PAINTER: Couple doesn't mind being called the 'Loop People'

Aug 22, 2012

 

Peggy Simon doesn’t mind the label at all. She’s proud of what she and her husband have accomplished in the audiology field.

The Simons are owners of inLOOP, a company that produces induction hearing loops that benefit hard-of-hearing people.

“Hearing loops double the function of hearing aids,” Peggy said.

The technology has been around for 30 years, but only recently has taken off because of advances in hearing aids, Peggy said. A reason hearing loops didn’t gain popularity when they were first introduced was the cost, she explained.

“Years ago, when the cost of a high-quality, state-of-the-art analog hearing aid was $750, it was difficult to convince a patient that an additional $300 for a loop system was a good investment, Peggy said. “Now that high-quality digital hearing aids are in the $1,500 to $3,000 range, an additional $200 to $300 on a home loop system seems relatively inexpensive and provides a better overall value.”

Hearing loops can be found in many public buildings and churches throughout the United States, including West Michigan. A number of area churches are equipped with “loop,” as well as Grand Haven City Council Chambers, Spring Lake District Library and Spring Lake Township Hall.

Peggy expects the list to keep growing, because of the success of the loop system.

“We have had (hard-of-hearing) people actually cry when they are exposed to the hearing loop,” she said.

Here’s how the hearing loop systems work: A strand of copper wire is connected to a plug-in device which radiates electromagnetic signals to a small coil of wire called a T-Coil located inside a hearing aid. Most of the newer model hearing aids are now equipped with the T-Coil technology.

Peggy sees a bright future for the technology. She said a major advantage of the loop system for people who are hard of hearing is sound quality.

“Patients with poor word recognition are often well-suited for loop technology,” she said. “Background noises, distance and reverberation are no longer a problem while using a loop system.”

For example, she said, people with hearing loss struggle to catch television’s fast-paced dialogue, even with advanced hearing aids. A number of hard-of-hearing people use closed captioning or headphones while watching TV. Wearing headphones can create some disadvantages — such not being able to hear door bells, telephones or fire alarms.

“With the loop system, hard-of-hearing people won’t feel so isolated, Peggy said.

Peggy Simon, an audiologist, opened the Hearing Wellness Center in Norton Shores in 2004. In 2006, Peggy and Terry attended a conference on loop systems in Georgia. That conference sold them in becoming more involved with the loop technology.

They first began importing loop systems from Denmark and Sweden for their customers. But Terry, an engineer by trade, wasn’t satisfied with the performances of the devices. He felt they could be better produced.

So the Simons decided to start their own company. They purchased Wireless Hearing Solutions, a company that produced loop systems. The Simons eventually changed the name to inLOOP. They built their first inLOOP product in 2010, and even opened up their own factory in Hart.

“All the factories are trying to keep up with demands,” Peggy said of the growing popularity of the loop systems.

They both feel strongly about the need to develop a product that would be beneficial to people with hearing problems.

Peggy has worked closely with David Myers, a professor of psychology at Hope College. Myers is hard of hearing and is a strong advocate of the loop system. Myers and Peggy often asked to give talks about the loop systems at conferences.

Peggy said they also train professionals from throughout the United States on the loop system.

Peggy is such a believer in the loop system that she donates the devices to people who purchase hearing aids from her. The Simons have also donated a system for the Muskegon County Airport.

As a way of spreading the word about the benefits of the loop system, the Simons have formed a nonprofit organization called Hearing Wellness Organization. Peggy is president.

“It has been hugely rewarding for me to see the difference hearing loops can make,” Peggy said.

 

 

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