Three thousand taxis in the Spanish capital, Madrid, are now hearing accessible thanks to a major installation program of hearing loops supplied by Contacta Systems

Legislation took effect in Spain in 2020 which stated that every new taxi in the city must have a loop system fitted.   

The project is being overseen by the industry’s association in the city, Sociedad Cooperativa Madrileña del Autotaxi (SCAT).  The Kent-based firm has extensive experience in looping vehicles having first introduced hearing loops into black cabs in London in the 1990s.   

Installation is being carried out by their partners in the region, Aimas Technologies. 

Further reading: Hearing Loops and The Hard-of-Hearing Traveler

“Hearing loops are the ideal assistive listening technology for these vehicles because they are the only system that is universal,” says Ran Meyrav, Contacta’s head of new business development.  “That means that no matter where a passenger comes from, if they have a T-coil enabled hearing aid or cochlear implant, they will receive crystal clear sound from the loop.” 

A hearing loop works by converting sound from a microphone, positioned above the driver’s head, into a magnetic signal via a “loop” of copper wire concealed with the ceiling of the vehicle. Driven by a small amplifier, the signal is then converted back to sound by the T-coil within a person’s hearing aid. 

It means drivers can communicate clearly with passengers, according to a news release. Background noise is cut out and their voice is heard above road or radio noise, without the need for users to have an app or additional equipment. 

The project has taken over a year of careful development by Contacta’s team and the engineers from Aimas.  A range of amplifiers, microphones and wiring configurations were tested to overcome the electro-magnetic interference and background noise challenges presented in a vehicle, to ensure a result that met the industry standard all hearing loops have to reach. 

“We had to make sure conversation could be clearly heard above the noise levels from the engine, the alternator and the surrounding environment,” added Ran. 

Drivers in Madrid are now required to buy a pre-packed hearing loop kit for their vehicle and have it installed in a rolling program of work.  So far, around a fifth of the 15,000 taxis in the capital have them in place, and Aimas currently supply and fit between 150-200 systems each month. 

“Working with Contacta on this project has meant we have a fantastic result that the client is very happy with,” says Guillermo Chicote from Aimas. “Their experience, plus the range of components available for us to use, made the job much simpler than it could have been with so many factors to consider.”  

Leo Movilla, president of SCAT, added: “Due to the position of the driver and the passenger in a taxi, if either one has a hearing problem, communication is more challenging as they are not sat face to face,” 

“They can’t see facial expressions or read the person’s lips. It’s difficult to tell if information has been understood,” Movilla says. “Hearing loops in our taxis mean we can offer communication that’s natural and fluid.  We want to offer an inclusive service that enables passengers and drivers to feel comfortable.” 

Aimas is currently in discussions with taxi associations in other major cities in Spain, as the legislation of hearing accessibility is being rolled into other municipalities.  

“Madrid has very much been a role model,” says Ran. “This project is a great example that we hope we will see replicated elsewhere in Spain – and beyond.”

Featured image: Aimas engineers installing hearing loops in taxis. Photo: Contacta and Aimas