality sound and picked up very few frequencies because of the carbon.

    Next up were Vacuum Tube Hearing Aids

    As the precursor to the first electronic hearing aids, vacuum tube hearing aids came about in the 1920s featuring a design that Bell Labs later improved on. Essentially they were the first transistors for use in hearing aids, made possible via a transmitter from a telephone that converted sounds and grouped them into electrical signals. The result was amplified sound that moved through the receiver’s end, becoming one of the first portable hearing aids as part of the electronic hearing aid design. Despite its weight, many people expressed their joy over the benefits driven by this new technology for improved hearing health.

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      3D Printing Revolutionizes the Hearing Aid Market

      The amazing process of 3D printing, in conjunction with laser scanning, has completely revolutionize the way these devices are made. It used to take a very long time to create a hearing device and it still wasn’t a truly custom fit. Those labor intensive manufacturing processes are gone, thanks to the new technology that decreases in time for manufacturing plus boosts the precise nature of the hearing aid. This process, revolutionizing the industry because of its versatility, speed and precision, is also known in the industry as additive manufacturing. What this means is, that instead of removing layers such as with lathes, you are adding layers. What comes out is a form fitting hearing aid that makes for a custom fit.

      A Crafted Fit

      First off, a blueprint or pointcloud is crafted by a trained hearing instrument specialist, through the development of a precise digital image of the ear via a laser scanner. After the comprehensive quality check to ensure proper fit, the shell, also known as the mold, is produced by the 3D printer and made of a flexible resin material. Once fitted with the acoustic vents, electronics and other components, thanks to 150,000 points of reference obtained via digital cameras, the template is applied to the mold to produce a virtually seamless fit for the individual. Audiologists, who test countless geometric patterns and combinations prior to printing out the final shell, add the complicated circuitry which codes the amplification of sound. Although not exactly a brand new concept, this technique is getting some much deserved attention in the medical community. Those with hearing impairments can now experience more comfort through the creation of state-of-the-art hearing aids, made possible via 3D printing.

      Within a Day

      It only takes a single day when 3D printing is used to make a hearing device, such as for the 10 million 3D printed hearing devices currently in circulation around the globe. The top advantage to this process is customization, thanks to this emerging scientific breakthrough. 3D printing has been in the background gaining momentum to increase the precision of the process. This hard-to-ignore component of the additive manufacturing industry is taking the hearing impaired community by storm. This approach can help people all over the world to hear better and feel more comfortable while doing it. This is a pretty big deal, as 35 million Americans have a hearing impairment, requiring a more comfortable fit through a unique hearing aid that serves their needs. When you think of improvements in terms of accuracy, speed, customization and efficiency, you will see that these components could have been possible with traditional manufacturing, which was time consuming and couldn’t guarantee a custom fit. Now all technicians need is a few hours to put together a quality customized hearing aid.

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        Made for iPhone Hearing Aids: An Introduction

        The iPhone, which is arguably the most innovative smartphone available, just got better. Apple has been collaborating with hearing aid manufacturers to create apps and hearing aids that are designed to work together. These are known as made for iPhone hearing aids. With a made for iPhone hearing aid, users can simply use an app to adjust the device. In addition, the iPhone delivers incoming audio such as phone calls and music or Siri’s responses right to the user’s hearing aid. Using a made for iPhone hearing aid is as easy as using any other Bluetooth device. According to Apple, “In Settings, go to General, then Accessibility, then Hearing Aids, and iOS will automatically search for and recognize your device. Once your hearing aid is paired, it’s available to you as an audio source whenever you need it.” Additionally, when you need to have a face-to-face conversation in a loud place, you can turn on the Live Listen feature and place your iPhone in front of the person you’re talking with. With Live Listen, one can use the phone’s microphone to hear the person speaking loud and clear.

