Under the Equality Act 2010 (which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act – DDA) Induction Loop Systems for the hard of hearing are a legal requirement for public buildings, including church buildings. EU legislation also stipulates these are to be configured to British Standard EN 60118-4. However, the most important job of a properly functioning loop system is to allow the message to be heard by all.
An AFILS (Audio Frequency Induction Loop System) usually comprises a special amplifier unit connected to a ‘loop’ of electrical cable (or copper tape) laid out around the room or hall. Commonly the loop amplifier takes an input from one or more microphones – often in a church this will be a feed from a lectern mic or wireless lapel worn microphone via the main PA System. In operation the loop of cable emits an electromagnetic field that can be picked up when a users hearing aid is switched to the ‘T’ position.
The correct loop amplifier, cable type, cable route and system setup are unique to each church and as such a simple run of ‘bell wire’ around a skirting board will not suffice. The equipment used, and the proper configuration of the system, all combine to produce an effective induction loop field – factors that usually involve some careful calculations and the practical experience of expert installers to achieve the desired results.
While Loop systems can be tricky to setup, once in place they can be largely left to run themselves. Equipment (such as amplifiers) usually come with long warranty periods (often 5 years) for peace of mind.
Generally a Loop System requirement is dictated by the size of the area that has to be covered – for example a SIGNET PDA 200/2 loop amplifier will, in basic terms, be capable of covering an area up to 200m2. However the actual loop field strength must be maintained equally in all areas so sometimes a zig-zag or ‘comb pattern’ cable layout is needed which may require more cable and so the loop amplifier will correspondingly need to be more powerful.
Simple loop tester devices are available which, coupled with a set of headphones, can allow anyone to listen in on a loop system to check it is in proper working order. In the event of issues with a loop system these are always best checked by an engineer with specific experience of these systems.
One of the benefits of an installed Loop System over alternative systems is that they allow a hearing aid user to remain relatively anonymous; simply switching to the ‘T” position is all that’s required. Other systems can often require the user to wear extra ‘receiving’ equipment that can be rather conspicuous.
PROs & CONs
Enables hard of hearing to hear
Once set requires minimal maintenance
Zero rated VAT for churches & charities
Can be very easy to operate
Discreet use for hard of hearing
Usually involves specialist installation
Loop field can cause other interference
Some spaces / retro-fitting may not always allow for perfect coverage