Loop UVA

The installation of Hearing Loop should be your first consideration when choosing an assistive listening system (ALS)*.

The following UVA accessibility professionals support and encourage the addition/installation of hearing loop (induction loop) technology as the recommended assistive listening system (ALS) for large venues, auditoriums, classrooms, reception areas, ticket counters, and other appropriate spaces throughout the Academic Grounds, athletic venues, and Health System at the University of Virginia.

  • Coordinator of Academic Accessibility
  • Director, Student Disability Access Center
  • Coordinator of Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Accessible Media

We take this position based on:

  • The national and international preference of hearing loop over other ALS technologies by those who rely on these systems for effective communication.
  • The demonstrated durability, longevity, and future viability of loop systems.
  • This technology facilitates greater compliance with national and international standards.
  • Hearing loop offers an effective and user-friendly solution for users of the system and managers of facilities where it is installed.

While hearing loop may not be appropriate for all areas, we ask that it be given first consideration when an ALS is required.


Legal Requirements

The University is required by federal law, namely the Americans with Disabilities Act provision requiring Effective Communication1, to ensure that communication with people with communication disabilities is equally effective as communication with people without disabilities. To that end, in each assembly area where audible communication is integral to the use of the space, an ALS shall be provided.2

There are basically five different ALS technologies in use today:

  • Hearing Loop (Induction Loop)
  • Frequency Modulation (FM) radio transmission
  • Infrared (IR)
  • Bluetooth
  • WiFi

Each solution offers pros and cons for installation in our environment, and these are outlined below. The ADA also requires us to "give primary consideration to the choice of aid or service request by the person who has a communication disability."3 Looking at the current ALS solutions, hearing loops are preferred by 86% of individuals with hearing loss4.

Assistive Listening Systems - Pros and Cons

Select the sections below for more information on each system. A detailed description of each technology along with the pros an cons of each can be found in the IHLMA (International Hearing Loop Manufacturers Association) Comparison Document.


Hearing Loop (click to expand)

Also known as an induction loop, a hearing loop consists of a copper wire or loop placed within a venue or counter, an induction loop amplifier, and an audio source.  By connecting an audio source (e.g., sound system, microphone, computer, television) to an induction loop amplifier, the audio signal is transmitted via an array of looped wires which are positioned/installed within or around a designated area of coverage (i.e., classroom, auditorium), creating an electromagnetic field and received as a wireless signal. A small copper wire coil, called a telecoil (T-Coil), is the receiver integrated into most hearing aids, hearing aid accessories, and cochlear implants that enable people with hearing loss to participate and have full access.

The sound is transmitted nearly instantaneously and directly to a hearing aid or other device, without background noise, interference, or acoustic distortion. Proper installation of a hearing loop system has a greater positive impact on the audience, its use is simpler than other technologies, and it does not have limitations due to audience size.


  • Hearing loop is an established technology, widely used internationally and quickly gaining broader use in the US.
  • It is the internationally accepted standard for providing hearing accommodation, meeting several national and international standards.
  • Individuals with T-Coil enabled devices do not need to self-identify to ask for a neck loop receiver or other assistive device. Use of a  hearing loop is simple, discreet, and effective.
  • The number of users that can benefit from the system at one time is only limited by the constraints of the physical space. The same signal serves everyone.
  • With the use of a loop listener accessory (i.e., OTOjOY LoopBuds or neck loop receiver with headphones), those without a T-Coil or without hearing loss but perhaps other processing difficulties can still benefit.
  • Once installed, there is minimal facility administration required. If the sound system is turned on, the loop is available. 
  • When installed correctly, there is virtually no maintenance required or ongoing cost.
  • Installation can be indoors or outdoors, in a variety of venue sizes, and at service, reception, and ticket counters.
  • Hearing loop the preferred ALS by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and the International Hearing Access Committee (IHAC)


  • Higher upfront cost.
  • Requires greater coordination with project managers during construction and renovation projects.
  • An IEC-certified designer/installer with experience in the type of installation requested must be used.

Important Considerations

  • Installation must be completed by an installer who follows best practices and carries the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 60118 certification using components meeting the IEC 62489-1 and IEC 60118-4 standard.
  • The loop system must be designed appropriately for the venue/location.
  • Requires a coordinated approach with AV contractor for installation of the complimentary sound system.
  • The sound system that ties to the hearing loop amplifier must provide technically appropriate sound enhancement, including microphone placement, with minimal latency or feedback.
  • See Hearing Loop Installation Criteria for more detailed information on scoping your project, how to determine which vendors to use, and what to expect from your vendor.
FM and IR Systems (click to expand)

An FM system is similar to a radio tower and a car radio. A microphone picks up the talker's voice, and the talker's voice is sent to a receiving device using radio waves.

An infrared (IR) system is similar to a remote control and a television. A transmitter sends speech or music to a receiver using invisible infrared light waves.

