Millions of people with a hearing loss could benefit from the use of
assistive communication technology but very few of them actually do.
This survey’s purpose was to contribute to a better understanding of this behavior, and to document the experience and preferences of consumers in regard to the use of such technology. Millions of people use it - millions more could but don’t. To find out why, through a consumer survey, the Committee for Communication Access in America (CCAA) has documented and quantified the experience and preferences of consumers in their use of a variety of different aural and visual assistive technologies used in large public venues like theatres, places of worship, convention halls and others. In such settings, even when wearing hearing aids, hearing and understanding the spoken word can be problematic for those with a hearing disability, denying them the opportunity to fully experience and be a part of the proceedings.
Collecting and reporting on the differences in the use of the various assistive technologies available in such settings by age, degree of hearing loss, type of technology and other factors, has provided valuable information. Established and new hearing device manufacturers, hearing care professionals, architects, providers of aural rehab and other services to the hard of hearing, and the public, will benefit from the survey’s findings.
About Aural Assistive Technology
Assistive Listening Systems (ALS) are the wheel chair ramps for the hearing disabled. They include FM or RF systems that use radio waves, Infrared systems using invisible light beams, and Hearing Loops that use an electromagnetic field for transmission. WiFi systems are another version of FM or RF and also use radio waves for sound transmission. They all provide users with a silent wireless connection to a facility's sound system using earphones or neckloops connected to a receiver. They are mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in most public places of assembly served by a public address system (PA), and they must be able to connect wirelessly to hearing aids. Such systems are increasingly found in places of worship, performing arts venues, legislative chambers and other places where people gather for the purpose of hearing the proceedings. Venues that have installed systems using any of these technologies, though, report they are little used by the many people who could benefit from them.
Users with telecoil equipped hearing aids connect to an ALS by the simple touch of a button if the system is what is known as a hearing loop. The loop surrounds an assembly area and emits a silent electromagnetic signal received by tiny wire coils called telecoils in hearing aids or implant processor where it is turned back into sound. People without such hearing devices can borrow loop receivers from the venue management that contain telecoils. Earphones or earbuds plugged into the receiver are worn by the user to deliver sound. If the ALS is an FM or Infrared system, users borrow appropriate receivers with earphones or a neckloop to access the signal transmitted via radio or infrared waves. Individuals with telecoil equipped hearing aids or implants borrow the same receiver but plug a neckloop into it instead of the earbuds/phones and the neckloop transmits the sound to their telecoils electromagnetically.
WiFi Audio systems use a venue’s existing WiFi router or a second, dedicated one, to stream audio over a WiFi network directly to a user’s smartphone. The phone can then be equipped with earphones or can stream sound to Bluetooth capable hearing aids or earbuds. Mobile apps with earphones are also made available for users in order to make such a system ADA compliant. Some users have found these systems to be problematic due to latency - the echo effect of transmitted sound arriving up to 50 or more milliseconds after natural sound is heard.
Though not commonly known, Bluetooth® technology is unable to serve groups of people such as a theatre audience - it is basically a one-to-one system. A new version called Auracast™ does have that capability but is still in the development stage and it is expected to take up to a decade before it is sufficiently developed to begin replacing existing ALS systems.
About Visual Communication Technology
CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) is the major visual communication technology used in large venues to give the hard of hearing access to what’s being said at the podium or onstage. Where the ADA often mandates an ALS, CART or other forms of captions are offered solely at the discretion of the presenter. Spoken words are typed into a QWERTY keyboard manually or computer generated and projected onto a reflective screen or appear on a large TV screen. In some instances they are wirelessly transmitted to hand-held devices loaned out by the venue or on a personal smartphone using such apps as GalaPro or GoTheatrical. This is relatively new technology that’s seeing increasing use in theatres. Some of these systems’ apps will even translate the dialog into a different written language.
“As social animals—as people who need people—hearing is vital to our emotional and cognitive health. Thankfully, today’s hearing technologies can enable those of us with this great invisible disability to escape the deafness that caused Beethoven to lament living ‘like an exile’ and experiencing social encounters with ‘a hot terror.’”
Dr. David Myers - Internationally known psychologist, educator and author.
CCA Survey on Assistive Communication Technology
The questionnaire was posted on this website on September 5, 2023 and taken down on September 24. Alerted by the media,1519 hard of hearing people participate in the survey and their responses were recorded by the Frost Center for Data and Research at Hope College in Holland, MI.
The responses were analyzed and the results reviewed in a report that is posted elsewhere on this website.
To read or download the questionnaire, click on the icon below.
Below is the news release announcing the report on the results of the survey, the report itself, and an addendum that reviews some of the written comments submitted by participants.
Click on the icons to review or download the documents.
For informatiion on the Committee for Communication Access in America
on the survey and other material on this website, contact:
Questions number 18 and 19 in the survey pertain to the presence of and problems with assistive communication technology the participants have experienced. In addition to checking the various possible responses, they were invited to submit comments regarding their experience.
To review or download those comments,
click on the icons below:
18. Do you avoid going to theaters, religious services or other events where you know there are no assistive communication accommodations, and you would have difficulty following the proceedings even when wearing hearing aids or an implant?
19. How often do you find problems with the assistive listening system such as batteries not charged on receiver, untrained staff, neckloops do not work well, system not working, no or inadequate signage.
29. We welcome comments about your need for and/or use of assistive communications technology.