Back in the ’90’s I attended my first hearing-loss support meeting. As the meeting started, a lady asked, “Is the loop on?” “What’s a loop?” I asked, and I was told it’s a wire surrounding the room that silently sends sound to telecoils. “What’s a telecoil?” I asked, and I learned it’s a tiny antennae in hearing aids that receives the loop’s signal. The hearing aid turns it into sound. I wondered, “Why wasn’t I told about telecoils when I bought my hearing aids?” I’ve heard “why wasn’t I told?” over and over at support meetings.
Telecoils add no cost and can be included in over 70 percent of current hearing aids and cochlear implants. With telecoil-equipped devices, background noise is dramatically reduced, and the voice of a performer is right at the ear with a loop. When I asked the “why” question, there was only one church in Albuquerque with a hearing loop, a loop at Hearing Loss Association meetings, and loops on some home TVs, so the answer from some providers that clients had no place to use telecoils might have appeared valid then.
That response is disingenuous, though. The telecoil’s original purpose was for telephone use, to receive sound electromagnetically from the magnet in the phone’s earpiece. I have a telephone, doesn’t everyone? Also available were neckloops – devices worn around the neck and plugged into any sound-producing device with a headset jack. The neckloop and telecoils became a headset! Who doesn’t have something a headset plugs into?
New Mexico today has 120 known looped venues, mostly in Albuquerque, including places of worship, theaters, City Council chambers and others. Other churches offer a neckloop option with their listening systems. Multiplex patrons can borrow a neckloop instead of a headset. Many landline and cell phones have headset/neckloop jacks, so the legitimacy of that “no place to use them” excuse appears invalid.