Aalto-University mapped the quality of induction loops to provide better services to people with hearing loss

The project promotes the equality of people with hearing loss, and it has been significant in scale both in Finland and internationally.
Aalto lecture hall during the lecture
Aalto lecture hall in Undergraduate Centre. / Photo: Mikko Raskinen

Aalto University and Qlu Oy have implemented a comprehensive project to map the quality of fixed induction loops at Aalto University. The aim is to make it easier for people with hearing impairments to use services and study on university premises. An induction loop transfers the speaker’s voice from the audio system microphone to a hearing aid using an electromagnetic field, allowing the user of the hearing aid to hear the sound without any interference from internal acoustics or the environment. It is hoped to improve sound quality and imitate a situation where the speaker is standing right next to the listener.

According to the Constitution of Finland and the Finnish Non-discrimination Act, people are entitled to equal treatment and accessibility regardless of their health or disability. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also states that the people with hearing impairments have the right to equal treatment.

According to the Government Decree on the Accessibility of Buildings, an induction loop or a similar sound transmission system shall be installed in all assembly facilities with a sound system. However, compliance with these provisions has not been comprehensive, and even deliberate violations have occurred. During the past two years, the situation has improved with efforts to pay more attention to the functioning of induction loops in Finland. Aalto University has been the first to implement a project of this magnitude to map and restore the quality of induction loops. Still, the project proves significant, even on an international scale.

salin U154 kuuluvuuskartta
An induction loop coverage map / Qlu Oy

Repair work and new installations

The project has included several stages, the first of which began in late 2018. Installation work and repairs have now been performed in the majority of the university’s lecture halls. The next stage will include other spaces that do not currently have an induction loop system.

The objective is to expand the project to cover service points, as they play an essential part in the equal treatment of visitors and students.

As a result of the project, awareness of the functionality and the impacts of induction loops has increased significantly.  There is an induction loop coverage map in each lecture hall with an induction loop. The maps are designed to help students using hearing aids to find a seat where they can follow the teaching. Soon, both students and lecturers will be able to check the status of induction loops: T signs indicating the status of the loops in real-time will be installed in lecture halls.

Equality and accessibility of different facilities a priority

Induction loops have a significant impact on the equality of students and make it considerably easier for people with hearing impairments to visit service points. Listening to the signal from the induction loop does not require any additional equipment as the sound is transmitted directly to the hearing aid. Hearing accessibility is also an important benefit for the university in terms of renting out facilities.

According to Professor Emeritus, Martti Sorri, hearing loss is the largest untreated public health problem in Finland. Poor hearing can cause social exclusion and thus increase the risk of dementia. The extra costs resulting from this are high at EU level every year. Aalto University has determinedly invested in improving hearing accessibility, and the results of the project have been very satisfying.

The locations of all induction loops and the hearing maps of Aalto University premises can be found on the Hearuhere website maintained by Qlu Oy.

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