Turboprop manufacturer ATR is developing a system designed to make its cabins more accommodating for passengers who wear hearing aids.

A significant proportion of hearing-impaired passengers switch off their aids when boarding, ATR VP-marketing Zuzana Hrnkova said at the 2019 Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX).

That’s because an aircraft cabin’s aural environment, when amplified by a hearing aid, can cause excessive sensitivity for some wearers, Irene Aliouat, president of French association Audition et Vie (Hearing and Life), explained. That makes it difficult for those passengers to hear public address announcements or use an IFE system.

The solution is an audio induction loop, which can already be found in many public places. When switched to a dedicated mode, a hearing aid receives only the output from the loop via a magnetic, wireless signal. Most hearing aids are equipped with the required receiver, known as a telecoil.

ATR proposes integrating the loop in removable headrest covers that can be easily moved around the cabin, avoiding the need for a passenger to use a particular seat.

The system, dubbed Audioback, is in the prototype stage, Hrnkova said.

“We are raising awareness and collecting feedback, then we will work on how to integrate it,” she said.

ATR’s effort for the hearing-impaired is part of a wider effort to improve accessibility on aircraft. Safety cards and signs are available with Braille characters. In addition, ATR 42/72s are now delivered with standard mobile armrests, which, in the upright position, provide easier access for passengers with reduced mobility.

Thierry Dubois, thierry.dubois@aviationweek.com