By Maile Keone
Hearing loss is often known as the “invisible disability.”
Those among us who have it, often prefer to try to cope with it, live with it, or hide it from others. And yet, this so-called invisible disability affects about 20 percent of American adults! This means that potentially, one out of five of congregants are not hearing messages and music that inspire them each week in your house of worship.
It can be difficult to recognize hearing loss, whether it is our own, or that of someone we love. It often develops gradually and affects people differently. There are certain signs to look for when it comes to determining whether or not someone is losing his or her hearing. It is, of course, advisable to visit your physician or an audiologist, if you think that you or someone you love has hearing loss.
7 signs of hearing loss
#1: High volume level on the TV, car radio or home stereo
#2: Difficulty understanding or following group conversations
#3: Difficulty focusing or hearing when people are speaking in another room
#4: The need to have things repeated
#5: Difficulty understanding people in crowded places, such as restaurants, or during weekly worship services
#6: Difficulty hearing phone conversations
#7: Withdrawal from social situations and activities
There are many things that can be done to help people who have hearing loss. One of the best actions to take is to install an assistive listening system. Providing an assistive listening system in your house of worship can increase attendance and a sense of community within your congregation, help people with hearing loss and language barriers feel less isolated, and, most important, ensure that everyone hears inspirational messages during weekly worship services.
Know your options
There are three types of assistive listening systems. The type of system to install depends on the needs of your congregation, the laws in your local jurisdiction, and the acoustics in your house of worship.
Before determining what type of assistive listening system is best for your house of worship, it might be a good idea to take a survey among your congregation to see how familiar they are with the technology and to see how many people would benefit from the system — the results might surprise you.
It is also a wise idea to look up the local laws in your area on providing assistive listening in a house of worship. There are many jurisdictions in separate states that require houses of worship to provide assistive listening to their practitioners.
3 types of assistive listening
#1: Radio Frequency (RF) — Works like a radio to deliver sound to a congregant’s receiver and is typically the least expensive assistive listening system to install
#2: Infrared (IR) — Uses light (like a TV remote control) to transmit sound to a congregant’s receiver; is great for houses of worship that want to use it for simultaneous broadcasts, like assistive listening and language interpretation
#3: Hearing Loop — Provides congregants with discreet and personal listening experiences, because they can use their own hearing aids (if equipped with t-coils) as a receiver. Hearing loops can also be used with other types of receivers, for people who do not have t-coil-equipped hearing aids.
Hearing loss affects all of us, whether it is our own, one of our loved ones, or someone with whom we attend weekly worship services. One of the most important things to remember when considering hearing loss is that it is invisible and can be very isolating. This isolation can lead people to stop enjoying the activities they love, including attending church each week.
Reaching out and making people with hearing loss feel welcome in congregations is important. Making sure that they can hear the words and music that inspire them — with the help of an assistive listening system — is even more so.
Maile Keone is VP of Marketing at Listen Technologies in Bluffdale, UT.