Airports are crowded, loud, and overwhelming places for everyone. When you have hearing problems, they’re that much harder: being able to hear crucial terminal announcements, such as boarding times and gate updates, is difficult at best, impossible at worst (especially given that terminal PA systems aren’t exactly rock concert quality). Nobody wants to miss a plane because they simply couldn’t hear an announcement over the crackly loudspeaker.
Thankfully, however, things are starting to change for today’s flyers. Coming up in just a few short weeks, Florida’s Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is implementing the ‘Hearing Loop System’. For flyers with hearing aids, this means that they will get the message broadcast directly to their hearing aids — with all of that extraneous noise cut out.
The hearing loop system?
It’s a system that may sound too futuristic at first glance to be true: broadcasts are sent directly to personal hearing devices, cutting through all the clutter. Though this system is mainly being introduced to be used in situations where missing an announcement could mean something as significant as missing a plane, those with hearing problems wouldn’t be just dreamers to imagine a future where places of worship, schools, businesses, grocery stores, sports auditoriums, theaters, and so on deliver quality sound directly to hearing devices.
Though it may sound like science fiction, there’s far more science than fiction behind it. Hearing loop systems, also called ‘audio induction loops’, are a type of sound system (think: PA systems) created and used for those who wear hearing aids. The loop works by sending out a wireless and magnetic signal that is processed by hearing aids on the Telecoil ‘T’ setting. So, in a nutshell, a microphone picks up the audio that is being sent out (like a gate update at the airport) and the specialized cable or ‘loop’ in the room receives the signal which then radiates out to individual hearing aids.
This system will be fully integrated at the airport and all of its terminals, which will be the first in the state to implement it. With a sizable population over 65 years of age, the Suncoast and hearing aids go together like the beach and sunblock. Data out of the Hearing Loss Association indicates that two out of every 5 residents of greater Sarasota use hearing aids or has some form of hearing loss.
Expected to be up and running by mid-April, the system at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport came at a price tag of $125K — a small price to pay for airports to better serve so many of their passengers.
While the airport may be the first place many will first experience the hearing loop system, the future is not that far off. There are hearing loop systems used, in some capacity, in every state in the country. As of today, there are already numerous movie theatres, museums, medical facilities, libraries, and public transportation providers that use the hearing loop to better communicate with their hearing impaired population. The hearing loop system may even be coming to your own living room, and tv, soon: loop systems are available for in-home entertainment use.
Even if a hearing loop system in your own living room or local theatre seems rather far off, take heart: as America’s airports continue their commitment to accessibility, a hearing loop system could just be coming to a terminal near you sooner than you think.