Are the Handicapped Being Neglected in Miami (and the rest of the U.S.)? An Appeal to Help the Hard of Hearing.
Anyone who has lived in the United States could probably not imagine this country without wheelchair-accessible facilities- every public place has some kind of special ramp or other facilitation for wheelchair-bound people, and every public restroom is designed for wheelchair accessibility- its the law (most of this has to do with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA). With that being said, why don’t more public places here in the U.S. (such as churches and opera houses etc.) cater toward the hard-of-hearing? I’m not saying that any cause is worth more than the other, but with countless numbers of ‘boomers who are hard of hearing and who will eventually be adapting hearing aids, this is surely a pressing issue.
To understand what using a hearing aid in an audience full of people is like, go to your living room, open the window, turn on the TV, then go across the room, take a tape recorder and record the TV. The resultant recording is what using a hearing aid in a large audience is like- not only do you hear a slight, thinned-out version of the TV, but you also hear the neighbour’s dogs barking, cars in the street, and the lawnmower in another neighbouring yard. When someone with a hearing aid is in an audience listening to, say, their child’s piano recital- what they hear is akin to the previously mentioned tape recording. They do hear the performance, but they also hear the baby who just began to cry, the person on the other side of the hall coughing, the person next to them flipping through the recital programme, the reverberation of the performance throughout the recital hall, and the couple behind them engaging in a whispered conversation; all amplified at the same level via hearing aid.
With induction loop technology (also known as t-loop or t-coil, which is short for telecoil), hearing aid users are no longer subjected to this reality. Hearing aid users just press a button on their hearing aid, and their hearing aids are turned into virtual loudspeakers. The equipment required to set this up in a hall is relatively rudimentary- it consists of a box connected to the speaker system or amplifier (which acts as a sort of radio amplifier) and a single copper wire “loop” that goes around the room (that acts as a broadcasting antenna for the hearing aid). Manufacturers have even produced small “home” induction loop systems that lay under the living room couch in the living room and “portable” or “small business” versions that are the size of a portable hard drive and sit on a desk or counter- they are relatively inexpensive and are widely available from electronics retailers such as Radio Shack.
So why isn’t this technology well-known in the United States? It exists here, and is already installed in some churches and performance halls, but is not widespread enough, mostly because many building owners do not know about it or its effectiveness, despite the popularity of hearing loop systems in countries such as Denmark and the UK (where hearing loops are mandated by law in every place of business); and also because many people in the U.S. still use antiquated hearing aids that lack T-Loop technology (however, that is probably a “chicken and egg” issue, if you will). According to hearingloop.org (motto: “Let’s Loop America!”), a hearing loop advocacy website, there is currently a push to show the effectiveness of an entire hearing-looped community in the US, and Holland-Zeeland, Michigan was one of the first communities to be fully-looped (this initiative was spearheaded by hearingloop.org, and several other communities in Western Michigan followed their example afterward, including Grand Rapids). Hearingloop.org has also produced an official logo, with the approval of National Association of the Deaf, that not only serves to inform the hard of hearing of the presence of hearing loop systems, but also helps increase awareness of the systems among the not-so-hard of hearing. With the extensive work done by Hearingloop.org and other advocacy groups, it is only a matter of time until this logo (seen below) becomes as ubiquitous as the “wheelchair” sign (to indicate handicap access).
For more information on T-Coil compatible hearing aids, make sure to visit your local hearing-aid licensed audiologist. Here in Miami, New Generation Hearing Center is the home of Miami’s greatest licensed hearing professionals, with the experience, knowledge, and friendly service to make choosing a hearing aid an enjoyable and enriching experience. Or if you think you may need a hearing aid, but do not wear one or know where to start, then New Generation is also the best place to begin in South Florida, and will help you get on the road toward living a normal life again.