Skip to main content
Be Heard by All with Assistive Listening Systems

Be Heard by All with Assistive Listening Systems

Posted by Laura Strommen - SoundPro on Jun 3rd 2024

Estimated Reading Time: 8 Minutes

Individuals with deafness, hearing impairment, or hearing loss can often struggle with feelings of detachment, isolation, or frustration in a world dominated by sound-centric communication. This can cause them to withdraw from public activities. This article discusses how venues can implement Assistive Listening Systems to create an accommodating, welcoming, audio environment for all the people who step through the door.


In general, people who are hard of hearing need the volume of sound to be raised so that they can comprehend audio information. In audiology terms, this is described as increasing the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR or S/N), and the specific range that this ratio must be increased is by 15-25 dB. Factors that can affect this range include:

  • The number of sound sources in the surrounding area (such as whether the listener is in a room with just a few people or a large audience)
  • The distance between the listener and the sound source they’re trying to engage with (a face-to-face conversation versus a public speaker on a stage)
  • Room acoustics (including echo) and ambient room noise (such as HVAC systems)
  • Electronic interference (from equipment like loudspeakers or microphones)

Hearing aids and other personal assistive listening devices (ALDs) are often implemented to amplify sound, allowing people with hearing limitations to maintain their lifestyles. However, in public spaces where there are myriad sound sources and background noise, a hearing aid may tend to amplify all the sounds it captures, causing distortion and making it hard for the wearer to focus on the voice of the person they’re trying to hear. That’s where an assistive listening system comes in, making it easier for a facility or venue to make their public events and communications easily accessible to all individuals.


Ideal for serving people with mild to severe hearing loss, an Assistive Listening System (ALS) is a full setup of ALDs incorporated into a venue that hosts public events such as houses of worship, entertainment venues, educational or government facilities, and hospitality and transportation spaces. These systems allow the venue to welcome individuals with or without personal hearing aids and equip them with personal devices so they can engage in the event.

All assistive listening systems address listening challenges by:

  • Minimizing background noise to improve SNR
  • Reducing the effect of distance between the sound source and the listener
  • Counteracting the effects of poor environmental acoustics (such as echo)

Unlike hearing aids, ALS components are designed to highlight voices and other selected sound sources while filtering out background noise. For people who wear hearing aids, ALS devices can augment the functionality of their personal ALD with visual alerts, vibrations, or other signals to help the listener detect new sound sources in the environment.


  • Federal, state, and city government facilities
  • Entertainment venues such as theaters and stadiums
  • Hospitality venues such as hotels
  • Transportation (including airports, transit stations, and even taxis)
  • Educational spaces such as classrooms or museums
  • Public spaces such as meeting rooms or convention centers
  • Houses of Worship

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life and mandates certain accommodations in facilities that are open to the public. The ADA’s goal is to create equal communication opportunities for people of all abilities by requiring that facilities provide auxiliary aids and services as needed via a variety of technologies including captioning, video description services, screen reader software, and more.

Examples of applications that must be ADA-compliant include Title I (employment accommodations for individuals), Title II (state and local government) spaces such as courtrooms and town halls, as well as Title III (businesses and public organizations) spaces such as movie and live theaters, public education spaces such as classrooms, and stadiums and convention centers. Some exceptions are made for other businesses or nonprofits (including houses of worship)—if accommodating ADA needs can be proven to be an undue monetary burden. That said, California and Texas have mandated ADA compliance for religious facilities, with the possibility of more state governments following suit in the future.

For audio-centric communications such as public speaking, worship services, or theatrical performances, ADA compliance is focused mostly on providing assistive listening devices or systems. These systems must be accessible for people with or without hearing aids, and for hearing aid users without telecoil compatibility. All systems must have standard mono headphone jacks. These systems and their components must be available for a visitor to use at no cost, and they must offer enough coverage to accommodate a certain ratio of the total attendees.

Measuring Assistive Listening Requirements for Your Space

Seating Capacity Minimum Receivers Required Minimum Hearing Aid-Compatible Receivers Required
50 or less 2 2
61 to 200 2, plus 1 per 25 seats over 50 seats* 2
201 to 500 2, plus 1 per 25 seats over 50 seats (20 for 500 seats) 1 per 4 receivers (5 must be neck loops for 500 seats)
501 to 1000 20, plus 1 per 33 seats over 500 seats 1 per 4 receivers
1001 to 2000 35, plus 1 per 50 seats over 1000 seats 1 per 4 receivers
2001 and over 55, plus 1 per 100 seats over 2000 seats 1 per 4 receivers

*Notes: Exceptions to the standard coverage ratio include:

  • If a building contains more than one assembly area, the total number of required receivers may be calculated based on the total seats in the building rather than requiring a separate system for each assembly area.
  • If all seats in an assembly area are covered via an inductive loop ALS, no hearing aid-compatible receivers must be provided.
  • (See the later section under “Hearing Loops” for more information.)


An assistive listening system is comprised of a combination of three basic components: transmitters, receivers, and attachments.

A transmitter such as a microphone or other device captures the audio at its source. Most ALS configurations accommodate only one transmitter, though some more complex options allow for multiple units.

A receiver is a component that the listener checks out or uses to tune their ALD into the system. A receiver is required for each listener. Two types of independent receivers can be temporarily “checked out” to listeners to give them access to the ALS: A traditional receiver or a neckloop.

A traditional receiver is ideal for a listener who does not have a personal ALD. This type of receiver uses a headphone jack for connecting headphones (which the listener can either bring, or the venue can provide along with the receiver itself).

A neckloop that connects directly to the listener’s personal ALD. As we’ll discuss later in this article, neckloops use telecoils (T-coils) to sync the assistive listening system to compatible hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Attachments such as headphones, a headset, or earbuds deliver the signal to the individual listener.

For an ALS to function properly, you’ll need the different components to be compatible with each other and to communicate on the same frequency or channel.

Some assistive listening devices are simply one-on-one personal amplifiers. These compact units include both a microphone to capture a nearby sound source and a listening cord for the user to plug into their personal ALD, effectively serving as a one-person, handheld ASL. Portable and relatively inexpensive, they are useful for listeners who need to increase the volume of smaller group conversations; however, their effectiveness decreases the further away the listener is from their desired sound source, so this isn’t an ideal option for larger venues where the listener is trying to hear a performance or presentation from a distance.

Like neckloops, intermediary streaming devices (“streamers”) use Bluetooth technology to pick up an audio signal from a BT-compatible device and transmit it to a hearing aid or cochlear implant. As with other BT signal transmissions, these units offer a range of 33 feet, which may be too short of a range for some applications.

In addition to these primary components, you may also require audio cables, wireless couplers, or other accessories to round out your ALS—depending on the type of system you select. According to the ADA, specific signage is required to be posted so that your listeners will be notified of the availability of your ALS; for clarity, these signs should be posted at the entrance to every assembly area where an ASL is available. (An exception to this rule is if your facility has a ticket window, in which case the signage should be posted there to communicate that all assembly areas offer assistive listening technology.)

Ready to enhance your facility with an assistive listening system that fosters inclusive communication? Contact the Account Managers at Sound Productions at or call us at 800.203.5611 for help in choosing which assistive listening system is best for you.

Written by Laura Strommen - Content Writer

Laura has been on the Sound Productions team since 2021. Her passion for the written word extends to reading, writing, and reading about writing.

Research Contributors

Brian Kaphingst – Account Manager

Brian is a singer-songwriter that studied music recording and technology at Madison Media Institute. In 2010, he began his AVL career as a sound engineer and has served the industry in various sales roles ever since.