Bluetooth and Looping Systems: Improving Sound Quality in Public Places for People with Hearing Loss
As awareness surrounding accessibility for people with hearing loss continues to grow, many organizations and businesses are taking steps to ensure that sound quality is a priority, specifically for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
These systems have different capabilities and uses, but the implementation of Bluetooth and looping systems is a positive step for those striving to gain access to amplified sound in public places.
Bluetooth is a relatively recent advancement for people with hearing loss. Many new hearing aids and cochlear implants come equipped with a Bluetooth setting that allows users to wirelessly connect to technology, such as phones or microphones.
In a Bluetooth connection, a person can pair their hearing-assistive device with a remote sound source. As a result, sound will be streamed directly to the hearing aid or cochlear implant, creating a clear channel to access sound.
This technology has found its most resourceful use in phone conversations, where a person with hearing loss can receive a caller’s voice directly in their devices. However, there are ways to utilize Bluetooth in public places to enhance a listener’s experience.
Some newer microphones can be paired with Bluetooth, and if a person’s listening device has Bluetooth capabilities, they can then pair to the microphone to receive clearer sound that bypasses any background noise. This function operates similarly to an FM system and seemingly has use in lecture halls, classrooms, places of worship and other large room settings.
Another setup that has been around longer than Bluetooth is the looping system. Looping systems are more cumbersome than Bluetooth, requiring a physical wire to be installed in the room seeking to enhance sound quality. These wires typically surround the area, covering the perimeter and potentially running through the floor as well.
This setup creates a magnetic field connecting to a sound production system (microphone or speaker). On the other side of things, a person with hearing loss who is utilizing hearing-assistive technology must have a telecoil in their device. Some devices include a telecoil, and it is also possible to use a personal neck loop with telecoil capabilities. For hearing-assistive technology, the telecoil setting must be activated to enjoy the benefits of the looping system.
Once within the magnetic field created by the looping system wire, users are able to pick up the sound signal directly to their devices. This system has obvious benefits in a playhouse, music venue, large classroom or even a home, with the idea again being that distracting background noise can be eliminated. Looping systems have also been known to have been used in taxis and at drive-thru restaurants.
Helpful Resources to Determine Public Sound Quality
Recently, Google Maps created a new feature to help those with hearing loss determine if a location has a looping system. This feature, as explained by the Hearing Loss Association of America, will easily allow those who are deaf and hard of hearing to determine whether a venue will provide the sound benefits associated with a looping system.
Another helpful resource to determine sound quality is the SoundPrint app. This app, available for Android and iPhone, allows users to measure the sound level at a venue or business. These levels are stored in a database, allowing those concerned with being able to hear in public spaces to look up a location’s sound performance. People with hearing loss who are looking for quiet or moderate locations to hold conversations or enjoy entertainment are better equipped on their search.
Rely on Your Audiologist
A good rule of thumb for anyone who isn’t sure if they are maximizing their ability to access sound is to schedule a visit with your audiologist. Your audiologist will have answers about your devices’ Bluetooth or looping system connectivity possibilities and can further explain how to access the best quality of sound in public places. CCHAT’s on-site audiologists are available to families in the program and are always willing to answer questions that may arise.