New technology has dramatically improved the quality of hearing aids in the past decade, but some say an old technology could have the most profound impact in the decade to come on millions of people with hearing loss.
Just as WiFi connects people to the Web in wired places, hearing loops — simple wires that circle a room or part of a room — can connect many hearing aids and cochlear implants directly to sound systems. Bypassing ambient noise, this wireless connection lets users clearly hear actors on stage, the person in the subway information booth, their ministers or rabbis, announcements at an airport, even their own television sets.
But as with all things that seem too good to be true, there’s a catch. Actually two catches. First, for hearing loops to work, users’ hearing devices have to be equipped with something called a telecoil — which is common but not universal. Second, public places have to be “looped.” In the United States, very few are.