Hands up if your hearing aid has a T-setting. Hands up if you regularly encounter loops that are not working or not switched on? Frustrating, isn’t it?
I’m new to being a loop user. I never felt the need to use them before but as my hearing is deteriorating, my audiologist recently recommended I start using loops and she activated the T-setting on my hearing aid.
Off I went into the world, which seemed pregnant with possibilities of smoother encounters at customer service points and checkouts and an ability to access conferences and theatre performances.
Oh, how quickly I came crashing back down to earth from the reality of how poorly serviced we are in terms of loop provision here in England!
Here is an account of my first two weeks as a loop ‘user’ (and I use the term loosely because I never got to ‘use’ a single loop).
- Local supermarket
There was a big sign at the checkout indicating there was a loop so I switched to the T-setting — nothing. There was a long queue behind me and I didn’t feel comfortable asking the young man on the till if he could please switch on the loop. I had an inkling that he perhaps wouldn’t have known what it was or how it worked, otherwise I’m guessing it would have been on.
- Railway station — ticket counter
I switched to the loop as I approached the window: nothing.
Me: “Err, Your hearing loop doesn’t appear to be switched on.”
Response: “Other window.”
Me: “I beg your pardon?”
Response: “The hearing loop is at the other window.”
Me: “The one that’s not staffed..?”
- Home furnishings shop
There was a sign at the till saying to switch your hearing aid to the T-setting to use the induction loop. Hoorah! No. Again: nothing, nada, zip.
Me: “I wonder if you could help me. I noticed you have a hearing loop but I’ve just switched my hearing aid to the T-setting and your loop appears not to be working. Do you know if it’s switched on?”
Response: “Oh dear. It’s not working? It is on. We switch it on every morning when we open the shop.”
Me: “I’ve just had my T-setting activated and this is the third place I’ve been today that’s not had the loop working. I was interested to see if it would actually help me.”
She apologised profusely and said she would report the fault to Head Office.
- Different supermarket (same company)
All tills had loop signs. Surely this was going to be good! Despite the ‘Stand here to use loop’ sign being situated in a less than practical place for either packing your shopping or paying for it, I duly stood where indicated and flicked on the switch on my aid. Arrgghh! Again — just the buzzing sound but nothing coming through when I asked the lady if the loop was on.
I switched back to my normal setting and the lady serving me said, “Hearing Loop? We don’t have one.”
I explained about the sign and asked for her to call over someone who might know how it worked.
Supervisor: “They’re switched on all the time.”
Me: “Errr, it doesn’t seem to be working then.”
Supervisor: “Well, we don’t know that unless somebody tells us. Sorry about that.” And off she went.
- Different supermarket
Same again: till, sign, no signal.
Me: “Errr, would it be possible for you to switch the hearing loop on please?”
Cashier: “We don’t have one.”
Cashier: “I don’t know anything about it. I don’t work down here.”
Clearly, she was an apparition.
A supervisor was called who duly arrived with the instruction booklet but despite their best combined efforts, they never got it working.
And there’s more
There was also the saga in the bank where the portable loop was last used in 2007, and unsurprisingly wasn’t working when they got it out of the cupboard for me to use. The counters had no loops. And also the case of me being invited to speak at an event – to speak about my experience of sudden deafness and my use of social media to combat isolation – to find that my request for a loop or PA system had been ignored, which meant I couldn’t hear the other speakers’ presentations – but they’re blog posts in their own right!
Finally, a couple of weeks later, I was in an optician’s and I spotted a portable loop on the floor behind the counter, plugged in and charging up. I tentatively asked if I could try the loop as I had had my T-setting activated but had yet to use a working loop and I was beginning to wonder if it was the aid that was faulty.
I had to explain to the staff what the loop was and how it worked but it did work. It was quiet and they had no equipment to test it and, customers had to identify themselves as deaf in order to use it – but it did actually work. It wasn’t my hearing aid at fault; it was every shop and service provider I’d visited up to that point.
With the exception of the final supermarket mentioned here, I wrote to each of the companies mentioned in this post and was assured the loop would be on next time I visited. I’ve been back to the station and found this not to be the case but I haven’t been back to the other places yet and, possibly, I won’t go back at all.
Are loops as poorly maintained where you go? Do you mention to staff when they’re not working? When loops are working – how much do they improve your customer experience?