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Survey Sheds Light on Why Many People with Hearing Loss Don't Use Assistive Communication Technology

The Committee for Communication Access in America (CCAA) has conducted a survey to investigate why people who have hearing loss don't use assistive communication technology more, and they have now released a report of their findings.


Assistive Listening Systems (ALS) are wheelchair ramps for the hearing disabled. They provide users with a silent, wireless connection to a facility's sound system either through earphones or the telecoils in hearing aids and cochlear or bone implant processors.

The Committee for Communication Access in America (CCAA) has released a survey that investigates why millions of people with hearing loss are not fully using and taking advantage of the assistive device technologies mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The detailed report, including graphs and a wealth of other information gathered during the survey, can be accessed in a PDF on the CCAA website.

Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), assistive listening systems (ALS) have been mandated in many public gathering places. Various forms of captions, though not mandated, are requested and sometimes provided. While millions use the devices, there are still millions more who do not.

The survey was a retrospective cross-sectional study of individuals with hearing loss or some other hearing related condition. The 1,519 respondents were heavily weighted toward people with severe to profound hearing loss, so many questions were cross-tabbed to get an accurate picture of various subgroups. The respondents were also unique in that a total of 42% were affiliated with an organized hearing loss support group of some sort, with the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) garnering the top spot.

The intent of the survey was to acquire reliable information on the preferences and use habits of hard-of-hearing people when utilizing assistive communication systems. That information will enable providers of services to people with hearing loss to inform clients of the many benefits of the various assistive technologies and which systems are preferred by their contemporaries. In addition to information and observations on assistive listening and captioning systems, the survey collected detailed information many aspects dealing with hearing loss and device use. Survey highlights include:

  • Degree of hearing loss: 66% of survey respondents reported they had severe-to-profound hearing loss
  • Age and years using hearing devices: 44% said they'd been wearing hearing aids or implants for more than 21 years, while 12% said they had been wearing hearing aids for 5 years or less
  • Type of hearing devices used: 80% of respondents wore prescription hearing aids, while 2% had OTC hearing aids
  • Using Assistive Technologies: Experience, degree of hearing loss, and personally owned hearing devices all played a major role in the decision to use available assistive communication systems; depending on the type of ALS available, 37% to 69% of people with a severe to profound hearing loss reported always using an ALS when available.
  • T-coil awareness: Overall, 52% of respondents were aware of their devices having telecoils.
  • Wireless connectivity: 83% reported having Bluetooth® capability with their devices and it was most often used for talking on the telephone.
  • ALS difficult to find: 26% reported that they are always looking for or requesting an ALS when they attend an event in a gathering place where they feel hearing could be problematic; unfortunately they report that they “always” or “usually” find it only about 15% of the time with 18% reporting they “never” find it.

Among the many surprises in the findings was the preponderance of people with severe to profound hearing loss as participants, and the importance of communication technologies to them in comparison to people with milder hearing loss. Another was a preference for captions over an ALS by this very hearing disabled group.

The survey reinforced the fact that hearing loops are the preferred ALS for the hard of hearing. Not surprising was that over half of respondents learned about telecoils elsewhere than from their hearing care provider.

The CCAA is an ad hoc committee of nationally known advocates for people with hearing loss who came together to gather and then share information on the use of assistive communication technology. Committee members include organizer and chair Stephen O. Frazier, Abram Bailey, AuD, of HearingTracker; Blake Caldwell of Soundly, audiologist Carol Clifford, PhD, Kevin Liebe, AuD of, psychologist and author David Myers, PhD, and hearing loop advocate Juliette Sterkens, AuD.