Get in the loop
The little known technology that can help people who suffer from hearing loss
By Theresa Blume
Glenda Henning has been dealing with hearing loss since she contracted the measles at 4 years old. Until then she had normal hearing, but shortly after getting sick her mother noticed that she was not responding when called. She had diminished hearing in both ears all through elementary and high school.
When she turned 18, she realized that in order to fulfil her dream of becoming a nurse she would need hearing aids for the first time. Hearing aids occasionally need to be replaced, and it was on the occasion of replacing an old set that she first heard about hearing loops.
Todd Beyer from the Hearing House in Marshfield explained to Glenda and her husband Dave about new listening devices available. As he was telling them about hearing loops, it occurred to them that their church, Immanuel Lutheran, would benefit from this.
The hearing loop is wireless technology that allows audio signals to be sent directly into hearing aids that have a T-coil setting. When hearing loops are installed, the person simply switches their hearing aid or cochlear implant to T-coil mode, and it picks up the intended signal via a microphone.
The big difference is that you hear the sound without all the background noise. Glenda says it sounds like the preacher is sitting on her shoulder when she touches her T-coil button on her hearing aid.
Her husband Dave brought the idea of the hearing loop to the church and was responsible for getting donations for the hearing loop fund, which would also pay for new carpeting in the church. It took about a year to raise the money for the fund.
On Feb. 15 of this year, volunteers helped move pews so the carpeting could be laid over the wire that connects to the microphones in church, and on Feb. 18 the hearing loop was installed. Glenda was the first person to test it out.
She discovered that as long as she stayed inside the loop, she could hear anything that was hooked up to it clearly without the usual background noise. When she leaves the sanctuary, she turns the T-coil off so she can hear normally from her hearing aid again.
Wherever hearing loops are installed, there are blue signs with an ear symbol posted to let people know they can turn on their T-coil. You can go to aldlocator.com to find out where hearing loops are installed in Wisconsin and other states. Currently, a few churches in Marshfield have them but many businesses, drive-ups, or auditoriums do not. Hearing loops can also be installed in homes to make watching TV easier.
This technology has been around for about 30 years, but awareness is not widespread yet. As a person with severe hearing loss myself, I hope that local businesses get in the loop in Marshfield and give all a better quality of life.