If you are a hearing aid user who finds it challenging to catch every word in performance theaters, lectures, or your place of worship, or when using your telephone, a hearing aid telecoil might be your savior.
The telecoil, or T-coil, was first introduced to hearing aids in the 1940s, to allow users to better utilize telephone technology of that era. The principle behind T-coil operation is fairly simple, and while there have been improvements in efficiency and miniaturization over the years, the core technology has remained relatively unchanged. Essentially, the T-coil works as an antenna, picking up magnetic fields and converting them into sound signalsFs that are then processed by the hearing aid.
This is an older technology, especially compared to modern digital technologies such as Bluetooth, but its simplicity, effectiveness, and wide adoption in public facilities have helped it to remain a relevant and important feature in many hearing aids even today. This highlights the durability and reliability of T-coil systems, and their ongoing role in facilitating better communication for those with hearing loss, even in the face of rapid technological advancements.
Understanding Hearing Aid Telecoil (T-coil) and Loop Systems
A hearing aid telecoil (sometimes referred to as a T-coil) is a small copper wire coiled inside the hearing device. Working in conjunction with a loop system, the telecoil functions as an antenna, picking up electromagnetic signals and streaming them as sound directly into your hearing aid.
These signals can be sourced from a speaker wearing a microphone at a lecture, an actor on stage at your local performance theater, or even your telephone. With a hearing aid telecoil, you can stream the sound of a speaker’s voice directly into your ears – all without amplifying the background noise.
Planning to buy a hearing aid with a T-coil? Check out current prices at Ziphearing.
Size of T-Coil Hearing Aids
T-coils in hearing aids take up space and make the device slightly bigger. You can see in the above image, the silver hearing aid does not have a t-coil in it and the bronze hearing aid does. Most would not notice the difference in size when it is on a person’s ear.
How Does a Telecoil and Loop System Work?
Every hearing aid consists of a microphone, amplifier, and receiver. The microphone picks up sounds from the environment, the amplifier processes that signal, and the receiver delivers the amplified signal to the ear.
The hearing aid telecoil is an optional component within the hearing aid. When the telecoil is activated, it replaces the hearing aid’s microphone. The coil inside the hearing aid is sensitive to electromagnetic fields, allowing the hearing aid receiver to present the signal to the ear if a telephone or a loop system emits a strong electromagnetic field.
The telecoil aims to enhance the speech signal from the audio system, whether that be a telephone or a microphone worn by a speaker. The telecoil signal is a direct wireless transmission, enabling the listener to adjust the volume of the signal.
Delving into Hearing Loop Systems
Despite the enhancement provided by hearing aids, individuals with hearing loss may still struggle to understand speech if loudspeakers are far away, there’s substantial background noise, or if the room easily reverberates sounds. A hearing loop (also referred to as an induction loop) is a unique sound system used by those who have a telecoil in their hearing aids.
|Components of a Loop System
|Microphone (worn by the speaker)
|Picks up the speech
|Processes the signal
|Loop cable (placed around a specific area)
|Acts as an antenna to send the electromagnetic signal to the hearing aid placed in a telecoil program
The hearing loop (transmitter) provides an electromagnetic signal, which is picked up by the hearing aid when set to the telecoil setting (receiver). The loop system can be used in various settings, from meeting rooms and churches to theaters and auditoriums.
When the hearing aid is switched to the telecoil program, it connects the small coil of wire (telecoil) to the input of the hearing aid’s amplifier rather than its microphone. The telecoil is sensitive to electromagnetic signals, such as the signal produced by the loop system. The amplifier inside the hearing aid then boosts that signal so that the user hears a reproduction of the original speech signal.
Why Choose Hearing Loops?
Hearing loops help reduce unwanted background noise and improve speech clarity. They are more inconspicuous than wearing a receiver/headset and can be used by anyone with a compatible hearing aid with a telecoil. The loop system allows direct sound delivery from the source to the user’s ears. It can be used simultaneously by multiple people and is also beneficial for those without telecoils or hearing aids who can often check out portable receivers at a looped facility.
Considering a Telecoil in Your Hearing Aid?
A telecoil can significantly benefit you if you have any hearing loss, spend much of your time on the telephone or in a looped location, or have poor speech understanding. It can enhance speech perception in situations like large rooms or when background noise is present.
Considering a hearing aid with a T-coil? Check out current prices at Ziphearing.
When Might a Telecoil Not be the Right Option?
Telecoils and loop systems can be highly beneficial, but they might not be the best choice in specific circumstances. For instance, if you have a newer hearing aid that is compatible with your cell phone, you might find using a Bluetooth signal for streaming phone conversations to your hearing aids more convenient than a telecoil signal. Also, if your cell phone has a low T-rating (indicating compatibility with a hearing aid’s telecoil), a telecoil may not be advantageous.
- Hearing the signal with both ears
- Reduction of room acoustic effects and background noise
- Immediate access to better hearing
- Absence of a need for extra accessories or gadgets
- Better hearing, without feedback
- Possibility of picking up electrical interference
- Loops require setup and preparation
- Telecoils can take up space in the hearing aid
- Size of the hearing aids
Personal T-coil Neck Loop
T-coil neck loops are an assistive listening device designed to help individuals with hearing loss to listen to audio sources directly and clearly. They work with the telecoil (T-coil) in a user’s hearing aid or cochlear implant. The neck loop is worn around the neck and connected to an audio device like a television, music player, or cell phone via a 3.5mm jack. The neck loop then converts the audio signal into a magnetic signal which is picked up by the telecoil in the hearing device. This effectively transforms the hearing aid into a wireless loudspeaker, directly piping the sound into the user’s ear. This eliminates background noise and results in much clearer sound quality. The advantage of neck loops is that they work in tandem with the user’s own hearing devices, and the user can control the volume according to their own comfort, providing a more personalized listening experience.
