Assistive Listening Devices

In general, most of us probably take hearing for granted. However, as the population in general ages, health issues will arise. As a business owner, school administrator, municipal employee or even church pastor, a major health issue you should be aware of is hearing loss. Human hearing is not an all or nothing prospect. There are many degrees and variations in the level of sound people hear. Recent major studies have indicated that upwards of 15% of adults 50-59 have hearing loss significant enough to impact their understanding of everyday speech. Between 60-69 that percentage nearly doubles. Again, the general population, most notably, the 'Baby Boomer' generation (now the largest portion of the population) is aging. If you can't hear a movie, play or worship service, you may be less inclined to attend.

Reasons To Install Assistive Listening Devices

  1. It's a sound business decision. You want your customers to enjoy their experience at your restaurant, theater, concert venue, classroom, court room (well, maybe enjoy doesn't apply here), etc. To do that, they have to hear what is going on.
  2. It's the law. The ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, requires assistive listening devices be made available. The ADA specifies that ALD receivers be provided at no cost and specifies the number of receivers that must be provided depending on the number of seats (also known as the 4% rule).

Types Of Commercial & Public Facilities That Must Comply With ADA Requirements

  • Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Theaters
  • Convention Centers
  • Shopping Centers & Retail Stores
  • Dry Cleaners & Laundromats
  • Hospitals, Pharmacies & Doctors' Offices
  • Museums & Libraries
  • Parks, Zoos & Amusement Parks
  • Private Schools, Day Care Centers
  • Health Spas & Bowling Alleys

Even office buildings, factories and warehouses whose operations affect commerce must comply. Religious organizations (including places of worship), residential housing, and private clubs do not need to comply. However many places of worship voluntarily offer assistance for hard of hearing people. After all, you want your message heard, right?

Types of Assistive Listening Devices

There are four basic types of assistive listening devices:

  1. FM (Frequency Modulation... bet you didn’t know that’s what it stood for, huh?) radio
  2. Infra-Red (IR) Light
  3. Looped wire around the room (Induction Loop)
  4. Sound Field System

All of these systems work quite well and each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. The main reason for an assistive listening device system is to bring the sound to those who are listening in as pure a manner as possible. Most of these systems are set up so as to minimize background noise and only amplify the main sound(s); spoken words, music, etc. They all pick up the sound at the source and transmit the signal to special receivers worn by the customer. The difference lies in the technology employed to do so. One technology or other may be more appropriate than another for certain types of situations. An IR system, for example, provides privacy since the light wave stays in the room where it is generated, but it is a bit more difficult to install and ensure good coverage in the entirety of the listening area. An FM radio system is relatively easy to install and will provide good coverage in the listening area, but is more prone to outside radio interference and does not provide privacy. The induction loop system is the most difficult to install, but most convenient for users who have hearing aids that include a telephone coil (these are coils within the hearing aid that pick up the electromagnetic energy emanating from the system).

A sound field is a speaker system that brings the sound closer to listeners by utilizing (usually) inconspicuous or hidden speakers. These types of systems are often employed in schools. Some speakers are wireless and designed to look like lunch boxes or books. Hearing aid users as well as cochlear implant users who want to hear through their microphones may appreciate use of a sound field system. These installations are designed to help hard of hearing people to better understand speech, music, and other sounds during a movie, performance, lecture, meeting or worship service. Like a hearing aid, an assistive listening device makes sounds louder.

The difference between a hearing aid and an ALD is that typically a hearing aid makes all sounds in the environment louder. An assistive listening device is designed and installed to increase the loudness of a desired sound (a radio or television, a public speaker, an actor or actress, someone talking in a noisy place) without increasing the loudness of the background noise. Some ALD are even used with a hearing aid, but it is by no means necessary. People with all degrees and types of hearing loss, even people with normal hearing-can benefit from assistive listening devices.

Zeo Systems provides Assisted Listening Device service to the greater Philadelphia area, including Montgomery County, Bucks County, and Delaware County. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation