Imagine not being able to hear the speaker across the roar of a crowd, the bank cashier, or a bus driver over the noise of an engine. For many of the one in six of the UK population with some form of hearing loss, this is a daily reality. Hearing Loops for public facilities are more important than ever post-covid.
A hearing loop, also known as an assistive listening system or audio loop is a specialist sound system for those that use hearing aids. The ‘loop’ transmits an audio signal directly into a hearing aid enabling the wearer to hear sounds with reduced or eliminated background noise.
A loop consists of a microphone to pick up the spoken word or music; an amplifier that processes the signal which is then sent through the final piece; the loop cable, a wire placed around the perimeter of a specific area i.e. a service counter, a classroom, meeting room or theatre to act as an antenna that radiates the magnetic signal to the hearing aid.
While installation is relatively straightforward, the commissioning of systems is crucial to make sure that they are appropriately set up. Systems installed in close proximity to each other can cause a ‘spill’ of a signal which interferes with reception such as in adjacent classrooms and lecture theatres, cinemas, or where there is a performance area for electrical instruments.
In the same way that being forced to work from home due to the worldwide crisis of COVID-19 sped up a new culture of digitising our workload, increased awareness for accessibility in society is another symptom of our post-pandemic existence. With many companies being forced to adapt to the accessibility requirements of their employees, all the big players followed to get ahead of the curve. Zoom added captions to its program for profoundly deaf employees forced to work from home, Microsoft made accessibility tools standard in Office programs such as PowerPoint, and LiveNation broadcasted concerts online to watch from the comfort of our home. Moreover, the social distancing measures and mask-wearing catapulted a change in our approach to sanitation and cleanliness, which in turn has saved thousands of disabled people from serious illness and death.
All these moves by companies play a part in the shift of public perception and demand for equality of access. Whereas in 2019, and earlier, accessibility to many people simply meant a facility boasted a wheelchair ramp, the world has moved beyond that, despite there being laws being in place to protect the rights of disabled people for longer, such as the Equality Act 2010 (EA), which replaced the Disability Discrimination Acts 1995, etc.
Furthermore, it has been proven that disabled consumers are much more likely to trust and respect brands that recognise their differences, especially as increasingly conscientious consumers have more of a voice and platform than ever before thanks to the internet. However, despite brilliant efforts by companies to promote diversity of race, gender, culture, and sexual orientation, disabled consumers are still massively underrepresented in mainstream marketing. Very few businesses have direct strategies to tap into the Purple Pound Market, which equates to £249 billion a year in our UK economy alone.
So, besides compliance with the law, a clear financial incentive, and an expansion of the respectability and visibility of your brand, what are other reasons to provide hearing loops?
Well, appropriately installed and operating loop systems are greatly welcomed by hard-of-hearing people. Some may feel self-conscious about their hearing loss, particularly if it is age-related, and prefer discreet operation so they may not consider notifying a building manager if they wish to use the system or if there is a fault. If a business or facility dares to accommodate the needs of disabled people without being asked, they are much more likely to recommend a service or product to others they know, whether their friends are part of the demographic or not. The long-term positives, in addition to the fact it is simply the right thing to do, make installing devices for a growing hard of hearing population obvious.
This, in effect, is why we believe we have had more queries about our Hearing Loops than ever. We installed vast quantities over in Dubai at Expo 2020, in addition to Hertfordshire County Council buildings, and several museums and schools.
Why are Hearing Loops more important than ever? Because the market demands it, and the world is becoming a better place as a result.
Are you looking to make your site accessible to thousands of disabled people? Feel free to contact us and lay out your specific needs so that we can find improvements to suit your needs or budget. Or alternatively, have a look at our Access Consultancy or Induction Loop options. We are here to help, because for us, access is personal.