Learning by Hearing

  ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) 2010 Updates 

Since November 2015, changes in statistics and in specific laws may have happened, but the following studies and laws below are still a good guide of what is required to help our students hear better – so they can learn better.

Did you know?

– About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

– The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website reported that 14.9% of children ages 6-19 have low-or high-frequency hearing loss of at least 16-decibel hearing level in one or both ears.

– A CDC study that followed school-aged children identified with hearing loss into young adulthood (21-25 years of age) found that about 40% of young adults with hearing loss identified during childhood reported experiencing at least one limitation in daily functioning.

– Data on the ASHA website showed that the number of children with disabilities, ages 6–21, served in the public schools under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B in the 2000-01 school year was 5,775,722 (50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico). Of these children, 70,767 (1.2%) received services for hearing.

– The ASHA website also revealed that as many as 738,000 individuals in the US have severe to profound hearing loss. Of these, almost 8% are under the age of 18.

From Teach Logic

Why Have Sound Amplification & Enhancement/ Assistive Listening?

For over 25 years studies have shown classroom amplification improves learning and decreases teacher maladies like voice fatigue and laryngitis and, thus, sick time.

More so than anything else, students spend most of their day listening, and if students have difficulty doing that, learning suffers. Though a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association once showed 1 in 7 children ages 6-19, aside from disability, have some sort of hearing impairment such as middle ear infections, colds, and allergies, etc., hearing difficulty can also be due to distance from the teacher.

Since classrooms are notoriously poor acoustical environments, classroom amplification systems evenly disperses sound so that students sitting in back can hear as easily as those sitting in front or close to the teacher.

Amplification is used to overcome ambient noise levels, students will naturally pay attention longer, and socially, students with hearing difficulty will not feel as timid in class participation.

In some cases it’s not a learning disability, it’s a hearing problem.  

By reducing sick time, local budgets can save on substitute teacher costs, and, when student learning is easier due to amplified or assistive listening systems, it can reduce the need for teacher aides or special ed teachers which are significantly higher costs.

Amplified or assistive audio systems are not computer based systems, therefore do not require costly software upgrades and potential retraining of school staff.

Regardless of the law – the ADA, the evidence is overwhelming: Audio enhancement improves overall learning and can help reduce costs within local budgets.

 Types of Systems: FM, IR and Amplification, Assistive Listening

Which is better – FM or IR ?

Because both offer excellent sound quality, the system type is most often chosen by application. Think of FM like a radio station. As long as you’re in range of the antenna/ transmitter you will be able to hear.

Unlike FM, IR (infra red) transmission is contained within the room – it cannot go through walls. Therefore, IR systems are typically used for applications such as courtrooms (security purposes) or if many rooms are used, such as classrooms, due to the number of FM frequencies that would otherwise be required.

                        Assistive Listening Systems     

 Reasonable Accommodation is not where a person sits in a public place

 Assistive Listening Systems Are an “On Demand” request 

 You do not have to call ahead for assistance

Assistive Listening is different than amplified sound.

Unlike handicapped seating sections at stadiums or in auditoriums, those needing listening assistance may sit anywhere.

At community/ municipal events, such as public hearings or town meetings, it is not considered a reasonable accommodation to place someone needing hearing assistance ‘by the speaker’. In fact, doing so may actually make their ability to hear worse!

Typical hearing loss affects mid to higher frequencies. A house p.a. system, typically with larger speakers, produces a full frequency range – lows, mids, and highs. Sitting closer to those speakers only makes what you hear louder – not clearer. 

Garbled sound does not become clearer by volume (loudness), it becomes clearer by, in simple terms, equalization.

As such, assistive listening systems are designed to boost  frequencies where typical hearing loss occurs and rolls off lower frequencies in order to, effectively, normalize hearing. 

Assistive listening systems are an “On Demand” product. You are not required to call ahead for special accommodations or arrangements because such products for such places are mandated. 

Assistive listening systems are not just for those with hearing difficulties. Many times, the acoustical nature of a room, or the high noise level generated, such as that in a factory, will necessitate the need for assistive listening systems. There is also language interpretation and translation needs.  

Municipalities can be faced with a multitude of disabilities from its residents, from physical to mental. However,  because hearing loss/difficulty is one of the most common disabilities there are, it is an important reason why the ADA’s assistive listening laws were established.

                   ADA 2010 Updates: Sections 219 & 706

Compliance Date for Title III

The compliance date for the 2010 Standards for new construction and alterations is determined by:

• the date the last application for a building permit or permit extension is certified to be complete by a State, county, or local government;

• the date the last application for a building permit or permit extension is received by a State, county, or local government, where the government does not certify the completion applications; or

• the start of physical construction or alteration, if no permit is required.

