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.
Thought? Questions? Comments?