by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady asked,
Can you explain the difference between a passive neckloop and an amplified neckloop?
Sure, I’d be glad to. A neckloop is just a loop of wire that goes around your neck and plugs into the audio output jack (typically the earphone jack) of any audio device such as an assistive listening device (ALD), radio, computer, iPod, MP3 player, etc. You hear the sound via the t-coils in your hearing aids.
A passive neckloop just consists of a loop of wire around your neck and a “tail” ending in a male plug. It works well where the audio output signal has lots of power. Typically assistive devices such as the PockeTalker have lots of power. So do most radios, computers, etc.
A passive neckloop has two basic advantages. First, it is cheaper than an amplified neckloop. Second, it has no electronics in it—so it doesn’t need batteries (that can die at a most inopportune time).
Amplified neckloops work exactly the same way as passive neckloops with one big difference. They have a small amplifier built into them to make the signal louder so they have adequate power to “drive” the neckloop. Devices such as cell phones typically put out little power (to conserve the cell phone’s batteries). Thus if you plug a passive neckloop into a cell phone, or other device with low power output, the signal may be so weak you won’t hear it well or at all when listening via the t-coils in your hearing aids.
To get around this, you can use an amplified neckloop to boost the signal. This means you can use an amplified neckloop with any audio device. If you can’t hear the signal well, you simply turn up the volume on the amplified neckloop. That is its big advantage.
At the same time, there are two disadvantages to amplified neckloops. First, they cost about twice as much as passive neckloops. Second, they use batteries—and those batteries can go dead at the most inopportune times (as I mentioned above) leaving you not being able to hear your device via your t-coils. (Of course you can get around this disadvantage by always carrying a spare set of batteries with you.)
If you want the low power advantage of an amplified neckloop combined with the passive nature of a passive neckloop, you can use the Music Links. Because they hang on your ears instead of around your neck, they are so close to the t-coils in your hearing aids that the signal does not need to be amplified. Thus, these devices are good to use with cell phones and other tiny audio devices.
The Music Links cost about the same as a passive neckloop. Their main disadvantage is that they are more fragile—the wires are very thin so they break much more easily than the wires in the robust neckloops. Also, some people don’t like them hanging from their ears, but that is a personal preference.
If you are interested, you can see the Music Links here.
Both amplified and passive neckloops have their uses. So do the Music Links. But which one you choose often boils down to personal preference.