Hearing Loop a Big Help at Univ. of Iowa

By Forrest Saunders & Vanessa Miller, Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa - The University of Iowa has a new way to help those with hearing disabilities.

It's called a hearing loop. A copper wire is installed in the ceiling or floor of a room, and that wire sends audio – like that from a professor wearing a microphone – directly to a hearing aid or implant in the room. The UI has just one lecture room with a hearing loop right now. But they're looking to expand into more building and classrooms, including Hancher Auditorium.

"We are excited," said UI Facilities Management Accessibility Coordinator Brian Manternach. "This really embraces our responsibility to provide environments that are welcoming to people with disabilities."

Manternach said the tool works because it complements the technology already in a person's hearing aid or cochlear impact.

"The transmission of sound goes directly into hearing aids," he said.

Iowa's disability services adviser Carly Armour said she was born with profound hearing loss in both ears. She has implants that help, but lectures, concerts or meetings can still be difficult for her.

"There's often a lot of background noise, or sometimes my brain goes tired," Armour said.

So she uses interpreters or wears audio assistance devices, which can be frustrating to arrange or check out. Armour said the hearing loop is an ideal solution, and she's already tried out the technology.

"I actually turned my head," she said. "'Is there a speaker beside me?' It sounded like it was right there."

Armour said using the tool is simple.

"I just push this one button right here," she said, pointing to her cochlear implant.

UI officials say the cost to install hearing loops is about $20 per seat. They hope having more loops in concert halls and lecture rooms will spike attendance by the hearing impaired.
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