An interesting article came my way today about a New York composer who had tragically lost most of his hearing overnight. Since then, he had been unable to enjoy the Broadway performances he loved to watch and listen to, but it was the installation of a hearing loop in a theatre that made all the difference because he could once again enjoy musicals even with his hearing aids on.
The thing that struck me the most about the article was that until recently, apparently hearing loops just didn’t exist in America. For the uninitiated, hearing loops transmit a signal, like the soundtrack in a cinema, that can be detected by hearing aids, cutting out distracting background noise.
Now, the idea of hearing loops is catching on in America with loop installations finally underway in top Broadway theatres. People are clearly impressed with the quality of the sound from the ‘not so new’ and low cost technology.
Loops have existed in UK public places for years and their use increased with the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995. Despite this, there are plenty of examples of loops not actually being switched on by untrained and clueless shop assistants.
So how did America go for so long without catching on? It’s apparently down to some key manufacturers finally embracing the technology causing demand for hearing aids with the ‘T’ setting to soar, and with it, the need for hearing loops.
Like most things that Americans get involved in, they end up doing it bigger and better. According to the article, they plan to loop entire train station concourses (how good is that?) and new Nissan taxis will have loops installed too.
Oh and if you do click on the link, you might notice that the ABC News website videos have subtitles too. Something which is a bit too tricky to achieve for the BBC. Uncle Sam got there first on that one!
By Andy Palmer, Deputy Editor
Andy volunteers for the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society on their website, deaf football coaching and other events as well as working for a hearing loss charity. Contact him on twitter @LC_AndyP (all views expressed are his own).
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