“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.

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