Large-Area Assistive Listening Systems

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 13,173
    Barbara Kelley with the Hearing Loss Association of America explains large-area listening systems (such as in theaters) and how to connect to them.

    Barbara Kelley: Hi, I'm Barbara Kelley with the Hearing Loss Association of America. Today we'll talk about large area listening systems. For those with hearing loss enjoying events in a theater, house of worship or lecture hall can be challenging due to a combination of the way sound travels in large spaces and the limitations of hearing aids and cochlear implants.

    Fortunately, assistive listening systems can help and are required by law under the Americans with Disabilities Act as a reasonable accommodation for people with hearing loss in public venues.

    Most large venues like theaters, places of worship and civic halls already have public address systems. Microphones broadcast the speaker's voice, loudspeakers help compensate for distance but the inherent echo or reverberation or the room itself makes that speech nearly incomprehensible for people with hearing loss.

    If that broadcast signal is also routed to an induction loop, FM transmitter or infrared transmitter, then people with hearing loss can access the clean clear signal captured by the microphone anywhere in the room while cutting out background noise.

    Using these systems is fairly easy. For infrared or FM, you simply borrow a receiver at no cost before the event begins. These will either come with ear phones or a neck loop. Those with telecoils in their hearing aids or cochlear implants will use the neck loop and switch to the T setting.

    For rooms with induction loops, those with telecoil equipped hearing aids or cochlear implants simply sit inside the loop and switch the T setting to activate the telecoil. Those without telecoils can use a loop receiver and ear phones and adjust the volume.

    These technologies can make all the difference, so be sure to ask for them in public venues. This creates staff awareness and if the devices are used, they are more likely to be maintained. Even though it's the law, be sure to reward the places that accommodate your hearing loss by thanking them and referring friends and family.

    Tell the staff how much assistive technology improved your experience each and every time you use it. If you have questions, be sure to talk to your audiologist or hearing aid specialist for more information.