An interesting and unexpected trend has occurred. Many assumed that telecoil (induction loop) utilization would decrease with the introduction of digital wireless hearing aids and accessories. However, installations for induction loops are at an all-time high in the United States. Rena Appleby, Au.D., and Stephen Hallenbeck, Au.D., recently presented on wireless hearing aid technology at the 2013 AudiologyNOW! conference in Anaheim, California.
Did you know that almost half of all hearing aid returns are reportedly due to problems with hearing in the presence of background noise? Also hearing aid user satisfaction is highest in one-one situations and varies quite a bit based on the listening environment as the graph shows below:
Overall patient satisfaction with hearing instruments increased when hearing improved in more situations. Telecoil/induction loops as well as wireless/FM help can be key to bringing better hearing in more listening environments when used in concert with the individual patient needs. Let’s review each component.
First, what is wireless hearing aid technology? Put simply, it is electronic products and systems that interact using electromagnetic energy instead of wires to communicate with one another. Electromagnetic energy with hearing aids involves signal (acoustic) information and a means to carry the “information” from one place to another such as analog technology (telecoil) or digital technology (digital wireless acessories).
Telecoils first started appearing in 1940 and were first designed to utilize the electromagnetic spill of the phone receiver. The induction loop application developed in parallel and has recently seen a surge in use in the United States due to the “Get in the loop” campaign.
Digital wireless technology on the other hand converts the acoustic signal into a binary code of 0’s and 1’s for transmission purposes. This offers additional functionality such as communication between ears and connectivity or streaming from television or Bluetooth electronics.
Research has found that the telecoil & wireless/FM technologies provide the most benefit in distinct listening environments. For example, the T-coil can work best in places of worship, at the theater or at a lecture and at service points. The wireless/FM option works better in a restaurant or social gathering setting. Exceptions were found with television watching and phone use. With these two listening environments the patient’s unique needs and environment need to be accounted for in order to determine which solution would be best.