Accessibility Series: Michigan Facilities with Hearing Aid Accessibility (Looping)
Maybe this situation is familiar to you: You’re in a large space like a concert hall or a church with an older relative. There are a lot of people talking, and all that background noise has you worried because your relative wears hearing aids. You wonder: when the program begins, will they be able to hear it? If they wear hearing aids and the facility has an induction loop, chances are great they’ll be able to follow every word or sound.
The use of hearing aid accessibility systems – also called induction loops or just “looping” – has increased in the last few decades. This technology creates a clearer, crisper sound from a microphone or audio system that is delivered right to the wearer’s hearing aid, cutting out much of the background noise. Facilities that are looped commonly include large public buildings, senior centers and churches. For people without hearing loss, looping systems rarely come up in conversation. But for those who use hearing aids and know that looped buildings can deliver clear sounds, it is an important accessibility feature that allows them to hear as well as anyone else – and sometimes even better, depending on how much background noise is blocked.
Hearing difficulties increase with age. A large number of people in the United States currently have difficulty hearing on their own. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 2019 national health survey showed:
- 13% of all adults interviewed had some difficulty hearing, even if they were currently using a hearing aid.
- 7.1% of adults age 45 and older used a hearing aid.
- More men ages 45 and older reported using hearing aids.
- Nearly 27% of those 65 and older reported some difficulty hearing, even if they were using a hearing aid.
Hearing loss is an important issue because it can limit not only communication between people, but impact a person’s job, their social life and their ability to function independently.
How looping works. Audio looping systems have helped people with hearing loss participate more fully in so many places. The looping equipment is pretty standard. Most people who have hearing aids or cochlear implants have a telecoil, also called a T-coil, in their devices. An induction loop system will turn these T-coil antennas into tiny, personal speakers that drown out any secondary noise and give the listener a clear representation of what is coming through a nearby microphone or audio system. Buildings that have induction loops for hearing accessibility have a cable or wire that runs around a perimeter area. It’s typically connected to a microphone or audio system, and produces a magnetic field signal that delivers the sound to any T-coil in the area.
Loops in Michigan. Loop advocacy group Time 2 Loop America has a map of induction loop sites across the country. In Michigan, more than 570 different buildings are listed. Many are clustered in West Michigan, where there has been a big push for looping in the last couple decades. Grand Rapids and its suburban areas like Holland, Rockford Jenison, Hudsonville, Zeeland and Ada all have multiple facilities that are looped. Here are some highlights from our biggest cities:
- Ann Arbor Senior Center
- Center for Independent Living
- Meijer Pharmacy
- State Theatre
- Detroit Metro Airport
- St. John Vianny Church
- St. Pius X Catholic Church
- Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
- Aquinas College Circle Theatre
- Calvary Church
- Devos Place Convention Center
- Gerald R. Ford International Airport
- Michigan Commission of Disability Concerns
- Civic Theater
- Kalamazoo Public Library
- People’s Church of Kalamazoo
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