How to Help the Hearing-Impaired

I was visiting a church to check out their Aviom system and noticed the funniest thing.  An Aviom unit (personal monitoring system) was close to the front of the stage and had a long cord leading into the first row of the congregation.  Unless a musician was going to play from the congregation, I couldn’t imagine why it was there.  "We use it to power headphones for a person who is hard of hearing."

Technology, as seen above, isn't always used in the way it was intended.  There is nothing wrong with that.  The church used a creative solution to solve a problem

There are a range of products you can use for your hearing-impaired members.  No, making them sit directly in front of a speaker is not a valid solution.

The products can be broken down into three areas; wired, wireless, and loopy.  Yes, there is a solution that is absolutely loopy but I'll get to that soon.

Wired solutions are not used anymore due to the advancements in technology.  While the example I gave of the church that was creative with their Aviom was a practical solution, it does highlight the problems of any hard-wired solution; seating limitations.  Anyone who needs to use a wired system much sit where the headphones are located.  Then you have the whole issue of running wires on your sanctuary floor.  These are run from an auxiliary amplifier.  With headphones, wires, and amp in place, you need to make sure the headphones have a volume control.  Wired?  No thank you.

Wireless systems use the power of a low-wattage radio signals so those who are hearing-impaired can use their own personal portable radio and headphones.  In fact, if your church broadcasts live on a regular radio station, people can tune into the station while listening to the service.  This is much like listening to the announcer on the radio while watching a baseball game.  In the case of the low-watt signal, you attach an fm radio transmitter to your amplifier and send out the signal.  These units can run from $100 to $1000 dollars depending on their options and how far they broadcast a signal.  Depending on the fm transmitter options, the radio frequency can be set to a specific frequency or broadcast on more than one frequency in case of interference.

The final group is the loopy one.  The induction loop systems broadcast directly to the hearing-aid of the congregation member.  The person would walk into the sanctuary and put on a large loop necklace which has a receiver on it.  The receiver also acts as a transmitter and transmits to their hearing-aid.  As great as this sounds, there is one very important limitation.  The user MUST be wearing a telecoil receiver.

Hearing-impaired solutions are out there and they are affordable.  The best option of the three is a wireless system.  Finally, you will have congregation members who can stop playing with their hearing-aid and just listen to the service.

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  1. John Brown says

    Is there a system similar to Chromcast? If the audio could be rebroadcast with an APP on the churches WiFi then the user could access the WiFi open the APP on his phone and receive the audio via the phone or the phone’s ear buds. The FM/wireless has appeal but most phones don’t receive FM so the user needs to have a FM receiver with ear buds. Most everyone has a smart phone they could use. Any other ideas? Our church retransmits but not real time as there is a delay of almost one minute. We don’t have live feed audio at this time. I would appreciate your comments. I really would like to hear the service.

  2. Clarence Dent says

    We tried something completely different that worked amazingly well a few weeks ago, and it is causing us to re-think how we help the hearing impaired. We had a guy that used our wireless headset, but couldn’t get enough volume from it. I took it home and compared it to the nice Sony headset I have. I measured the decible reading in both sets, and found them to be about the same, just before distortion. So that solution didn’t work. I felt Iike I was attempting to provide for something he should have fixed in his hearing aid. One of my sound techs came up with a great idea though. Using a ‘speech to text’ feature of his iPhone, he put the headphone speaker on the mic of the iPhone, and then he set up a chat with another iPhone and was able to “real-time” translate the service and send it to the guy wirelessly. The guy thought the solution was great. Now we just have to figure out how to do this regularly, and economically. Great ‘spur of the moment’ thinking by the sound guy… Anyone know of any products out there that won’t use up cell phone minutes?… tia- Clarence

    • says

      Great idea on behalf of that sound tech! The only other thing I could image would be setting it to send to a shared document such as on google doc’s but then that person would need a way to read it such as an iPad. if only I had the money to invest in such an idea…

    • John Brown says

      If you could put the audio on a WiFi via and APP the users could access the APP via the WiFi without the use of minutes. Just a thought. Kind of like Chromcast in reverse. Audio goes into device that loads realtime into app, the user access WiFi and opens app on his device, connects to church app and sound comes out into users device and in my case via Bluetooth to my hearing aids.