February 22, 2019. We quite often get questions about hearing loops when people are looking at options to improve hearing accessibility in their public facilities, such as a town hall or church.
A hearing loop works with an existing sound system, it is not the sound system itself. What is a hearing loop, then? It’s a copper wire that “loops” around the periphery of a room. It transmits an electromagnetic field within its loop, allowing a hearing aid or cochlear implant’s telecoil (also called a T-Coil) to function as an antenna directly linking the listener to the facility’s sound system.
Once a place is ready for an estimate of the costs to install a hearing loop, a site survey questionnaire is completed about the facility. Before that step is taken, however, there is usually a basic ‘needs assessment’ process prior to getting approvals to setting aside funds for hearing accessibility.
This is perfectly understandable, but one always wonders…. would the same discussion occur if we were talking about a wheelchair ramp? A washroom that’s wheelchair accessible? How many people need to use a wheelchair ramp before a facility will install one? Is a cost/benefit analysis done? Or do you agree that the facility needs to be accessible for even one person? Hearing accessibility is just as important. But it’s also important for people with hearing loss to acknowledge it.
The ‘needs assessment’ can be a way to build awareness of the importance of hearing accessibility and to gain support and approval for installing a hearing loop. Encourage decision makers and members of the organization/church to listen to the difference between what you hear through a hearing loop and what you hear through the sound system. Ask them if they hear not only the clarity of sound, but also if they have noticed that all background noises are eliminated.
What was recorded through the microphone by the front pew of the church:
What was recorded through the hearing loop:
So, what are the 8 questions that could be included in a needs assessment? To get the most honest answers, you may wish to make completing the assessment done anonymously.
- Who is having trouble hearing and understanding what is being said during meetings/concerts/services? People may ‘hear’, but do they understand what is being said?
- What is the size of the venue? How many members or attendees generally attend?
- What is the venue used for?
- Who already has a hearing aid or cochlear implant? Ask them to be honest!
- Of those who have a hearing aid, how many have the telecoil activated? If not activated, would they be willing to speak to an audiologist and ask to have it activated?
- If someone has hearing loss, but doesn’t have a hearing aid, or has a hearing aid without the telecoil activated, would they use a hearing loop receiver to access the hearing loop? A hearing loop receiver would mean wearing earbuds or headphones.
Since it may not be financially feasible to loop an entire facility, it’s a good idea to have an idea of the number of potential users. Questions 2 to 6 address that.
7. People who attend churches usually have favourite places to sit in the sanctuary. One concern some churches have is whether congregation members would be willing to move from their customary spot into a looped area, in the event that the entire sanctuary cannot be looped initially. We’ve not heard of this issue in other types of venues, but a reasonable question may be to ask if the person would be willing to sit in a looped area in the event that the entire venue can’t be looped. Another question to ask if whether people who don’t have hearing loss be willing to move out of the looped area in order to accommodate those who need to access a hearing loop.
8. The needs assessment should be answered by all, not just those who currently have hearing loss. A sample question could be: Would you support the installation of a hearing loop for improved hearing accessibility, even if you yourself do not have hearing loss? You may have to explain that this would be no different than making other accessibility provisions, such as a wheelchair ramp, a wheelchair accessible bathroom, or grab bars in the bathroom, for those with physical disabilities.
Have you done a needs assessment before determining whether to install a hearing loop? Have you installed a hearing loop in your facility? Please share your experience, and any additional questions you may have asked, by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to email@example.com. You can also follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.
© Daria Valkenburg
An upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. Variety concert and cake auction at West River United Church, 9 Cornwall Rd in Cornwall, March 2, 2019 at 6:30 pm. Event is to raise funds for the Rogers family’s upcoming 8 week stay in Montreal for surgery to improve mobility due to cerebral palsy. Storm date: March 9. Admission by donation.
April Chapter meeting: Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker will be Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, who will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).
Speech reading classes begin Spring 2019. If you would like to register, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.