“Is this my stop?” The importance of hearing loops on public transport

Travelling on public transport is easy if it’s a route you take regularly and you know where you’re going.  But exploring outside your area, travelling while away on holiday or knowing where stops will be if there’s a diversion in place can be challenging if you’re hard of hearing.

Encouraging passengers on board

Public transport providers are subject to the Equality Act and have an obligation to the make their services accessible to every passenger.  This is not only a legal requirement but also a sound business decision – the number of people travelling on buses, trains and coaches is falling so operators will no doubt want to make themselves accessible as many people as possible.

Improving communication

For bus operators, easy interaction with the driver is essential.  Speech transfer systems improve communication through the security screen between the driver and passenger, helping to overcome interfering back ground noise.

Hearing loops are a common solution for those travellers with reduced hearing who wear hearing aids.  But how well they perform for users depends on a number of factors that require expert understanding.

Making loops work for passengers

As with static buildings, the metal within a vehicle impacts on a loop’s performance.  Train carriages, for example, are an almost all-metal construction so loops need to be configured to take account of this.

Buses face an additional challenge.  Hearing aids operating in the ‘T’ position are susceptible to unwanted magnetic interference.  This can be picked up, for example, from the vehicle’s alternator.  So it’s crucial to be sure of exactly where in the bus passengers can enjoy the best performance.

This seat is reserved

Of course, all this is to nought if passengers don’t know where these optimised seats are.   Signage is an essential part of any installation.

Expertise in action

We recently completed three years of design development consultancy work with Brighton and Hove Buses.  Our engineers looked at the specifics of the vehicle and designed a system to overcome the sources of interference created by the engine noise and the alternator.

Comprehensive calculations and testing resulted in positioning the hearing loop in the priority seating area which offered the best listening experience.   But real passengers are the acid test!  Fifteen volunteers from the charity Action on Hearing Loss obliged.  Our design passed with flying colours.

Read more about Brighton and Hove Buses’ project here.

To ‘T’ or not to ‘T’?

It is highly unlikely hearing aid wearers would spend the duration of their journey with their device in the ‘T’ position waiting for an announcement.

So the challenge to the transport industry is how to alert passengers in time for them to activate their hearing aids and get the benefit of the loop provided.

Providing operational loop systems is one thing – ensuring access to them is another.

Your Right to Hear: A Guide

For Deaf Awareness Week 2018, we have developed a guide to help you understand your right to hear, how to check whether hearing loops are available, and to give you advice about what to do if they are not.

Note: To download a version of this guide, click here.

Deaf Awareness Week is an annual event to highlight the issues faced by people with limited hearing.

There are 11 million people in the UK living with hearing loss (1 in 6) and almost a quarter of them wear a hearing aid.

1. You have a right to be able to hear

The Equality Act 2010 states that everyone should be treated equally.  Venues, employers, schools and local authorities are among the organisations required to make “reasonable adjustments” to allow you to access their services.

What constitutes a “reasonable adjustment” depends on the size of the organisation, the costs involved and how practical it would be to make the changes.

The Act requires service providers like banks to provide information in an accessible format to everyone, so a hearing loop at a banking counter would be a “reasonable adjustment.”

“It’s like being the one sober person at a party where everybody else is enjoying themselves.  It ranges from sometimes just wanting to cry through to utter rage.”

 Maureen’s experience of the theatre with hearing loss

Building regulations are the minimum standards for design, construction and alterations to virtually every building.  Part M of these regulations provides premises with guidance for making sure everybody can access and use buildings and their facilities.

And the recently revised British Standard 8300 is a set of authoritative recommendations for architects, designers and anyone involved in managing buildings, for making them inclusive and accessible.  For the first time, it now includes a code of practice for where hearing loops should be provided.

Read more on hearing loop legislation here.

2. What hearing loops do and where to find them

A hearing device amplifies all sounds. In noisy environments, this can make it extremely difficult for those living with hearing loss to distinguish speech, music or communication they are trying to hear.

A hearing or ‘induction’ loop amplifies the sounds people want to hear above frustrating background noise.

Sound is picked up through a microphone, converted to magnetic impulses by the loop ‘driver’ and transmitted via a loop aerial.  Switching your hearing aid to the ‘T’ position converts this signal back to speech.

