Hearing aids & hearing loops
Adam Beckman BSc MSc is Head of Audiology Services, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust and Vice President of the British Academy of Audiology
Hearing Link are working with partner organisations to make sure that the loop system is available and working in a wide variety of environments. But if there’s no loop setting on your hearing aid, it won’t help you. So why might the loop function not be on your aid, and what can you do about it?
I have worked with many hearing professionals over the years, and have noticed a distinct change in attitude since the advent of digital aids. Often, the audiologist doesn’t activate the loop function and occasionally it’s not even available as an option.
These are some of the statements that I have heard from colleagues working in both the NHS and private sector, and they illustrate many professionals’ views and prejudices: “These modern hearing aids are so good, no-one needs the loop”; “People never know how to use it, and just get confused, so what’s the point?”; and “It never works anywhere anyway”. Well, I would challenge all of these, and urge you to do the same.
“These modern hearing aids are so good, no-one needs the loop”
Yes, modern hearing aids are much, much better than they used to be. I would agree that for many people with a mild loss, some of the need for the loop has been reduced. My colleagues locally in the voluntary sector who advise people about other aids and devices agree that for some the loop is not as important as it was. But if you have a more severe loss, or if you want to be able to hear in church or a big hall for example, the loop is still an excellent option and should be available to you.
“People never know how to use it, and just get confused, so what’s the point?”
It is true that I have met people who think that the loop setting on their hearing aid is the off position – because they can’t hear anything on that programme. But it is up to your audiologist to educate you in how to use your aid well and advise you what the options are. And it is up to you to read the instructions that are given, just as you should if you got a new camera or TV! You should always ask your audiologist if you are unclear about anything.
“It never works anywhere anyway”
This, of course, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. If no-one uses the loop, then there will be no pressure on service providers to ensure that it is working. If I ran a bank, I wouldn’t spend money on something that wasn’t being used or asked for. But if my customers came in every day and wanted to access the loop, it would most certainly be in my best interests to ensure it was operating and my staff were trained in how to use it. The same would be the case for a church, supermarket or anywhere similar.
So what can you do about it? First and foremost, ask about the loop. Pretty much every hearing aid available through the NHS can have the loop function activated – and if hasn’t been, in most cases it really does only take one or two minutes to turn it on. Most NHS providers would treat this as “repair” – and would be happy to oblige.
Most aids that you buy can have the loop available. Again, your provider should be able to activate it in a moment – and for no extra charge, of course. If your aid doesn’t have a loop setting, and you think you might want access to this, then don’t forget to ask for it when you next have a new prescription. You as the user can expect a hearing aid to be fitted that has the features you need for your lifestyle. But sometimes, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.