Today’s modern hearing aids can greatly improve a person’s ability to hear.
However, they don’t compensate for the background noise and reverberation in crowded public places such as cinemas, airports or churches. Nor do hearing aids compensate for the distance a person is from the originating sound – such as in a lecture theatre.
Increasing the volume of hearing aids doesn’t solve the problem, because that also increases the level of background noise. That’s where assistive listening systems help.
Building owners and operators can help by installing "assistive listening systems" in buildings such as cinemas, airports and churches.
In fact, the Building Act 1991 requires that new or extensively renovated public buildings be accessible for hearing impaired people by having an assistive listening system installed.
The Act applies to:
Assistive listening systems eliminate the effects of distance, background noise and reverberation, providing amplification and clarity. Various assistive listening systems are available to improve communication and participation in public facilities.
Each assistive listening system has a transmitter that sends sound to a receiver wirelessly.
There are three types of system:
The most common listening system, often found in churches, cinemas, theatres and other public places.
A small device that is contained within a personal hearing aid (called a telecoil) picks up the sound from the ‘loop’. When a person with a hearing aid is in a place where an audio loop has been installed, they switch their hearing aid to ‘T’. This allows them to hear the sound much more clearly and without background noise.
Commonly used in classrooms, courts and multi-screen theatres.
These systems require a special receiver to be worn by each person. This receiver may be worn as a set of headphones, or it may be connected to the listener’s personal hearing aids. To obtain a receiver for use in a place where an infrared or FM assistive listening device has been installed, contact the customer service staff. At educational centres, contact the disability co-ordinator.