Some cochlear implants can be used in the same way and if you don’t have a hearing aid, a loop listener will allow you to hear the amplified sound through a special hand-held unit and headphones.

Hearing or ‘induction’ loops should be available where you see this sign.

  • Look for signs in these locations:
  • Waiting areas or help points
  • Reception desks, banking counters and ticket offices
  • Sales counters and checkouts in shops
  • Classrooms and meeting rooms
  • Places of worship

Sporting venues, theatres and cinemas

If you can’t see the sign, ask a member of staff.

3. The venue doesn’t have a loop; what should I do?

Ask to see the manager or a senior member of staff. They can’t instantly provide you with a loop but making them aware they have a duty to make their services accessible to you will alert them to their responsibilities.

Businesses value customer satisfaction!

Speaking out could help the next person with a hearing impairment.

You can visit the Citizens Advice Bureau’s website for more information if you feel you’ve been discriminated against.

4. The loop doesn’t work!

If a loop has been installed it has to work well, so you can actually hear the sound it is designed to amplify.

Staff might not be aware the loop is broken so let them know.  They have a duty to maintain it and make sure you, as a customer or visitor, can hear.

Share your experiences

Contacta supports Hearing Link’s ‘Let’s Hear’ campaign which aims to empower people to improve hearing experiences in their communities.  You can become a volunteer loop checker or rate and review hearing loops in your local buildings.

Visit www.hearinglink.org/lets-hear/ for more information.

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Spread the word on social media this Deaf Awareness Week with the hashtag #righttohear.

A Simple Solution for Attracting New Clients to Your Care Home

Despite the ever growing need for care, it is not easy attracting new clients to care homes. The care home resident population for those aged 65 and above has remained almost stable since 2001 with an increase of 0.3%, in spite of a growth of 11.0% in the overall population at this age (Age UK, 2016). This may be due to the increasingly common perception that care homes are a location of last resort for those with the greatest need.

One of the ways you can boost business is to embrace technology, and a hearing loop can revolutionise the way residents interact with each other and your staff.

Hearing loss is a major public health issue, affecting a third of over 65 year olds in the UK. With 93% of residents in nursing homes and 99% in residential homes aged over 65, this is a matter that care homes must address.

It can be tricky for those with hearing loss to distinguish speech or other sound sources, even with a hearing aid. In normal mode, a hearing aid amplifies all sounds. In a care home environment this means increasing the volume of noises such as moving chairs, scraping plates, vacuum cleaners, televisions or radios and others chatting. It can all get overwhelming. The result is that residents often remove their hearing aids and then find it incredibly hard to contribute to group activities and talk to staff, with many retiring to their rooms and becoming isolated.

Hearing loops improve communication by cutting out this background noise and enabling the user to hear the sound source directly. Sounds such as a speaker’s voice or the television become crystal clear.

technology, television, age and people concept - happy senior wo

A hearing loop will not only improve the lives of current residents; it will communicate to potential residents and their families that everyone is welcome.

By installing assistive listening technology at your care home, you are supporting the NICE quality standard (QS50) relating to the mental well-being in care homes and complying with the Accessible Information Standard. The 2018 revision of BS 8300: Buildings Code of Practice also lists communal areas of care homes as a place where hearing loops should be used.

There are hearing loops to suit a variety of situations within your residential home. Personal loops are a viable solution for use with televisions. Sound is relayed to the hearing device with no delay via a small loop pad, placed under a seat or via a cable installed around the perimeter of the room; portable loops with a built-in microphone are perfect for one-to-one conversations; large area loops are used in areas such as communal games rooms, allowing all residents to partake in and enjoy group activities.

How do residents use it? Simple. Once a loop has been installed they just need to switch their own hearing device to the “T” position. This is something that an audiologist needs to activate if they haven’t already done so.

Investing in a hearing loop is a small step that could create a huge change within your care home, attracting new business and boosting communication for residents and staff.

Get in touch today to find out how it could benefit your home.

Hearing loops: bigger isn’t always better

Note: This article originally appeared in ‘Installation’ Issue 208, February 2018.

