Advocates for the hearing impaired are hoping a technology that drastically reduces background noise for the hearing impaired will find a home in public spaces across Canada.
The technology, known as a “hearing loop,” is a thin strand of wire radiating signals most hearing aids and cochlear implants can pick up.
When set up in a space such as a bank, church or theatre, it allows the listener to pick up sound directly from a microphone without the background noise.
In Britain, hearing loops are common everywhere from banks to fast food restaurants. But in Canada, they have been slower to take hold.
‘Loops’ in Toronto, Ottawa
One system in Canada has been installed at the GO Transit counters at Union Station in Toronto.
Jo-Anne Bentley of the Canadian Hearing Society said at the station, where commuters and ongoing construction creates constant noise, the innovation is a welcome addition.
“A customer coming up to the counter: they’re getting direct communication from the microphone of the customer service [representative] directly to their hearing aid,” said Bentley.
“Our hope is that all public facilities have counter-loop systems in all locations to really improve access for our hard-of-hearing consumers,” said Bentley.
Canadian Churches leading the way!
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in downtown Ottawa has its own hearing loop that runs around the building, bringing the sound of music or sermon straight into the hearing aid of a parishioner, no matter how bad the acoustics of the building.
Churches have led the way in Canada but other institutions have been slow to follow, said Mary Beth Jennings of the National Centre for Audiology at the University of Western Ontario.
“Now we’re starting to see more loops coming on the market, and certainly we’ll have a spillover effect from the movement that’s happening in the U.S.,” said Jennings.
Advocates for the hearing impaired in Ontario told CBC News they hope the passage of access laws such as Ontario’s Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which comes into force in the new year, will push Canadian organizations to follow suit.