Infrared systems

Infrared systems use invisible light waves to transmit sound to the receiving device, which the user typically hangs round their neck. The user then hears the sound via headphones or earbuds that are plugged into the device, or the sound is passed directly to the person’s hearing aids if they have a T-setting (also known as a telecoil or loop setting) and the device has a neck loop.

The good things about infrared systems

The sound is passed around the room by light waves but cannot travel through walls or other physical barriers. This can make it useful where privacy is important (e.g. a court room) or where rooms right next to each other require an assistive listening system (e.g. healthcare consultation rooms).

The drawbacks to infrared systems

Infrared systems All Ears

There must be a direct line of sight between the ‘transmitter’ (e.g. the microphone) and the receiver (the infrared device around the user’s neck). If the person trying to use the system is positioned to the side or back of a room or in an alcove (e.g. in church or in a meeting room) then the signal will probably not reach them. Furthermore, no matter where the person is positioned, clothing or the user’s hand or another person will also stop the signal from reaching the receiver.

Infrared systems All Ears

Users must typically wear a headset (either headphones or ear buds) which can be awkward to use in combination with hearing aids. If the user wants the sound to go straight into their hearing aids then the receiver device must also have a neck loop, which passes a signal directly to the T-setting in the user’s hearing aids. See info box.

Infrared systems All Ears

The user has to borrow the equipment from the venue, which requires additional time and effort. There is also the issue of wearing a conspicuous listening device and potential hygiene concerns over shared headphones or ear buds.

All Ears Access Tool

Telecoil and T-setting

A telecoil is a tiny device placed inside most hearing aids to receive the signal given by a hearing loop or by a compatible telephone. Most hearing aids have a T-setting to allow the telecoil to be used.

Not sure if your hearing aids have a T-setting or telecoil? Ask your audiologist or hearing aid provider. It’s typically very easy for them to get this set up for you.

Got a T-setting but not sure if you can use a neck loop? Try one and see if your hearing aids pick up the sound. Lift the loop up close to your ears and see if the sound you hear alters. If it does, explain this to your audiologist or hearing aid provider and ask for advice. If you hear nothing, the neck loop or the telecoil in your hearing aids could be faulty.

Digital systems for hearing aid

Infrared systems for hearing aid

FM systems for hearing aid

Digital systems for hearing aid

What do others think?

Use the Rate & Review Access Tool to discover how other people are getting on when they visit public venues and establishments. 

You can share your own experiences too.

Ideas for Ears will encourage service providers to read what’s said and to take action based on the reviews you leave.

Ideas for Ears Access Tool

Neck loop

This is a thin cable that is used to hang the FM receiver round your neck. It passes a signal directly to hearing aids so long as they have a telecoil and are on the T-setting.

Possible problems to watch for: the neck loop may not pass a strong enough signal to make it effective. Or the position of the telecoil in the user’s hearing aids may mean the neck loop doesn’t work unless it is held very close to the hearing aids.

Advice & training

If you are a venue, facility or service provider, Ideas for Ears can:

  • Assess and advise on hearing needs of customers and staff
  • Install and maintain assistive listening systems
  • Train staff in the use of equipment and provide them with skills and confidence to engage effectively with people who have hearing difficulties

For your personal use

To find out more about the sorts of technologies, gadgets and equipment you might wish to have for your own personal use, see Solutions for You.