Hear Better in Conversations

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are personal technologies that can help you communicate in one-to-one conversations. They are hand-held amplifiers with microphones that bring the sound you wish to hear closer to your ears. These small devices capture the sound you want to hear and may filter some background noise. A Pocketalker is an inexpensive, wired, example of this type of device. There are other personal devices, such as wireless FM devices and propriety devices that are sold by audiologists as ancillary equipment to various brands of hearing aids and cochlear implants. 

An example of how you might use this type of device is communicating with a family member at a large family gathering. Your family members speak (one at a time) into the microphone, and the sound is transmitted to your hearing device reducing competing noise, so you can understand them more clearly.

Hear Better in Public Places

Several types of Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are available to improve sound transmission for people with hearing loss. Some are designed for large facilities such as classrooms, theaters, places of worship, and airports. Other types are intended for personal use in small settings and for one-on-one conversations. All can be used with or without hearing aids or a cochlear implant. 

Assistive Listening Systems (ALSs) are the gateway through which people with hearing loss access the sound being transmitted through a public address system or sound system. If a person wants to conveniently connect to one of these systems, it is useful for their hearing device have a telecoil. ALS for large facilities include hearing loop systems, frequency-modulated (FM) systems, and infrared systems.

All assistive listening systems should be usable by people with hearing aids, with hearing aids but no telecoil, and without hearing aids. 

What if I don’t have a hearing aid or cochlear implant? If you struggle to hear but don’t yet have a hearing aid or cochlear implant, an ALS can still help. People who do not have hearing-aids and people do not have telecoils in their hearing aids can use a hearing loop, FM or IR system if they have a receiver that is connected to headphones.



People who don’t have telecoils in their hearing devices will be limited in accessing assistive listening systems and devices. Cheri Perazzoli, HLAA member and communication access advocate

Universal symbol that identifies a looped venue.

Hearing Loop Systems

Hearing Loops or Induction Loops consist of a copper wire place around a room, theater or counter which is connected via a special loop driver to a public address or sound system. An electromagnetic field is created that connects to a telecoil in hearing aids, cochlear implants or telecoil receivers.

Loops are the most user-friendly of assistive listening options and the consumer’s #1 choice. Hearing loops are simple, discreet and effective. Users simply switch their devices to the telecoil program and automatically receive clear customized sound directly to their ears.

People who do not have hearing aids or who do not have access to telecoils in their hearing aids or streamer need to use a hearing loop receiver and headphone to connect to the system.

For more information, go to our Hearing Loop Technology page

What’s a telecoil or t-coil?

A telecoil, also called a t-coil, is a wire that is installed inside many hearing aids and cochlear implants to act as a miniature wireless receiver. It was originally designed to make sounds clearer to a listener over the telephone. It also is used with a variety of other assistive listening devices, such as hearing loop (or induction loop) systems, FM systems, infrared systems, and personal amplifiers.

Telecoils expand the usefulness of hearing aids and cochlear implants, especially in environments where it is typically challenging to hear clearly. Telecoils, also called t-coils, are built into many hearing aids, all cochlear implants and some streamers. T-coils are an essential component for anyone wishing to easily and directly access an assistive listening system.

The telecoil works by receiving an electromagnetic signal from the hearing loop and then turning it back into sound within the hearing aid or cochlear implant. This process eliminates much of the distracting background noise and delivers sound customized for one’s own need. For people who  do not have a telecoil-equipped hearing aid or cochlear implant, loop receivers with headsets can provide similar benefits but without the customized feature that matches one’s hearing loss pattern.

Many cochlear implants have a telecoil built into the sound processor, or can use an external telecoil accessory with both hearing aid compatible telephones and public loop systems. A simple switch or programming maneuver performed by the user activates this function.

When being fitted for a hearing aid, insist that it include a telecoil. For cochlear implants, ask for the telecoil feature to be activated.

For the first time since I lost most of my hearing, I went to a musical performance and used a hearing loop. The live music was perfectly clear, perfectly clean and incredibly rich. Richard Einhorn, HLAA member, composer and hearing loop advocate

FM Systems

FM systems or Radio Frequency Assistive Listening System is a wireless low power FM frequency radio transmission from a sound system to FM receivers. An advantage of this system over an infrared system is, it is not affected by direct sunlight. A disadvantage is, it offers less confidentiality because the signals cannot be contained within a given space. 

Everyone using the system needs a receiver and either a headphone or a neck loop.

For those who have telecoil-equipped hearing aids and cochlear implants, neck loops eliminate the need for headphones.

Infrared Systems

Infrared Systems (IR) works like TV remote controls. A transmitter sends speech or music from a public address or sound system to an IR receiver using invisible infrared light waves. This technology is line of sight and cannot be used outdoors during the daytime due to being affected by light. Because IR signals are sent and received in a straight line, users are encouraged to sit as centrally as possible; those sitting in balconies or other areas with poor sight lines may experience interference or receive no sound signal at all.

Everyone using the system needs a receiver and either a headphone or a neck loop.

For those who have telecoil-equipped hearing aids and cochlear implants, neck loops eliminate the need for headphones.