Getting it right for hearing
Getting it right for hearing

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).

Illustration of people in a lecture theatre

The drawbacks to infrared systems

There must be a direct line of sight between the transmitter and the receiver

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.

Users must typically wear a headset

This 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.

The user has to borrow the equipment from the venue

This 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.

Equipment required with infrared systems

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.

Illustration of a neck loopNeck 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

Ideas for Ears provides advice and training to facility managers and customer care teams to assist them in assessing the needs of customers and service users.

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Explore other assistive listening systems.

Hearing loops

FM systems

Digital systems