How the ‘Loop Florida’ Initiative Will Create Better Quality Hearing for those in Need
“Loop Florida” is a phrase that you will be hearing more often from now on. On April 17, the Loop Florida initiative was officially launched. Spearheaded by the Central Florida Speech and Hearing Center with participation by the Hearing Loss Association, Lakeland Chapter (both of them non-profit organizations), the Loop Florida initiative is an effort to bring together all interested parties to work toward the common goal of helping the hard of hearing by educating and installing Looping solutions at appropriate venues.
What are Looping solutions and how can they help? Per the Lakeland Economic Development Council, the 2012 population of Polk County, Florida, was 617,000. It is estimated that 96,000 people in Polk County have a hearing loss. Most of these people wear a hearing aid, cochlear implant or Personal Sound Amplification Product (PSAP) to help them improve their hearing. Most of these hearing devices have a “t-coil” switch, which allows the hearing device to pick up magnetic signals. These magnetic signals are typically generated from telephones or Loop systems.
Loop systems are simply an area (conference center, meeting room, sanctuary, community hall, etc.) that has a thin wire around its perimeter and plugged into the area’s sound system. As sound is emitted from the speakers, it also travels along the installed “loop” and gives off the magnetic signal that is picked up by the hearing device.
This is a big deal is because the sound being picked up by the hearing device is without distortion and background noise, regardless of the distance between the speaker and the listener. Noise and interference are destructive to sound quality for those who have a hearing loss. The loop delivers the sound directly to the listener’s ears, improving clarity and understanding.
A Looping solution can also be a “Counter Loop,” which is a more of a one-on-one solution, as you might see at a reception desk, bank teller, pharmacy checkout, payment station, ticket station, etc. These devices provide a small virtual loop (no wiring required) between the parties who are engaged in the conversation.
To date, a number of Looping solutions have been installed at the following locations:
- First United Methodist Church – Fellowship Hall
- College Heights United Methodist Church – Sanctuary
- City of Haines City – Council Chambers
- Central Florida Speech & Hearing Center – Community Room and Lobby
- Florida Presbyterian Homes – Chapel
- Haines City Public Library – Reference Desk
- Lake Alfred Public Library – Reference Desk
- Bartow Public Library – Reference Desk
Some installations in progress include:
- VISTE – Conference Room
- Auburndale Public Library – Reference Desk
- Plant City Public Library – Reference Desk
- Winter Haven Hospital – Reception Desk
Several other facilities are currently discussing the installation of Looping solutions, as the Loop Florida initiative picks up speed.
Many of the completed Looping solutions were made possible through grants, obtained by the Hearing Loss Association of America, Lakeland Chapter (www.hla-lakeland.org). The Lakeland Chapter supports Loop Florida and other similar initiatives (other active programs are in place in Jacksonville, Miami, and Sarasota, as well as other locations).
The Loop Florida initiative seeks to bring in donations, raise awareness and support, elevate discussion, and increase the looping activity and installations. While the launch was done in Lakeland, the initiative is a state-wide effort.
A website, www.loopflorida.org, was built to help drive this initiative and provide looping information to everyone, as well as encourage collaboration and engagement. The Loop Florida initiative has only begun. There is much work to be done and this will require help from businesses, community leaders, and all interested parties. Together, we can make this a big success!
story by ART MATLOCK
About the author: Art Matlock is the chairman of the Hearing Loss Association, Lakeland Chapter. For more information about hearing loss or the chapter, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (863) 853-3130.