The nature of magnetic fields is that they are invisible and sadly not very well understood by most of us. Some of us continue to enjoy the impact of fridge magnets and other trivial uses to which they are put, however this almost diminishes the impact that magnetic fields can play in the lives of the 2M people whose hearing is reinforced or exclusively provided via a hearing aid or a cochlear implant. Built into most hearing aids and cochlear implants is a coil or Telecoil that is designed to pick up signals from magnetic fields. This allows the hearing device to receive sounds via the magnetic field in settings where the field is being used to transmit them. This can mean that in a noisy environment where background sounds can overwhelm the microphone built into the hearing aid or implant, the important sounds from a lecturer, teacher, film track or words spoken or sung by perfomers can be heard by the person relying on the hearing device. In some settings important and potentially life saving announcements can be missed if no such magnetic system is in use. It is vital that in settings where they can be fitted, that all of our public buildings, places of leisure and transport that magnetic or induction loop systems are fitted if at all possible. In these settings the loop should not be seen as an optional extra or a nice to have.
Yesterday I attended a very informative conference for consultants who help building managers and owners to ensure that their buildings are accessible to all potential visitors. Unfortunately there are far too many buildings still being constructed without appropriate access by people whose mobility is reliant on wheelchairs. However the absence of a ramp or a ramp that has been poorly constructed is evident to all who care to look. This puts important pressure on those who construct buildings to get it right. It was clear from yesterdays conference that we still have some way to go, despite two Disability Discrimination Acts and the Equality Act 2010. If that is the case with a ramps that we can all see, it is much more of a problem with the magnetic fields that none of us can see, and most of us don’t understand. Today I will be visiting a building where the managers are quite rightly insisting a loop must be provided. However there is no easy way of fitting an effective loop system into this particular room without lifting the carpets that have just been laid. Trying to explain to the staff concerned why this is the case, when so few of us understand magnetic theory or British Standards on Audio Frequency Induction Loop Systems is something of a challenge. Let us hope in time the levels of awareness increase, if we are to assist 2M people in our nation.