Is There a Telecoil in My Hearing Aid?
If you are unsure whether your hearing aid has a telecoil, consult with your hearing care professional. They can also help you identify if a telecoil would be beneficial based on your lifestyle and hearing needs.
Using the Telecoil in Your Hearing Aid
The audiologist would have to program aid to have a custom program. You would switch to this program by holding down the button on the back of the hearing aid, use a remote control for the hearing aids or use the app on a cell phone.
Utilizing a Telecoil With a Telephone
Hearing aid telecoils can be either manual or automatic. With manual telecoils, users activate the telecoil program by pushing a button or switching on the hearing aid or using a remote. In contrast, automatic telecoils can sense a telephone with a telecoil when held close, switching to the telecoil program automatically, and reverting to its original program when the phone is moved away.
Identifying Loop-Friendly Venues
You can identify loop-enabled venues by a blue sign with an ear outline and a “T” next to it. This sign indicates that your hearing aid telecoil can wirelessly connect to the venue’s audio.
Here are some useful resources for finding looped venues:
- Loop Locator: See Loop Locator website
- Looped theaters and performing arts centers in the United States: Hearing Loop
- A regional list of looped facilities: Regional Looped Facilities
Expert Tips for Telecoil and Loop System Users
- Tilt your head for a better signal when using a telecoil.
- Consider placing the earpiece slightly behind your ear when using For the right individual, a hearing aid with a telecoil could make a significant difference in his or her ability to hear and communicate effectively.
Alternatives to T-Coil: Understanding TV Connectors, FM Systems, Roger Systems, and Remote Microphones
While T-coil and loop systems offer substantial benefits, they may not be the best choice for every hearing aid user. Depending on your lifestyle, listening needs, and hearing aid technology, other connectivity options might better suit you. Let’s look at some popular alternatives: TV connectors, FM systems, Roger systems, and remote microphones.
A TV connector or TV streamer is a device that sends the audio signal directly from your television to your hearing aids. They are an excellent solution for those who struggle to hear the TV or don’t want to disturb others with a high volume. The TV streamer sends a clear, static-free audio stream directly to your hearing aids, significantly reducing background noise.
Most modern hearing aids, such as Phonak’s Lumity, Oticon Real and Starkey’s Genesis AI, are compatible with proprietary TV streamers that ensure seamless streaming.
An FM (Frequency Modulation) system is a wireless assistive listening device. They are particularly beneficial in educational settings, where a speaker (like a teacher) wears a microphone, and the listener (like a student) wears a receiver. The microphone picks up the teacher’s voice and transmits it directly to the student’s receiver, overcoming the issues of distance, reverberation, and background noise.
In an FM system, the receiver can be a standalone device worn with headphones or earbuds or a small device connected to a personal hearing aid or cochlear implant. While FM systems are great for educational settings, they are also useful in theaters, churches, and other public venues.
Roger systems by Phonak are the latest evolution in FM technology and provide even better speech understanding in noise and over distance. Roger technology works by digitizing the audio signal and transmitting it on several frequency channels simultaneously. This results in a robust, high-quality sound unaffected by interference.
Roger systems include a range of microphones and receivers. The microphones can be worn by a speaker or placed on a table to pick up multiple speakers’ voices, making them ideal for meetings, restaurants, and car trips. The Roger receivers are compatible with almost all hearing aid and cochlear implant models.
Remote microphones are small, wireless microphones that can be worn by a speaker or placed near the sound source. They can transmit sound directly to the listener’s hearing aids, reducing the negative effects of distance and background noise.
For example, during a dinner party, the speaker can clip the microphone onto their clothes, and the hearing aid wearer can focus on the conversation without struggling to hear over the background noise. Some remote microphones can also be used in “interview style,” where the microphone is passed between speakers to improve speech understanding.
Each of these alternatives can improve the listening experience in different situations. Your audiologist or hearing care professional can help you determine which solution is best based on your unique needs, lifestyle, and the technology you’re using.
Direct Audio Input (DAI)
Direct Audio Input (DAI) is another method of improving audio clarity by directly connecting the audio source (like a music player, computer, or mobile phone) to a hearing aid. This wired connection bypasses any potential environmental noise and provides a high-quality audio experience.
Infrared systems are a wireless technology used in theatres, concert halls, and other public venues. These systems use infrared light to transmit sound, requiring an infrared receiver to pick up the signal and convert it into sound. Infrared systems offer privacy (the signal can’t go through walls) and don’t have issues with radio frequency interference. However, they do require a clear line of sight between the transmitter and receiver.
Many modern hearing aids can connect directly to smartphones via Bluetooth. Hearing aid manufacturers often provide accompanying mobile apps, which can be used to control the hearing aids and even stream audio directly. These apps can also provide additional functionalities, like hearing assessments, tinnitus management, and find-my-hearing aid features.
Including these additional options could give readers a more comprehensive understanding of the technology and solutions available to assist with hearing impairment.