Induction loops and telecoils are here to stay

NCPD needs your help, please? We learned recently from an important roleplayer in SA who believes, that “t-coils and loop systems” will be replaced by, for example, “bluetooth equipment”.

This statement is exclusive and in NCPD’s opinion untrue. There is room and need for both facilities. Loop systems are used worldwide because not all people (for example) can afford high-end or have access to hearing aids and hearing technology. Loop systems may also be used by millions of people with, for example a mild to moderate hearing loss, who do not use hearing aids; loop receivers with headphones may give access in a universal way to provide information in certain situations.(for example: the elderly, emergency situations and more)

This matter is therefore a human rights issue. The SA White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is clear on the issue of Assistive Technology: “It is an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices and services for persons with disabilities, which enable persons with disabilities and learning differences to attain independence. They include for example, loop systems, sub-texting and alternative input for cognitive assistance and computer or electrical assistive devices”

The South African Association of Audiologists (SAAA) was asked in 2015 to give their opinion on the future availability of telecoil/induction loop technology systems in hearing aids in South Africa. Our concern was that with the digital movement and wireless/FM/Bluetooth transmission of sound, that the telecoil facility might in the future be phased out, making telecoil/induction loop technology obsolete. SAAA took the inquiry to a group of hearing aid manufacturers, who responded with a unified position as follows: “Telecoil/induction loop technology is still widely used worldwide. Thousands of locations worldwide have telecoil/induction loop systems installed. Many FM/DM systems still use induction and depend on telecoil/induction loop systems. Telecoil is the only universal system that is intercompany compatible. Telecoil/induction loop systems are unlikely to be phased out for many, many years.”

NCPD believes that there is no known replacement technology that will replace telecoil/induction loops from a universal access perspective in, for example, large venues and other public spaces in SA. Of all persons with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30 percent) has ever used them. The use of alternate methods of technology like a loop-system is critical in terms of access to information and communication for millions of people, which is a disability right. Please note that if someone with a hearing disability cannot or does not want to use a hearing aid, this does not take away the person’s right to negotiate for reasonable accommodation on the basis of legislation.

We believe that there is room for multiple devices and that installing a telecoil/induction loop system is highly worthwhile because of the benefits available at relatively low cost.

NCPD urgently needs your feedback because this issue has far-reaching consequences for equal opportunities in the public as well as private sectors in SA.

Statement compiled by Fanie du Toit
Senior Specialist: Hearing impairment and deaf affairs
National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities
Email or text to 082 8207358

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