        The selection of made for iPhone hearing aids available for purchase include Audibel’s A3i, Audigy’s AGXsp, Beltone’s Beltone First, MicroTech’s Kinnect, NuEar’s iSDS, ReSound’s ReSound LiNX, and Starkey’s Halo. Of course, the right hearing aid for you will take a little time and research. A hearing specialist will be able to guide you in the process. The unique features and abilities of each vary. As an example, Audibel’s A3i’s proclaims “advanced noise reduction technology and a precise directional microphone”. If you’re the forgetful type, Audigy’s AGXsp boasts a GPS feature to help you find your hearing aids. The MicroTech’s Kinnect will work with your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and it easily streams music, Facetime phone calls, and more, right to your ears. NuEar’s iSDS’s “Patented technology replicates high-frequency sounds (like women’s and children’s voices) in lower frequencies where they’re easier to hear and understand.” Finally, Starkey’s Halo’s “industry-leading feedback canceller provides feedback-free and comfortable listening all day long.”

        If this all seems overwhelming, don’t worry. Your hearing care specialist will guide you as to what brand and model is best for you.

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          Shopping for a Mobile Phone that is Compatible with Your Hearing Aids

          Up until recently, the intricate electronics of mobile phones often interacted poorly with the electronics of hearing aids, resulting in interference between the two devices that was perceived as static, screeching or whistling noises, or missing words. New government regulations, along with significant advances in both cell phone and hearing aid technology, have made this incompatibility rare. The regulations mandated new labeling requirements and ratings that help you to find a cell phone that works well with your hearing aid.

          The first thing you need to understand is that hearing aids operate in two different modes – microphone or “M” mode, and telecoil or “T” mode. When your hearing aid is in M mode, it uses the built-in microphone to pick up audible sounds from around you and amplify them to make them easier for you to hear. In T mode, the hearing aid instead uses an inductive process to pick up electromagnetic signals inside the phone directly, without the need for a microphone. Roughly 60 percent of all cell phones sold in the US have a telecoil (T) mode.

          The two modes – M and T – are each rated on a scale of 1 to 4 where 1 is the lowest sensitivity and 4 is the highest. No mobile phone or cordless handset sold in the United States can be sold as hearing aid compatible (HAC) unless it has a rating of at least M3 or T3.

          Hearing aids and cochlear implants have a similar M and T rating system to certify how sensitive they are in each mode, and how resistant they are to radio frequency interference. When shopping for a phone, to determine its compatibility with your hearing aid, simply add its M and T ratings together with those of the phone to create a combined rating. A combined rating of 6 or more is considered excellent, a hearing aid/phone combination that would provide highly usable, interference-free performance. If the combined rating is 5, this combination is considered normal and suitable for most regular phone use. A combined rating of 4 is considered usable for brief calls, but may not be suitable for extended phone use.

          If you are shopping for a mobile phone online, you can usually use this combined rating to determine how compatible the phone you are interested in buying will be with your hearing aid. In the end, nothing beats a real world test so you may want to wear your hearing aid to the mobile phone shop and test out a few different phone in real conditions.

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            Principle Variables Affecting Hearing Aid Battery Lifespan

            Even though the battery life for hearing aids might sound like a simple question to answer, it actually varies according to many factors. Battery life depends on the model of your hearing aid, and can vary widely even in models developed by the exact same manufacturer. How long your batteries will last will also depend on the manner in which you use the hearing aid – hearing aids need continuous power as long as they are turned on, so the more hours of the day you use yours, the faster you’ll use up batteries.

            Additionally, there are differences in battery life between battery manufacturers, and the same manufacturer may have different lines of batteries, some which last for a longer period of time than others. Battery type is yet another factor in longevity. For example, zinc-air batteries will start to lose stored energy the instant you remove the tab on the bottom and will continue losing charge even if the hearing aid is powered off while other types will only discharge when they are inside a hearing aid that is turned on.

            Because the expense of batteries adds up, if you’re looking for a new hearing aid, you should do some research to see which types and models of hearing aids are known for the best battery life, because that could influence your choice. The same research suggestion is true if you have an existing hearing aid and are trying to find the batteries with the longest life for it; you can uncover a great deal from consumer ratings and comparative reports.

