top of page

Google Maps Adds Hearing Loops to Website for Hearing Aid Telecoil Users

Google Maps is now including hearing loops in the accessibility information on its website, which should prove useful for users of hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other listening devices that employ a telecoil. Although this has received little notice from the national media or hearing loss related entities, it represents good news for people who are hard of hearing and use hearing aids and other devices that employ a telecoil.

a national database of looped venues has been a goal of hearing loop advocates for years and is the result of a joint undertaking of the Get in the Hearing Loop Committee (GITHL) of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and Google Maps—the latest example of the growing awareness and availability of hearing loops in public place. How to use the new Google Map accessibility feature to find looped venues To check if a particular venue offers hearing loop communication access, the Google Maps website can be visited via a computer, a tablet, or a smart phone:

  • Computers: On a computer, users can simply enter the name of a venue such as the “Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City,” in the appropriate box on Google Maps and be taken to a street map showing the exact location of the venue. A box to the left of the map contains information such as the phone number, street address, etc. In that same space, directly below a row of blue circular icons, is a brief description of the venue with a “continued arrow” link like this > on it. Click on that link and you'll find “Assistive hearing loop” if one is known to be present, plus applicable accessibility information pertaining to wheelchair access and other accessibility-related accommodations.

  • Smartphone/Table App: Using an app with a smartphone or tablet, this information is found by clicking on “about.”

Usefulness of loop systems for hearing aid and implant users Hearing loops are a preferred and effective assistive listening technology for those people with hearing loss and hearing aids, says LNM. Although Bluetooth® is in the process of adding functionality, its current widespread availability is in the form of a 1-to-1 means of transmitting sound, while hearing loops remain widely available serving audiences of 1 to 1,000 or more. Hearing loops, in their simplest form, are a thin copper wire discreetly placed to encircle a room and are connected through an amplifier to the room's public address system. The amplifier feeds the sound from the PA system to the loop wire that then transmits it as a silent electromagnetic signal to receivers called telecoils that are available in the majority of hearing aids and all cochlear implant (CI) processors. Those devices turn the signal back into sound and, with the mic(s) in the hearing aids or CI are turned off, the user hears mostly just the sound from the PA with little background noise being heard. Loop systems via telecoils dramatically increase the intelligibility of what is being said over the PA system, as the "speech to noise ratio" that's so important in hearing and understanding conversation is heavily weighted to speech as opposed to noise. User friendly hearing loops are common in the UK, much of Western Europe, and Australasia. In the United States, they are increasingly found in theaters, places of worship, and other areas where people with hearing loss can expect to have difficulty hearing.


bottom of page