Looping the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Into Our Judicial System
Jared Allebest, J.
Last year, the United States Supreme Court installed a hearing loop system that will help those who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants hear better in the nation’s highest court. The new induction listening system, which is in addition to the high court’s existing FM and infrared listening devices, transmits sound through an electromagnetic signal that can be picked up by the telecoil of a hearing aid or cochlear implant. David H. Kirkwood, Supreme Court Gets a Hearing Loop, Hearing news watcH (Sept. 17, 2014), available at http://hearinghealthmatters.org/ hearingnewswatch/2014/nations-highest-court-gets-looped-joining-many-prominent-institutions/.
The new system is intended for use by court visitors and by attorneys appearing before the Court. The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association (DHHBA) recently had thirteen members of their organization sworn in and admitted to the Bar of the United States Supreme Court. All members are deaf or hard of hearing attorneys. The Supreme Court provides sign language interpreters and real-time captioning services (also known as Communication Access Realtime Translation, or CART) to DHHBA participants. Anat Mytal, DHHBA Members to Be Sworn into United States Supreme Court Bar, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association (Apr. 6, 2016), available at http://www.deafbar.org/ news/archives/04-2016. The hearing loop makes this experience more meaningful for those attorneys with hearing aids and cochlear implants.
There are three types of technology used for assistive listening: RF (radio frequency), IR (infrared), and IL (induction loop). All of these technologies produce much of the same result: the audio source transmitted wirelessly to a personal receiver or directly to a compatible hearing-aid.
In an RF system, the signal is transmitted over radio frequencies (specifically the Federal Communications Commission-mandated 72 and 216 MHz bands) to a personal receiver. The advantage of RF technology is that there are no “line-of-site” issues and the...