Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Signed into law in 1990, the ADA prohibits discrimination by requiring accessibility to a variety of public and private buildings. The ADA has requirements for new construction, alterations, or renovations to buildings and facilities and for improving access to existing facilities of private companies providing goods or services to the public. Essentially, owners of public facilities must remove barriers and provide people with disabilities with accommodation equal to, or similar to, that available to the general public. This includes providing assistive listening devices (ALDs) for hard of hearing people.
Recent Changes for Assistive Listening Systems within the ADA Requirements
On March 15, 2012 the changes that were made in 2010 to the ADA related to assistive listening systems went into full effect on all newly constructed or altered facilities with assembly areas stating that these must comply with the 2010 ADA Standards for Assistive Listening Systems.
In brief the requirements: In each assembly area, where audible communication is integral to the use of the space, an Assistive Listening System (ALS) shall be provided.
Twenty-five percent (25%) minimum of receivers provided, but no fewer than two, shall be hearing-aid compatible. Each assembly area required to provide assistive listening shall provide signs informing patrons of the availability of the assistive listening system. These signs shall comply with the International Symbol of Access for Hearing Loss.
Assembly areas include, but are not limited to: classrooms, lecture halls, courtrooms, public meeting rooms, legislative chambers, motion picture houses, auditoria, theatres, playhouses, dinner theatres, concert halls, performing arts centers, amphitheatres, arenas, stadiums, grandstands, and convention centers.
Hearing Loss – A Growing Challenge
20% (48 million) American adults have some degree of hearing loss*
According to a 2011 report based on audiometric testing of Americans 12 and older in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys (NHANES), 30 million Americans have at least a 25 db hearing loss in both ears and 48 million in one or both ears.
Unlike those challenged by mobility or vision loss, people challenged by hearing loss are often an invisible and forgotten minority.
Trends in hearing aid styles
Today’s digital hearing aids enhance hearing in conversational settings. Yet for many people with hearing loss the sound becomes unclear when auditorium or TV loudspeakers are at a distance, when the context is noisy, or when room acoustics reverberate sound.
A hearing loop magnetically transfers the microphone or sound signal to hearing aids and cochlear implants that have a tiny, inexpensive “telecoil” receiver.
This transforms the instruments into in-the-ear loudspeakers that deliver sound customized for one’s own hearing loss. Many hearing aids today come with telecoil receivers that make it easy to use loop technology wherever they are available.