Telecoils and the magnetic loop

Floyd Wesley Brosman
Copyright 2002

When my wife and I got off the Dover ferry boat with thousands of other travelers we were overwhelmed by the sights, the sounds and the babble of languages as we made our way through the busy terminal. Approaching the customs officers, the passengers began to separate themselves into several different aisles that were marked on the floor. As the PA system blared unintelligibly overhead I looked around us to find a sign to augment my poor hearing. Then I spotted the little sign that resembled a human ear. I vaguely remembered reading about this sign in our guidebook, and I switched on my telecoil as recommended. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life as a hard of hearing person! The roar of the crowd was gone! In its place was the clear, sharp voice of the British announcer telling us which line to get into.

As I confidently led my wife into the proper line, she asked how I knew where to go. I had anticipated her question and had flipped my hearing aid switch to M/T to get both telecoil and microphone input. For the first time in sixteen years of marriage, I was able to explain a voice communication to my wife. I must say I felt empowered at that point. I continued to feel that way during our month-long visit to Britain, where the little human ear sign continued to alert me to turn on my telecoil for crisp, clear sounds straight from the intercom or PA system. It was like having a direct line to the microphone of the speaker. Like a kid with a new toy, I told my wife what the actors had said in plays and movies we attended, I gave her the latest announcements in noisy train stations and even on a museum tour.

The device that catapulted me ahead of my normal hearing wife was the magnetic loop system that nearly every building in Britain has installed. That first encounter was in 1984, folks, and it is even better today. Most of northern Europe has opted for the magnetic loop, so my telecoil serves me well in a variety of countries when we make our annual trips abroad.

With this experience behind me I was surprised at the reaction to Dr David Myers’ presentation at the SHHH convention; “Loop America.” Like me, Dr. Myers spends a lot of time in Europe, where he has come to appreciate the widespread use of magnetic loops to assist the hearing aid users. When he listed the locations in Britain where he had heard perfectly thanks to the loop, the audience was politely incredulous. They just found it hard to believe that there is such a place where the HOH person has a leg up on those with normal hearing. Let me re-state what Dr. Myers said; all public buildings in northern Europe have magnetic loops that make the hearing aid wearer the best informed person in the room. And I might add that I fully support Dr. Myers proposal that we install this system in America, although I do not think it will happen. Here’s why:

Our hearing aid dispensers have decided for us that we want smaller hearing aids and not magnetic loop-sensitive telecoils. At another meeting in the SHHH convention I heard leading hearing aid manufacturers representative state that 70% of the aids sold in America do not have telecoils, while well over 90% of those sold in Europe have telecoils. In response to my question on why Europeans get better hearing aids, this representative boldly asserted that the products sold in both markets are exactly the same. I resisted the urge to call his attention to the 90% versus 30% presence of telecoils in aids sold there and here, respectively. By their own sales figures one can see the product is not the same.

When it comes to using telecoils for PA pickup, there is an additional factor for which I can find no data. This is the frequency with which American aids are fitted with the combined microphone and telecoil option switch. I bought a hearing aid in Spain in 1988 then tried to find a match to it in the US when I came back. Not available, the US branch of this European aid maker told me. I had to order it special-built and accept an aid without an on/off switch since the M/T switch took up too much space. I still have that aid if anyone would like to see an aid that turns off only when the battery is removed.

Think about it: how do you communicate with others who may want to ask what you have just heard on your telecoil? The M/T switch is absolutely necessary to get the full use out of a telecoil and my experience has shown it is nearly impossible to buy it in the US. So long as we do not have a large number of HOH people using the M/T switch equipped hearing aid it is unlikely we will have full use of magnetic loops even if they were to be installed.

Dr. Myers tells us, “Build it and they will come,” is the attitude we must have toward magnetic loop installation. He feels hearing aid dispensers will change overnight and begin to sell Americans aids with telecoils, maybe even with M/T switches so we can actually use them. Maybe they will, but in the meantime, if I want to hear really well in a public place, I’ll go to Europe.


BACK to Table of Contents