FM and IR solutions have been purchased by various UVA departments to meet the ADA effective communication requirement. Having a lower upfront cost, purchase of these solutions is appropriate for some locations throughout the University. However, it is common for these devices to be stored in a closet and forgotten. These devices also need to be charged for use at any time. In addition, a person needing this accommodation must request a neck loop to take advantage of the ALS. It is often the case the requestor does not know who to contact and occupants of the facility do not know how to provide the ALS solution. A significant drawback, especially for large venues, is that access to these technologies is limited by the number of charged neck loops available.


  • Lower upfront costs.
  • Appropriate for locations where a hearing loop is not possible.
  • FM systems can be used indoors or outdoors.
  • IR systems offer more privacy than FM systems - a person hears only what the transmitter picks up resulting in clearer speech with little or no background noise.


  • Facility management/administration is high. Neckloops must be charged and made available on demand. Clear instructions for use must be present throughout the facility.
  • Audience use is limited to the number of charged neck loops available.
  • A person using this system must self-identify to request a neckloop and headphones. These must be available at all times the venue may be used. For those who have telecoil-equipped hearing aids and cochlear implants, neck loops eliminate the need for headphones.
  • FM systems can sometimes pick up other signals on the same frequency (i.e., construction workers using walkie talkies)
  • IR systems must have line-of-sight between the transmitter and receiver but can be placed anywhere in a room - infrared waves cannot pass travel through walls, people, or objects
  • IR systems cannot be used in areas with a lot of natural light. Too much light can affect the light waves.
Bluetooth and WiFi Solutions (click to expand)

When considering Bluetooth and WiFi solutions, it is important to note they require the user to bring their own device (in this case a smartphone) to participate in the event, which may be a violation of the ADA.

Wireless audio technologies, such as Bluetooth and WiFi, are evolving but need time to mature. We have yet to uncover current research or expert opinion as to the efficacy of their application as an ALS. 

Bluetooth is a short-range wireless technology frequently used to connect smart phones with devices (e.g.,televisions, computers, tablets, and recently, hearing aids and cochlear implants.) The Bluetooth connection is controlled through a person’s smartphone and when coupled with a device specific app, offers options to control and use the device. When considering this type of solution for use with hearing aides or cochlear implants, it operates best in a one-to-one/personal environment. The app is designed for a specific brand and/or model of hearing device and offers specific options for that particular device to adjust for the needs of the user.

To use this connection as an ALS, the smartphone will then need to be connected to the wireless network in the venue where an ALS server is installed. This connection will require an additional app installed on the smartphone to connect to the ALS server. The app required will depend upon the make/model of the WiFi ALS server installed on the network. Different venues may have different servers.

Of its current limitations, the most significant is the intermittent signal and significant battery drain on both the individual’s hearing device and smartphone. While this technology is evolving, it is still generally not suited for long-range transmission in a large venue like an auditorium, classroom, or theater.

After initial review by UVA ITS Security, WiFi is a technology that currently is not a recommended ALS solution within our IT network architecture for a variety of reasons including:

  • Privacy concerns related to individuals unknowingly having their audio data transmitted through this service
  • Potential physical security consequences to UVA community if an individual is using the audio feed with malicious intent (e.g., determine where certain people are, where many people are, where few people are, etc.)
  • Information security concerns related to the proper configuration of the server component that would need to sit on the UVA protected network, connected via Ethernet.
  • Each person connecting to this server would need to have UVA credentials or  be a "sponsored guest" on the UVA WiFi network to be able to connect and receive audio from the server installed on the UVA network.
  • Open WiFi access points are not allowed on our network.

In addition, there is significant administrative overhead to configure and maintain the system assumed by each department that chooses this type of solution. As mentioned earlier, these solutions require the user to bring their own device to participate in the event which may be a violation of the ADA.


More Information:

*Assistive listening systems (ALS) are sometimes called assistive listening devices (ALD). Essentially they are amplifiers that bring sound directly into the ear.  They separate the sounds, particularly speech, that a person wants to hear from background noise.  They improve what is known as the “speech to noise ratio.”5

1. US Department of Justice. ADA Requirements - Effective Communication (January 31, 2014). Retrieved August 4, 2021, from https://www.ada.gov/effective-comm.htm

2. 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. (2010, September 15).  Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/2010ADAStandards/2010ADAstandards.htm#pgfId-1010597

3. US Department of Justice. ADA Requirements - Effective Communication (January 31, 2014)

4. The Hearing Review. Consumer Perceptions of the Impact of Inductively Looped Venues on the Utility of Their Hearing Devices. (September 24, 2014). Retrieved August 4, 2021, from https://www.hearingreview.com/hearing-products/implants-bone-conduction/cochlear-implants/consumer-perceptions-impact-inductively-looped-venues-utility-hearing-devices

5. National Association of the Deaf. Assistive Listening Systems and Devices. Retrieved August 4, 2021 from https://www.nad.org/resources/technology/assistive-listening/assistive-listening-systems-and-devices/

(last update: 3/6/2023)