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So what do I need?
We are very experienced in the actual real world deployment of loop systems. So far we have painted a very rosey picture of how these induction loop systems appear to fulfil all needs, and are a Holy Grail, bringing sound to the deaf!!
However, the reality is often let down by poor planning, poor set-up and non-existent testing. We have repaired numerous systems installed by others, which could not have ever worked, let alone been of any use!
The first issue is magnetic interference. The earth itself has a magnetic field, which is normally insignificant in strength to affect AFILS systems. However, mains electricity gives off significant magnetic fields, which can impact on audio quality of the AFILS. We have also experienced huge magnetic interference from Library book scanning equipment, and security systems that stop shop lifting. It is important before installing a system, that a proper survey is undertaken, to detect these issues, so a location for the loop is practical for daily use, but is sufficiently away from sources of magnetic fields, so is actually of benefit to hearing aid users.
Microphone placement, and microphone choice, is also critical. It has already been mentioned that it is the increase of signal to noise ratio that is important to making the audio intelligible to a hearing aid user. An omni-directional mic, picking up lots of background noise, and relatively little useful conversation, are far too common, and make the induction loop system pointless. The appropriate mic, in a considered location, makes fitting an AFILS worthwhile, and of actual benefit to end users.
The actual equipment itself consists of three major components. The first is the microphone, or interface with the audio source, such as a scart lead to a TV source. The second is the AFILS induction loop amplifier. This turns the audio signal into a current which will generate the appropriate magnetic field. The third is the loop of cable itself, sometimes called the aerial. This can be simply a loop of appropriate gauge cable, running around the perimeter of a room, in which the user is present. We can also fit flat "cable", which is designed to go under carpet or the final floor finish. Smaller, counter type, loops can measure less than 2SqFt, and can be mounted inside (plastic) conduit for protection and aesthetics, or are in the form of material sheets, with an embedded loop cable. There are even systems about the size of a small briefcase, which incorporate the mic, amp, and loop, along with mains or battery power for complete portability.
A more modern variation on this idea is the use of Infra Red Radiators instead of induction loop aerials. These flood the room with IR light, which has the audio encoded in its signal. The user wears a personal receiver which drives a necklace style personal loop, which interacts with the user's hearing aid as per the "T" position. These personally worn receivers can also have regular headphones instead, to assist people without hearing aids, in hearing the audio source. This is common in theatres and conference facilities, where assistive hearing for all users is of benefit.
In summary, if you have a point of interaction between yourself and the public, it is likely you will interact at some point with a hearing impaired customer. Induction loops, correctly fitted, help bridge the gap in communications, and will improve the experience of a hearing aid users interaction with you. But, it is critical it is done properly, or you will be wasting your money. Let us provide you with a quote, and a proper system, that will help you improve your relationships with all your customers.
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