Virtually invisible device helps hearing impaired

January 21, 2010 10:08:57 AM PST
Since the 1940s, a hidden device called the Hearing Loop has been giving people who wear hearing aids direct access to sounds. Because the hearing loop system is invisible, many people are not aware of them or understand how it works. A Lake County audiologist is not only trying to increase awareness about this system, she wants all houses of worship to install them.

The First Presbyterian Church in Lake Forest has signs posted to let members know they have a hearing loop system.

"You hit a button on your hearing aid, your hearing aid serves as an antenna and links right into the sound system. You hear better than normal hearing people," said Dr. Linda Remensnyder.

Remensnyder is an audiologist and advocate for the hearing loop system. She is also a person who has a hearing loss and is a member of the First Presbyterian Church.

"The loop is a figurative term because it loops around the room," said Remensnyder. "There's a copper wire that goes around the periphery of the place that will be looped and the copper wire is inexpensive. The driver is a box that goes behind the altar in this case and it just drives the electric-magnetic field to put out a signal. The actual box costs around $1,000 and the wire is nothing, but the installation can be expensive depending upon how large the area is and more importantly what the contraction of the area is."

Parish member Jim Kellock started wearing a hearing aid 10 years ago.

"I have tinnitus, ringing in the ears since the military when I was in my early 20s," said Kellock. "Very difficult to hear in a crowded restaurant, any public area, and you miss a lot of the conversation."

But with the Hearing Loop system...

"I can adjust the level of the sound, and I hear every word," Remensnyder said. "Previously, it was very difficult to hear who was speaking, and it depended on where you sat at church the row, the number of people in the church, and now it' s seemingly effortless."

Pastor Christine Chakoian also wears a hearing aid.

"If someone's speaking quickly or softly at the back podium, as long as they have a microphone I can put a little button on my ear and suddenly I can hear them perfectly," said Chakoian.

"They are much more popular in England and in Europe, and in America, just like it's behind on green products, it's very behind on the technology for the hearing impaired, but they have been around for a long time and they work, they do," said Remensnyder.

If you want to learn more about the hearing loop system, go to www.hearingloopsystems.com or www.hearingloop.org.


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