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Hearing Loops Helping in Retirement Communities


How CCRCs are Keeping Hearing Impaired Residents “In the Loop”

By Geralyn Magan, LeadingAge, 1/23/2012

Keeping their residents “in the loop” is becoming easier at continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) that install a new technology for the hearing impaired.

If recent comments on the LeadingAge CCRC listserv are any indication, this technology – commonly referred to as a hearing loop – could one day become a standard feature in many CCRCs and assisted living communities.

Hearing loops consist of a thin strand of copper wire that is usually installed on the floor of a common area or auditorium and is then connected to the room’s sound system.

The copper wire sends electromagnetic signals that can be picked up by a tiny receiver called a telecoil, which is included in most late-model hearing aids. As an added bonus, the hearing loop automatically filters out background noise.

CCRCs aren’t alone in discovering hearing loops.

According to The New York Times, the technology is showing up in music halls, stores, taxicabs, banks, museums and subway stations around the country. You’ll even find them in ticket booths at New York’s Yankee Stadium and information kiosks at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Hearing Loops on the CCRC Listserv

The topic of hearing loops sparked an informative exchange among members of LeadingAge’s CCRC listserv in January 2012. A CCRC administrator in Massachusetts started the conversation by reporting that she was thinking about installing a loop and wondered about the experiences of other listserv members. The responses included the following:

• Good success. Most respondents reported having good success with their hearing loops, which they said were very helpful to residents. The assisted living building administrator at a Wisconsin-based CCRC reported that her community’s hearing loop “has been wonderful for those who have the capabilities to use it with their hearing aid” and has “broadened their world and ability to interact. People who would have a hard time in activities like Bingo now hear exactly what is said and their whole demeanor has brightened.”

• Popular in common areas: Hearing loops seem to be showing up in a variety of common areas. An Illinois-based CCRC reported having good success with a hearing loop it installed in an assembly hall. A Texas-based listserv member reported that it was installing a hearing loop in its independent living social area after having good success with a loop in its chapel.

• Useful in private residences too: An Arizona member reported that it has installed the hearing loop system in nearly all campus common rooms, and has recently embedded a loop system in the floors of new independent living residences.

• Education needed: One listserv member cautioned that residents will require some education regarding how a hearing loop works with their personal hearing aids. The same member reported that a partnership with a local audiologist has helped ensure the success of her community’s hearing loop. The audiologist understands hearing loops, is very active in educating groups in the community about how they work and will consult with other audiologists if they have questions about how to activate a hearing aid so it is compatible with a hearing loop.

Interested in hearing what your colleagues have to say about a particular issue or management challenge? You can join the CCRC listserv and share ideas with leaders from other retirement communities.