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Vol. LXVII, No. 7
March 27, 2015
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NIH Installs Hearing Loop Technology

NIDCD advisory council member Dr. David Myers stands next to the international symbol of access for hearing loss, which informs people that there are services available for the deaf or hearing impaired. The “T” signifies that a hearing loop is installed.
NIDCD advisory council member Dr. David Myers stands next to the international symbol of access for hearing loss, which informs people that there are services available for the deaf or hearing impaired. The “T” signifies that a hearing loop is installed.
Even with a hearing aid, people with hearing loss can struggle to understand what others are saying at a distance or in the presence of background noise. Meetings and conferences can present particular challenges. To address these issues, NIH recently installed hearing loop technology in several conference rooms on the Bethesda campus. Hearing loops enhance accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community by transferring audio signals from microphones and TVs directly into hearing aids and cochlear implants, which can be customized and creates a much clearer sound.

Attendees of the National Deafness and Other Communication Disorders advisory council meeting in January were among the first to benefit from this technology. Council member Dr. David Myers used the technology during the meeting. “The new technology in the NIH conference room works absolutely perfectly,” he said. “It takes the sound from the loudspeaker in the wall and puts it directly into my ear. I no longer needed a transcriber to assist me at the meeting.” Myers also helped another council member use the hearing loop technology. Both men wear hearing aids.

NIDCD collaborated with the Office of Research Services to install the technology in the two main 6th floor conference rooms in the C wing of Bldg. 31 and in NIDCD’s conference rooms in the building. The rooms are also equipped with headphone receivers for occupants who need hearing assistance but do not have a hearing aid or cochlear implant. David Rice, a management analyst at NIDCD and an advocate for people who are deaf or hard of hearing who uses this technology, said, “NIH has one of the largest deaf and hard-of-hearing communities in the federal government. The loop provides us with another accessible tool to be successful at NIH.”

Hearing loop installation in Bldg. 31, 6th floor conference room
Hearing loop installation in Bldg. 31, 6th floor conference room

Hearing loops use telecoil, or t-coil, technology, which was originally designed to make sounds clearer on the phone. T-coils are now used in a variety of assistive listening devices and found increasingly in places of worship, home TV rooms, theaters, courts, auditoriums, drive-thru windows, airports and train stations. The listener must wear a hearing aid or have a cochlear implant that has a t-coil, which acts as a mini-wireless receiver. After being turned on by the user, the t-coil picks up the magnetic signal from the hearing loop and then turns that signal back into sound within the hearing aid or cochlear implant.

According to Ken Ryland, chief of the NIH Events Management Branch, hearing loops are expected to be installed in several other meeting and conference rooms around campus in the coming year in conjunction with other planned renovations. More information about assistive devices for people with hearing, voice, speech or language disorders can be found on NIDCD’s web site.


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