            Fortunately, when shopping for hearing aid batteries, their manufacturers have made things a little simpler for you by standardizing their sizes and color-coding each size; the identical color codes are used by all manufacturers. The times listed below for each size are estimates, but will give you a basic idea of how long batteries of each size ought to last given normal use:

            • Yellow – Size 10 – 80 hours
            • Orange – Size 13 – 240 hours
            • Brown – Size 312 – 175 hours
            • Blue – Size 675 – 300 hours

            To ensure the longest life for your hearing aid batteries when they are in the hearing aid, turn the device off when you’re not wearing it. To ensure the longest shelf life for batteries you’ve purchased but haven’t used yet, store them indoors, at room temperature, and in their original, unopened packaging.

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              Your Guide to Telecoil in Digital Hearing Aids

              The hearing aid you are wearing may be equipped with a telecoil, or you might be considering a model which has a telecoil installed. A telecoil is a tiny coil of wire that offers a number of advantages. This short article will explain the essentials of what a telecoil is and how it works to improve your hearing ability.

              Telecoils inside hearing aids detect magnetism. Conventional microphones and amplifiers in hearing aids boost all the sounds that they encounter, but a telecoil only transfers magnetically created sounds. The telecoil was initially introduced to enhance listening ability on the phone. Older phones used powerful magnets in their speakers, creating magnetic signals that telecoil-equipped hearing aids could recognize. Modern phones no longer use magnets in this way. However, because the telecoil function is so popular among hearing aid users, many modern telephones contain additional electronics to make them telecoil compatible.

              The usage of telecoils started with the telephone, but now they are utilized in many other ways. They are often used as part of Assistive Listening Systems in auditoriums, stadiums and movie theaters. These venues will often provide headsets or receivers that the hearing impaired can use with their own hearing aids to pick-up the signals. Users often report that the quality of the sound they pick up magnetically is superior to the sound quality transmitted through the air acoustically.

              The size, age and type of your hearing aid can influence the way you access and use your telecoil. Behind-the-ear hearing aids with their larger cases are the most likely to have the telecoil feature included since the additional components require some additional space. Older hearing aids can be switched between telecoil and microphone modes using a physical switch on the device. Newer hearing aids allow the wearer to alternate between program modes with the press of a button.

              Interference may be an issue when using a telecoil, but it is not common. You may experience a buzzing sound that gets louder the closer you get to an older fluorescent light, a CRT computer monitor, or another cause of interference.

              The chance of interference is a minimal price to pay for the many benefits offered by telecoil-equipped devices. This technology is an inexpensive way to increase the abilities of your hearing aid.

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                Methods for Getting a Hearing Loop Put In at Public Places in Your Area

                Many businesses and gathering places have made themselves wheelchair accessible, but what about that extra assistance for people with hearing problems? With the help of telecoil-enabled hearing aids or implants, hearing loops clarify sounds for hearing challenged individuals, are a less expensive investment than other disability modifications and will generate additional patronage. If you’re having a hard time hearing the speakers at church, the actors at the local theatre, or at any other place you frequent, it may be possible to have a hearing loop installed with a little time and effort.

                Churches and places of worship. Few places of worship have contemporary hearing loops installed. Many don’t have any assistance for the hearing impaired. Others are using obsolete technology that is inconvenient or hard to use. If this is applicable to your favorite worship place, bring it to the attention of organizational leaders and be sure to point out how it will make listening to sermons easier for their patrons. Introduce the idea in a newsletter or bulletin by explaining how a hearing loop works and how easy it is to install.

                Theatres and public gathering places. In the United States, it is a legal requirement for pubic assembly spaces to have audio amplification. A hearing loop is an easy way for a venue to comply with this law. Contact the general manager of the venue and ask for a meeting. Be prepared to explain the costs involved as well as the benefits to the patrons and to the venue. For example, accommodating the hearing challenged will increase the number of visitors in these places.

