4.7 Aids to communication
There are many situations within a building, where a means of clear communication needs to be ensured.
A variety of hearing enhancement systems are commonly used within buildings including induction loops, infrared and radio transmission systems. The type of system and performance sought should be considered at an early stage in the design process.
Hearing enhancement systems are important in locations where an audience will normally be present, where intelligibility of a sound source can be compromised by distance or reverberation, in locations where a physical barrier exists between speaker and listener and where information will be sought.
Designers and building operators should also be aware of the benefits that the use of temporary and portable hearing enhancement solutions can offer to a wider range of situations, outwith those listed in guidance.
People with hearing loss should be able to access facilities in a building and to participate fully in activities such as conferences, meetings and entertainment.
To enable this, a hearing enhancement system or similar device to assist a person with hearing loss should form part of a building installation and be provided to:
any auditorium or other space, with fixed seating, where an audience or spectators will be present, and
any room with a floor area more than 60m2 that is intended to include uses such as meetings, lectures, classes or presentations, and
any location where a person is separated from a vendor or service provider by a physical barrier such as a glazed screen, and
the principal reception desk, public counter or information point in any building to which the public have access. In larger buildings, with multiple entrances, there may be a number of these in different locations.
The installation of such a system should enhance sound communicated to the user, whether received directly through a personal hearing aid, or through additional equipment supplied as part of the system. It should preserve the characteristics of the source whilst suppressing reverberation and extraneous noise and should not be affected by environmental interference such as from lighting or other electrical installations.
The presence and type of hearing enhancement system installed should be indicated with clear signage at the entrance to any such room or at a service point.
Types of system - three forms of hearing enhancement system are in common use:
audio frequency induction loop systems can provide assistance to users of personal hearing aids incorporating an induction pick-up facility (T setting) without the need for additional equipment and are common in both counter and larger room situations. They may not be suitable where a signal must be contained within a designated area or privacy of communication is required or in areas where interfering magnetic fields may be present
infra red systems are popular in auditorium applications, offering line-of-sight wireless communication, providing flexibility and, within a room, privacy of transmission. They are not readily affected by electrical interference, though do require the use of additional personal receiver units. They can, however be adversely affected by strong sunlight
radio systems offer benefits similar to infra-red, with the added advantage that line-of-sight is not required. However they can potentially offer less privacy as signals may pass through obstructions such as walls and be picked up on other receiving equipment.
Location and anticipated use are key factors in determining the most appropriate system for a given situation. General advice on provision and installation of listening equipment and selection of systems is available on the Action on Hearing Loss website, formally the RNID http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/.