How to get it right when choosing and installing large area hearing loops

Large area hearing loops can transform the lives of more than 51 million people with hearing loss in Europe, making education, worship, business, travel and entertainment more accessible. They allow people to hear the sound that really matters to them rather than amplifying all the noise in the room.

However, getting large area hearing loops right is about much more than meeting the design specifications of a builder or architect.

There is a common misconception that the only requirement for a large room is an equally large hearing loop. However, this simplistic approach can mean that when a user switches their hearing aid to the T position they get annoying interference or no signal at all.

Continue reading “Hearing loops: bigger isn’t always better”

V7 & V12a Hearing Loop Drivers are Launched

We are thrilled to launch the first two hearing loop drivers in our new V-Series range on Monday 2nd October 2017. These powerful drivers give you unparalleled performance for an affordable price and are created to be even easier to install and use than their predecessors.

Manufactured in the UK, our new drivers are designed to produce supreme sound quality, with Automatic Gain Control and superior phasing performance. The constant current drivers employ Class D technology and Digital Signal Processing together, making the drivers extremely efficient. Unlike many conventional drivers, these do not require fan cooling and have compact heat-sinks, resulting in quieter, lighter, and easier to maintain products.

Simplicity is key for us at Contacta. Our drivers are created with the installer and the user in mind, so every decision made in the design process ensures that the product works soundly for everyone. The new user interface, featuring a simple dial, makes adjusting the loop parameters effortless, while Euroblock connectors enable swift and straight-forward installation. The V12a is our first dual output driver to be introduced into the product range, simplifying purchasing and installing phased hearing loop solutions.

Our V-Series will include several new drivers with a large array of voltage capabilities, and both single and dual output drivers. The ultra-efficient driver range provides you the variety you need to create a loop for any room. The first to launch are the V7 and V12a models. The V7 is a compact 7.5 volt, 5 amp driver, while the V12a features 5 amps, 12 volts and a dual output for phased array loop configurations. These compact and attractive drivers transform the listening experience for hearing aid wearers at any small to medium-sized venue, offering superior quality sound reproduction across both speech and music.

Key features of the V7 and V12a drivers:

  • Use the latest DSP and Class-D technology
  • Contain intelligent self-diagnostics
  • True constant current drivers
  • Compact and powerful
  • Modern and space-saving design
  • Flexible and suitable for a wide range of situations
  • Low heat emissions
  • Simple user interface
  • Easy to install
  • Rack mountable or freestanding
  • Fully and independently certified to be CE, FCC and ICES compliant

Get in touch for more details or to find out who your local international dealer is, 01732 223900 or email sales@contacta.co.uk.

 

MyHailo: the Easy and Dignified Way to Refuel

Contacta is excited to announce that our refuelling assistance product, Pinpoint, will change its name to MyHailo on 1st June 2017. The brand new website will also launch on 1st June, including a news service to allow users to receive updates on new service locations.

MyHailo enables users to subtly and easily hail for help from petrol station staff when at the pump. Contacta has received truly fantastic feedback about the product from users showing that it is really life changing for some. “I have been blown away by the system, I would recommend it wholeheartedly – now I have it, I wouldn’t want to be without it”, said one of our customers.

MyHailo, the easy and dignified way to refuel

The main advantage of MyHailo is its simplicity. There’s nothing users have to do before arriving at the petrol station. All you need to do is pull up to the pump, and press the button on your MyHailo fob to alert filling station staff that you need assistance. This will prompt the beacon to flash red. The red flashing indicates that your key fob is working and that an alert has been made to let staff know you are waiting. When your hail has been acknowledged by a staff member the beacon will turn green. Someone will shortly be on their way to help you refuel, without the need for you to leave your vehicle.

There will be considerable investment in the product over the next few months to grow the system’s availability further across their Zone of petrol stations in the UK.

The Pinpoint signage and labels will be replaced at all locations over the next 12 months. Existing key fobs will still work with all systems and we will be providing new MyHailo window stickers for all registered Pinpoint key fob holders. Call 01732 22300 or email enquiries@myhailo.co.uk to claim your new MyHailo sticker.

Contacta will be launching MyHailo at the Mobility Roadshow 1st – 3rd June 2017 so be sure to visit our stand, J7, and get your discounted key fob.