                Be prepared to make your case. No matter how you choose to bring up the matter, create understanding by sharing facts, promoting awareness for the need and garnering understanding. Define hearing loop, its function and costs. Inform those in charge of the benefits to you and other patrons. Make a clear business argument that increased patronage will offset the cost of installing the hearing loop. And above all, be a helpful and friendly resource for your community.

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                  Pluses and Minuses of Receiver in Canal Type Hearing Aids

                  When you start shopping for hearing aids you’ll quickly encounter many different styles to choose from including the receiver-in-canal (RIC). RIC hearing aids are related to the more prevalent behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid, but they offer some advantages that BTE aids cannot. This short article explores some of the main pluses and minuses of the receiver in canal hearing aid model.

                  Many readers will be familiar with behind-the-ear and in-the-ear hearing aids where all the components are housed inside a single case. One of the key differentiating factors of the receiver in canal hearing aid is that it has two separate parts. The device’s microphone and amplifier are housed in a small case that rests behind the ear, while the receiver is found in a small bud that rests in the ear canal. A small tube connects the receiver to the case.

                  Separation of the receiver into its own compartment has several advantages. Receiver in canal hearing aids are less likely to inundate listeners with feedback, and occlusion is generally less of a problem. With the ear canal open, wearers generally report a more natural sound which is judged to be more comfortable. RIC hearing aids are favored by people with mild to moderate hearing losses because they amplify high-pitched sounds very well.

                  The split configuration of the RIC has a few other advantages. Because it is split in two parts, this type of hearing aid is unobtrusive and easy to obscure. This small size also makes it very comfortable and easy to fit.

                  Receiver in canal devices do have several disadvantages. Compared to other types of hearing aids, RIC aids are particularly vulnerable to moisture in the ear, necessitating frequent repairs. Because they are so comfortable they are actually easier to lose: if you are not used to feeling them in your ear, you may not notice when they are gone. Lastly, this style of hearing aid is often higher in price than its cousins, so some shoppers may have difficulty fitting them into their budgets.

                  Every hearing aid style has specific pros and cons. This is just a brief overview of the popular RIC style. Consult your hearing specialist to learn more about RIC and other styles of hearing aids.

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                    Understanding the Multiple Listening Programs Function Found in Some Digital Hearing Aids

                    Hearing a person speaking in a quiet room is very different from attempting to follow a conversation in a crowded diner. In order to keep up with changes in your listening environment, the majority of digital hearing aids are equipped with several different listening programs. These listening programs give your hearing aid the flexibility to help you hear at your best in a wide range of situations.

                    Your hearing professional will initially set up your multiple listening programs by using an external device. This device allows him or her to fine-tune a number of individual processing characteristics into several distinct programs. Once you begin using your hearing aid, these programs may be selected manually or automatically (depending on the your particular device and its configuration) to suit your listening environment.

                    You may be surprised at the variety of listening programs your hearing aid is able to run. You can access programs that reduce feedback, help shift high frequencies to lower ones (making them more comfortable to hear), help block out unnecessary background noise, and help make speech patterns in quiet environment clearer. These are just a few of the possibilities–your hearing care professional will work with you to choose which ones are most appropriate based on the condition of your own hearing and the situations you encounter most often.

                    The method you use to access these different programs varies from device to device. Some models include a small fob (much like a remote control) that allows the user to choose a program or to select or adjust other features of the hearing aid. Other hearing aids are equipped with a small manual switch, and some may actually choose the most appropriate program for you automatically.

                    Young children with hearing issues may be good candidates for hearing aids with multiple listening programs. Parents can more easily switch between programs to find the most comfortable settings for the child. This helps hearing instrument specialists narrow in on what settings will give the child the best listening experience possible.

                    The multiple listening programs feature in hearing aids can play a significant role in allowing the hearer to enjoy a more natural listening experience.

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