Hearing Loops are used in public building where sound amplification is used. People with a hearing disability who use a hearing aid can tune into the audio loop provided that their hearing aid has a telecoil. 90% of all hearing aids now sold in NZ have a + telecoil. The same telecoil technology is use in telephones and cell phones to improve hearing. In practical terms a hearing (audio) loop is special copper braid which is laid under the floor or in the walls of a room and is connected to a special amplifier which in turn is connected to the source sound. Eg picture theatre sound system. People inside this electromagnetic loop can pick up the pure sound with no background noise.
Today’s modern, well fitted hearing instruments can, in most cases, improve a persons ability to hear. However they do not compensate for the background noise and reverberation in crowded public places - such as cinemas, airports, or churches. Nor do they compensate for the distance a person is from the source of the sound - such as a lecture theatre.
The Building Act 2004 require that new or extensively renovated public buildings be accessible for hearing impaired people by having an assistive listening system installed. This includes:
- Public buildings with space for at least 250 people
- All theatres, cinemas, public halls and
- Assembly spaces in old people’s homes occupied by more than 20 people
Although under the Building Act 2004 clause G5 "Interior Environment" it is compulsory for public buildings to install assistive listening systems, it has in practice not always been adhered to. In many cases it was considered "best practise". However since the leaky building syndrome has been highlighted the Councils are sticking to the letter of the law in issuing building permits and building compliance certificates. This has lead to an upsurge in demand for the installations of these systems.