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What Are Assisted Listening Systems

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]An assisted listening system (ALS) is technology that helps people with hearing loss better hear a speaker, a concert, a council meeting - anything worth listening to. ALS technology can be found in many settings but are most common in venues where audio enhancement solutions are needed, so anywhere you might find speakers, amplifiers and similar hardware. There are multiple types of ALS solutions, and they all work discreetly and easily, so people are generally willing to use them if needed. Further, venues that rely on audio broadcasts are required to provide listening assistance to remain in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=".vc_custom_1641831097026{background-color: #f2f2f2 !important;border-radius: 10px !important;}"][vc_column][vc_column_text]

What Kinds of Assisted Listening Systems are Available?

ALS solutions have been around for decades, and in that time a few technologies have been developed to help with assistive listening. They include:[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1641831161327{padding-right: 50px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;}"]

Inductive Hearing Loops

Inductive hearing loops first gained popularity in Europe, Australia and Asia, but they are quickly gaining popularity in America. Also called T-loops, an inductive hearing loop is powered by copper wiring or tape that’s arranged in a loop and installed under the floor. This loop is connected to the room’s audio capturing technology, so when sound is delivered to a microphone, it is also routed to the induction loop. This electrical impulse produces a magnetic field that anyone inside the copper loop can use to augment their hearing aid’s ability to output sound. About 80 percent of hearing aids are built with a telecoil, or T-coil. The telecoil is very simple as it’s only a small copper coil that can be toggled on with a switch on the hearing aid. When switched on, the telecoil responds to any magnetic field by outputting the same audio frequencies indicated by the induction loop. Anyone with a T-coil hearing aid will pick up this audio as long as they stay inside the loop. It’s high-quality audio, too, as the signal is piped directly into the listener’s ear at a safe volume.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1641831168425{padding-right: 50px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;}"]

Infrared Systems

Infrared systems use a signal transmitter and a receiver, which is typically worn around the neck and connected to earbuds or speakers. During operation, an infrared ALS works much like a remote control and television. The transmitter sends an audio signal to the infrared radiator (emitter), which beams an infrared signal to any receivers in the room. In short, the information is converted from audio to invisible light, and back to audio again.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1641831213964{padding-right: 50px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;}"]

FM, or Radio, Systems

An FM system is nearly identical in function, compared to an infrared ALS. Both utilize signal transmitters and receivers to deliver information in the form of audio to a worn output device. The only difference is that an FM solution uses radio waves to deliver this audio information, while an infrared system uses invisible light.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]What does this difference in delivery method mean? Infrared signals cannot pass through solid objects, just like visible light can’t. This means that if your venue is using an infrared ALS, it will need a clear line of sight to the receivers to work. However, this can also be an advantage when the audio is meant to be private, as the signal will be blocked by the room’s walls. Radio signals are not affected by solid objects in the same way, so FM systems offer a bit more flexibility in where they can be positioned.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

What Are The Benefits of Investing in Assisted Listening Systems?

Almost every organization - professional, educational, governmental or otherwise - relies on communication to properly function. Whether that communication takes place in a meeting room, a lecture auditorium or a concert hall, here is why ALS makes sense:
  • It enhances audio only for those who need it - Hearing difficulties can make it extremely difficult to follow what is being said, and that makes comprehension nearly impossible. During a concert or speaking event, this may be frustrating, but in a classroom or professional setting, it could cause serious work or school-related issues. An ALS provides the much-needed audio boost that people who are hard of hearing need. Research shows that this audio boost should be around 15 to 25 decibels, and with ALS technology in place, this boost can be delivered without affecting audio volume or quality for anyone else in the room. That makes ALS technology a perfect combination of effective and discreet listening assistance.
  • It ensures compliance with accessibility regulations - The ADA requires certain venues to provide ALS technology for their hard-of-hearing visitors. In spaces where, according to the ADA, audible communication is integral to the use of the space, the goal is to ensure that everyone can be included in the conversation. In addition to mandating ALS technology in certain venues, the ADA also requires those venues to maintain a minimum number of receivers and to provide signage that indicates the presence of assisted listening systems. The greater the venue’s seating capacity, the more receivers need to be kept on hand. For example, in a venue that seats at least 1,000 people, the ADA requires there to be at least 25 receivers on hand, plus one more for every 50 seats. There are exceptions to the ADA’s requires on ALS technology but, in general, if a space requires audio amplification technology, then it must provide an ALS option as well.
  • It is cost effective and convenient for both venue and listener - What makes an ALS solution so cost effective is its ease of use and convenience. ALS technology works with minimal attention (an inductive loop can be kept on indefinitely), and all a user has to do is either toggle a switch on their hearing aid or pick up a receiver at the venue. It’s the simplest way possible to provide clear audio to people with hearing difficulties, and the simplest solution is often the most effective.

Where Are Assisted Listening Systems Normally Installed?

ALS technology is required in any setting where spoken audio is important and where audio enhancement is needed. That covers a lot of venues and spaces, including:
  • Public meeting and hearing rooms
  • Classrooms, lecture halls and auditoriums
  • Courtrooms
  • Council and legislative chambers
  • Performing art centers like theaters, amphitheaters and concert halls
  • Convention centers
  • Stadiums
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Given their size and acoustics, it’s even more difficult for people with hearing difficulties to follow the audio in these spaces. However, assisted listening systems offer a cost effective and reliable way to ensure everyone is included, so hearing problems don’t get in the way of an important conversation. Those considering adding assisted listening systems to their facilities should work with a reputable and knowledgeable AV integrator to assist with the details for each unit, including the proper location and ensuring it is installed correctly.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]