Assistive Hearing - Overview
The Disability Discrimination Act imposes an obligation on employers and service providers to ensure that disabled access to their premises is adequate, including making provision for assistive hearing / listening. If a public place does not have the correct provisions for people requiring support, or the assistive hearing system is faulty or not working correctly, a company and/or organisation could be seen as not complying with this legal obligation.
Audio Frequency Induction Loops (AFILs) - 'Induction loop' systems are used to assist the hearing impaired by transmitting sound from a sound system, microphone, television or other source, directly to a hearing aid equipped with a telecoil or 'T' position. Induction loops may be portable or permanently installed (eg. ticket offices, counters, banks, auditoriums, museums).
Alternative assistive hearing and listening products use infra-red light with transmitters and receivers. A receiver is often in the form of a neck loop which is inserted into the ears or creates a small personal induction loop for the wearer, operating the telecoil within the hearing aid.
Audio Frequency Induction Loop Systems (AFILS)
The underpinning technology of Audio Frequency Induction Loop Systems (AFILS) is based on a simple 'loop' of cabling that is installed around a room or building area. This loop cable is connected to an AFILS amplifier that generates a magnetic field, which is picked up by the user's hearing aid.
AFILS Typical Installations: AFILS installations can be found everywhere - public and government offices, transport and ticketing offices, museums, auditoriums, places for worship, even in taxis and the home.
AFILS Issues and Challenges: There are a number of issues and challenges to catch the unwary designer or installer, costs can escalate without detailed knowledge and effective planning. Magnetic and electrical interference from power supplies, equipment and cabling can make for a difficult and often hostile environment for hearing-aid users. Building and room construction, metallic surfaces can all adversely affect the AFILS signal strength and quality.
Infrared (IR) Systems
Provides assistive hearing and listening using infrared transmitters and receivers.
Using direct 'line of sight' operation, infrared light technology is used to carry sound and spoken audio directly to user headset and ear pieces.
Benefits of Infrared over AFILS:
- Can be used by persons without hearing impairment (eg. language translations).
- Simple installation, no 'loop'. Use where AFILS loop not possible or impractical.
- Less interference. 'Line of sight' reduces possible magnetic / electrical interference. Also reduces 'spill over' with multiple system use (eg. neighbouring rooms in a conference facility).
- Beneficial for persons with mild or moderate hearing loss / impairment.
- Some receiver headsets create a mini-afils loop, affording hearing aid use.
Portability and Mobility
There are portable and mobile assistive hearing (AFILS) solutions for applications such as small environment rooms and spaces. Ideal for reception counters and small one-2-one meetings. Typically used within Dentist, Doctors, Hotel Receptions, Reception Counters, Shops etc.