The number of people worldwide with disabling hearing loss is on the rise. Today, 466 million are affected and this number is expected to grown to 900 million by 2050, according to the World Health Organization. That’s one in every ten people. In the U.S., over 10% of the population is dealing with disabling hearing loss. Fortunately, assistive listening technology can provide businesses and learning facilities with the tools to help them communicate better with the hearing impaired. There are several options that can be utilized depending on the characteristics and requirements of the venue.
With radio frequency, a radio wave transmits a signal to a receiver and headphones, or directly to a cochlear implant or hearing aid. It is a low-cost option that works well in either small or large spaces. However, it is not ideal for situations where privacy is required or there are multiple spaces using the same technology in close range, as the signal is not contained within the room.
Using the same technology as in your typical TV remote, infrared utilizes light waves that transmit sound to an IR receiver and headphones This option is perfect for instances such as classrooms or courtrooms as it is contained and won’t be transmitted beyond the boundaries of the space. It is however dependent on line of sight, so there can be no obstacles in the room that will interfere with the light signal being transferred. It is relatively low cost and can deliver multiple audio sources.
The easiest and most discrete method for most people using hearing aids or cochlear implants, induction loop systems employ an electromagnetic field via a loop of wire or copper tape installed onto the floor of the venue. The audio signal is delivered directly to t-coil hearing aids, cochlear implants or a hand-held or worn loop receiver. The one drawback to this option is that it requires installation and therefore is the more costly of the assistive listening options.
A relative newcomer to the world of assistive listening, streaming Wi-Fi allows Bluetooth enabled devices such as smart phones to receive the signal, which users can then listen to through their headphones. The signal can also be transmitted to Bluetooth enabled hearing aids. Ideal for a variety of venues such as auditoriums, theaters, and concert halls, one of the benefits of this option is that it doesn’t require the purchase, or maintenance of receivers or headphones.