If that date is on or after March 15, 2012, then new construction and alterations must comply with the 2010 Standards. If that date is on or after September 15, 2010, and before March 15, 2012, then new construction and alterations must comply with either the 1991 or the 2010 Standards.

Assistive Listening System (ALS). An amplification system utilizing transmitters, receivers, and coupling devices to bypass the acoustical space between a sound source and a listener by means of induction loop, radio frequency, infrared, or direct-wired equipment.

216.10 Assistive Listening Systems. Each assembly area required by 219 to provide assistive listening systems shall provide signs informing patrons of the availability of the assistive listening system. Assistive listening signs shall comply with 703.5 and shall include the International Symbol of Access for Hearing Loss complying with 703.7.2.4.


Where ticket offices or windows are provided, signs shall not be required at each assembly area provided that signs are displayed at each ticket office or window informing patrons of the availability of assistive listening systems.

219 Assistive Listening Systems

219.1 General. Assistive listening systems shall be provided in accordance with 219 and shall comply with 706.

219.2 Required Systems. In each assembly area where audible communication is integral to the use of the space, an assistive listening system shall be provided.

EXCEPTION: Other than in courtrooms, assistive listening systems shall not be required where audio amplification is not provided.

219.3 Receivers. Receivers complying with 706.2 shall be provided for assistive listening systems in each assembly area in accordance with Table 219.3. Twenty-five percent minimum of receivers provided, but no fewer than two, shall be hearing-aid compatible in accordance with 706.3.


1. Where a building contains more than one assembly area and the assembly areas required to provide assistive listening systems are under one management, the total number of required receivers shall be permitted to be calculated according to the total number of seats in the assembly areas in the building provided that all receivers are usable with all systems.

2. Where all seats in an assembly area are served by an induction loop assistive listening system, the minimum number of receivers required by Table 219.3 to be hearing-aid compatible shall not be required to be provided.

706 Assistive Listening Systems

706.1 General. Assistive listening systems required in assembly areas shall comply with 706.

Advisory 706.1 General. Assistive listening systems are generally categorized by their mode of transmission. There are hard-wired systems and three types of wireless systems:

induction loop, infrared, and FM radio transmission. Each has different advantages and disadvantages that can help determine which system is best for a given application.

For example, an FM system may be better than an infrared system in some open-air assemblies since infrared signals are less effective in sunlight. On the other hand, an infrared system is typically a better choice than an FM system where confidential transmission is important because it will be contained within a given space.

The technical standards for assistive listening systems describe minimum performance levels for volume, interference, and distortion. Sound pressure levels (SPL), expressed in decibels, measure output sound volume. Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR or S/N), also expressed in decibels, represents the relationship between the loudness of a desired sound(the signal) and the background noise in a space or piece of equipment. The higher the SNR, the more intelligible the signal. The peak clipping level limits the distortion in signal output produced when high-volume sound waves are manipulated to serve assistive listening devices.

Selecting or specifying an effective assistive listening system for a large or complex venue requires assistance from a professional sound engineer. The Access Board has published technical assistance on assistive listening devices and systems.

706.2 Receiver Jacks. Receivers required for use with an assistive listening system shall include a 1/8 inch (3.2 mm) standard mono jack.

706.3 Receiver Hearing-Aid Compatibility. Receivers required to be hearing-aid compatible shallinterface with telecoils in hearing aids through the provision of neckloops.

Advisory 706.3 Receiver Hearing-Aid Compatibility. Neckloops and headsets that canbe worn as neckloops are compatible with hearing aids. Receivers that are not compatible include earbuds, which may require removal of hearing aids, earphones, and headsets that must be worn over the ear, which can create disruptive interference in the transmission and can be uncomfortable for people wearing hearing aids.

706.4 Sound Pressure Level. Assistive listening systems shall be capable of providing a sound pressure level of 110 dB minimum and 118 dB maximum with a dynamic range on the volume control of 50 dB.

706.5 Signal-to-Noise Ratio. The signal-to-noise ratio for internally generated noise in assistive listening systems shall be 18 dB minimum.

706.6 Peak Clipping Level. Peak clipping shall not exceed 18 dB of clipping relative to the peaks of speech.

            Advisory 904.6 Security Glazing. Assistive listening devices complying with 706 can facilitate voice communication at counters or teller windows where there is security glazing which promotes distortion in audible information. Where assistive listening devices are installed, place signs complying with 703.7.2.4 to identify those facilities which are so equipped. Other voice communication methods include, but are not limited to, grilles, slats, talk-through baffles, intercoms, or telephone handset devices.

                                                                            November 2015