August 29, 2017. After a long flight to Europe, we landed at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. This is a busy airport! According to the airport statistics, 6.7 MILLION passengers used this airport in July 2017 alone! For 2017, up to the end of July, 39 million passengers used the airport. If you add in the shops, restaurants, people meeting and dropping off passengers, and the service personnel, that’s more people than the population of Canada!
As you can imagine, with such a busy place, it’s noisy, and, as expected in an international airport, there is a variety of languages being spoken around you. If you’re hard of hearing, you may as well give up trying to understand what’s being said. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the airport service kiosk accommodated the hard of hearing population by posting a sign advertising that it was equipped with a hearing loop.
What a wonderful sign! Anyone hard of hearing doesn’t have to struggle to hear, and best of all, doesn’t have to explain that he or she is hard of hearing. It’s a discreet accommodation. I immediately pulled out my camera and asked if I could take a photo, explaining I was from Canada. “Of course!” was the answer.
Service Kiosk at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam.
Hearing loop availability sign at Service Kiosk at Schipol Airport
What is a hearing loop? A hearing loop (sometimes called an audio induction loop) is a special type of sound system for use by people with hearing aids and cochlear implants that provides a magnetic, wireless signal which is picked up by the cochlear implant or hearing aid when it is set to the ‘T’ (Telecoil) setting. The hearing loop consists of a microphone to pick up the spoken word, an amplifier which processes the signal which is then sent through the final piece, a loop cable, which is basically a wire placed around the perimeter of a specific area such as a meeting room, or, like at Schipol Airport, at a service counter.
A hearing loop is cost effective as it can be used by anyone with a cochlear implant or a compatible hearing aid, is inconspicuous, there is no need for a headset, and any number of users within the looped area can use the system. It’s cost effective as the technology is not expensive.
A looping system was installed in St. Pius X church in Charlottetown over 40 years ago, and still works – with no maintenance other than to check that the wires have not been pulled out! We’ve heard that the Summerside Fundamental Baptist Church is also looped.
There is a growing movement across Canada to join Europe in looping public buildings, service counters, and meeting rooms. Extensive looping has been done in Western Canada, and is slowly moving east. This can only happen if there is support from hard of hearing people here on PEI and in the rest of The Maritimes.
Have you used a hearing loop? Do you know of any other places on PEI that have a looping system? Are you interested in advancing a Let’s Loop PEI project? Comments can be made on this blog, or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Daria Valkenburg