Assistive listening involves using an Assisted Listening Device (ALD) to amplify sound and bring it directly to the ear. These devices are able to filter out the desired sound from background noise—enhancing the sound the user hears.
Assistive listening devices (ALDs) are small amplifiers that bring sound directly to the ear of the user. They separate the sounds, particularly speech, that a person wants to hear from background noise—improving the “speech to noise ratio”. They can be used with or without hearing aids or a cochlear implant. These devices help improve hearing during phone conversations, in theatres or a lecture hall, during tv shows or movies, in places of worship, and have many other everyday uses.
In 2010, new standards for the ADA became law. These standards took full effect on March 15, 2012, and are mandatory for all new construction or renovations. The following are highlights of the changes, specifically for assistive listening systems.
- An assistive listening system shall be provided in assembly areas where audible communication is integral to the space. This means that any space where people gather is required to have an assistive listening system. The assistive listening system must cover the entire space of the venue, not just one area. There is more information below regarding what types of venues and spaces are required to provide assistive listening systems.
- Assistive listening is required where there is an amplified sound. If there is a microphone and/or speakers, a system is needed. Courtrooms must have assistive listening systems, even without amplified sound.
- The original ADA requirements specified that the number of assistive listening devices was 4 percent of seating capacity. The new requirements have been scaled to match the total occupancy of the venue. There is more specific information below regarding how many assistive listening devices (ALDs) are required.
- The new, 2010 requirements of the ADA state that a percentage of assistive listening devices must be hearing aid compatible to interface with t-coils in hearing aids. This is accommodated via neck loop technology with RF or IR assistive listening systems.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public facilities to provide equal access to people with disabilities, including those individuals who have difficulty hearing.
An FM System is a wireless assistive hearing device that transmits sounds directly from the source of the receiver. This type of ALD can be used to improve the use of hearing aids, a cochlear implant, or on its own without either device. They work to reduce background noise in, particularly noisy places.
FM systems are designed to help individuals needing auditory assistance or language interpretation overcome background noise, reverberation, and distance from the sound source. Ideal for large-group listening scenarios. Individuals use personal FM receivers anywhere within the coverage area to hear crystal-clear sound directly from the sound source.
A hearing loop, or induction loop, uses telecoils to magnetically transmit sound directly to hearing aids and cochlear implants through a magnetic field. They work to reduce background noise and other competing sounds in loud environments. These systems use a wire, or flat copper tape of loop(s) that are typically installed on the floor of a venue.
An infrared hearing system is a popular alternative to an induction loop system. A typical system consists of an audio source, an infrared radiator (transmitter), and infrared listening receivers.
WiFi assisted listening is a newer product that allows you to use your phone or other WiFi-enabled devices to connect to a network and listen to an audio broadcast. This is great for people with Bluetooth earbuds, or those who prefer not to use a pack.
Both Williams Sound and Listen Technologies offer combo systems providing the standard FM assisted listening pack and the ability to broadcast over WiFi.