When my mother was taken to the emergency room on Wednesday afternoon, her only concern was to be home by Friday. She was determined to attend her granddaughter’s graduation. Fortunately, she was able to go home on Thursday and made it to the graduation with a day to spare. Unfortunately, she couldn’t hear a thing.
My father and mother both live with hearing loss. My niece was among the first to receive her diploma because she graduated with honors. As soon as the ceremony began, I was instantly disappointed. I was disappointed because I realized that if I couldn’t understand the words because of the echo, reverberation, and distance, then I knew my parents couldn’t understand a word.
My father and mother both live with severe hearing loss, as mine is only mild; yet feels pretty severe and affects my daily life. My parents both have wonderful hearing aids which generally help in small settings, but they still struggle in large spaces like churches, theaters, and stadiums. We were even seated on the front row of the physically disabled section which was on the football field instead of in the stands. I knew the venue did not have a hearing loop, but instead they had a type of hearing assistive technology which required headsets. Headsets are usually not an option for many people with hearing aids or Cochlear implants.
My parents couldn’t understand the blessing or the multiple valedictorian speeches. My dad is sadly used to mumbled graduation ceremonies, but my mom struggled and strained to listen. My niece was the 7th child to graduate. As soon as she crossed the stage, my mother said, “Did she already go? Did they call her name?” My heart sunk because she had worked extra hard to put on a brave face so that she could leave the hospital to make it to her granddaughter’s gradual did not get to hear the most special part of a graduation for a family member. It wasn’t fair that my parents then had to listen to the mumble of 347 other children’s names and the farewell from the commencement speaker. They did not have the feeling of pride that everyone else got to feel.
School administrators need to understand that the graduate’s brief moment in the sun means a lot to family members. Grandparents, parents, and friends of the graduates who live and suffer with hearing loss deserve an easy fix called a hearing loop.
A hearing loop also known as an audio induction loop system, creates a magnetic field which cooperates with hearing aids to eliminate distance from the microphone, as well as background noise and echo. In other words, the hearing aid or hearing device becomes a personal loudspeaker. My mother said that a hearing loop “feels like a private conversation between me and the speaker.”
The ADA requires public spaces to offer hearing assistance in spaces where hearing is integral to the use of that space. What does this mean? It means that if you have a large area and you expect people to hear what you want to say through a sound system, then you must have one of three ADA compliant systems for hearing accessibility. Hearing loops are
We wouldn’t think twice about wheelchair access because we understand it and we can see it. Hearing loss is an invisible disability which affects more people then heart disease or diabetes. Hearing Loops Help.
Hearing loops in library systems are an essential part of reducing barriers to services for library patrons. Without hearing loops in library systems, persons living with hearing loss can find library services difficult or embarrassing to utilize.
What is the first rule of thumb in a library? Be quiet! Now imagine having hearing loss and attempting to communicate in a library. Perhaps you are at the information desk and you asking where a specific book is located. The librarian will provide detailed instructions, in a soft tone, because that’s what you do in a library – talk quietly. Unfortunately speaking softly makes for an incredibly challenging situation for persons living with hearing loss. In the library, a conversation in an elevated volume brings disapproving eyes and a “shhhhh!”
Hearing loops in library systems are an essential part of reducing barriers to services for library patrons. Without hearing loops in library systems, persons living with hearing loss can find library services difficult or embarrassing to utilize. The information desk is just one of many locations where hearing loops can help users hear better in libraries. Library hearing loop systems should be present in a variety of forms, such as large area hearing loop systems in public meeting rooms and small area loop systems, such as counter loops at information desks.
One of the most common locations for hearing loops in a library is the community or meeting room. Most libraries have meeting room(s) that are available to the public for use to host or engage in seminars, trainings, and even government functions, such as such as city council meetings. Most of these rooms also have a microphone and/or audio-visual system in them, which means they are also legally required to offer hearing assistive technology to users to meet ADA regulations related to access for persons with hearing loss. In new libraries, hearing loops are becoming the standard hearing assistive technology offered because of the high level of user-satisfaction and the ability for patrons to use the system without the librarian or library workers having to maintain and checkout additional equipment.
It is essential for librarians and library workers to assess their local library resources to make sure that hearing assistive technology is present for the community. A counter hearing loop is a very cost-effective way to help persons with hearing loss access the basic services of the library. If a large area hearing loop is not in the library budget now, a lower cost system such as FM or IR may be a short-term solution to ensure compliance with the ADA and make sure that all library patrons can access services, such as use of the community room.
Assist2Hear has installed hearing loops in many library systems. In the Front Range of Colorado, these hearing loop locations include:
- Douglas County Library system (Parker, Highlands Ranch, Castle Rock, and Castle Pines, CO)
- Old Towne Library (Fort Collins, CO)
- Pikes Peak 21C Library (Colorado Springs, CO)
For more information about what it takes to install a hearing loop in your local library, give Assist2Hear a call today! We offer the free site assessments for hearing loop systems and can also provide you with a demonstration counter loop to test at the information desk or other point of service. Additionally, Assist2Hear also offers training resources to library staff about hearing loss and how to effectively communicate with persons with hearing loss.
Hearing Loop systems get used while FM/Infrared headsets gather dust. A rolling stone gathers no dust- but FM headsets do! Just ask any venue that has an FM or Infrared system in place for the hard of hearing. Hearing Loops get used while headset systems don’t. Why?
Let me count the reasons:
- Headsets advertise hearing loss
- Headsets are generally uncomfortable
- Batteries may not be charged
- Headsets often disappear into a lost closet or forget to be returned by a user
- Sanitary issues for many people and require cleaning maintenance by the facility
- Most hearing aids must be removed to use! This is an obvious problem
- Vanity is real. Most people do not want to wear the headsets which mess their hair or because they “feel silly wearing headsets!”
- Interference can be an issue for FM and Infrared systems require a direct line of sight
Once a hearing loop is installed, there is virtually no maintenance, except cleaning and battery repair for the few loop receiver headsets for those brave souls that will use them. And those that have spent $2,500-$7,500 for a pair of hearing aids can put them to use by switching to the telecoil (“T”) setting to enjoy clear sound through the aids that are already programmed for their own hearing loss. No fuss, no muss! It basically doubles the functionality of hearing aids. Many people get hearing aids when they realize they can’t understand sermons in church. Disappointment is a common feeling when they realize that even after spending thousands on a hearing aid, they STILL can’t hear in church. Hearing Loops can help!
Hearing loops open up a whole new audience that has not been adequately served in our country. The number of people that can listen in the loop is unlimited where FM and Infrared systems are limited by the number of headsets available in the venue. Hearing loops are universal so a hearing aid wearer can hear in looped venues around the world.
Both FM/Infrared and Hearing Loop Systems meet ADA standards for accessibility in public venues. However, the new ADA standards effective 3/15/12 require that 25% of the required assistive listening headsets be hearing aid compatible. If a venue has a hearing loop installed, this requirement does not apply.
With induction hearing loops, people bring, maintain and use their own wireless receiver (the hearing aid) – invisibly! For more information about hearing loops, visit www.assist2hear.com.