Recently my church, St. Raphael Catholic Church in Oshkosh had a hearing loop installed. A hearing loop is an assistive listening system in the form of a wire that is installed around the seated area of a facility, in this case a house of worship, connected to the PA system. The loop creates a magnetic signal in the seated area that hearing aids or cochlear implants equipped with telecoils can pick up wirelessly broadcast to their own ears without any background noise. Users who don’t own hearing aids with telecoils or hearing aids can use small loop listening devices to pick up the signal.
This hearing loop is installed on a temporary basis because the loop wire could not be installed exactly where it should be, this would have involved cutting of old, glued down carpeting, for an optimal signal. Once the church gets recarpeted the loop wire will be put where it needs to be and the magnetic loop signal will be optimized. Yet, even with the hearing loop slightly out of spec it is helping people hear.
It was Fr. Doug LeCaptain who OK’d the installation when he realized it could be a year or two before a perfect loop could be installed and that this temporary loop would work quite well in most of the seated area. Fr. Doug was also “nudged” at the insistence of several hard of hearing parishioners. These parishioners had experienced hearing loops in the many looped churches in and around Oshkosh (see a complete list here) and kept asking for the technology at St Raphael.
The hearing loop was announced in the bulletin and during a hearing loop dedication weekend this past August. Vicki Denzin, a parishioner and mom of three girls, publicly thanked the congregation gathered. Her emotion came through loud and clear when she spoke. Two of her daughters use hearing aids and the girls have extensive experience using a loop in their TV room. Vicki and her husband Jim had advocated for a loop at St Raph’s.
When people experience a hearing loop for the first time they are often overwhelmed. I have learned there is a story behind each and every hearing loop testimonial. To capture how hearing aid users benefit from loops I am gathering hearing loop experiences with a simple survey. To gather responses from the many local loop users I dropped some paper and pencil surveys off at twelve hearing aid offices in the Fox Valley. These survey responses are coming in. I hope to publish an article on these findings soon but in the meantime I would like to share one story. A story that does not use many words… just the response of one hearing loop user at St. Raph’s. (St Raphael Catholic Church).
Prior to the hearing loop installation this user reports to hear a “2” on a scale of 1=”heard nothing” and a 10=”hear every word”. In the hearing loop this same user reports to hear a “9”. In the hearing loop the hearing aid user went from hearing nearly nothing to nearly hearing every word. Wow! These results almost made me cry. Who knew? Who knew but this person who sat in the pews trying to carve meaning out of the words of the service? I cannot imagine how this person felt after worshipping in a facility where hearing the homily was impossible? Why bother attending? I am sure that many others have stopped attending, because of this same problem.
With the hearing loop this hearing aid user is once again able to hear the messages that Fr. Doug so carefully prepares every Sunday, broadcast wirelessly from the loop to the telecoil in the hearing aids. Imagine hearing clear and crisp sound without any background noise straight from the sound board?
It is possible to hear in reverberant houses of worship (and many other venues) with the use of hearing loops. This is news that deserves to be shared by clergy around the country and heard by millions of hearing aid users. Everyone deserves to hear.