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Author Topic: Assisted Listening Devices  (Read 2925 times)

Eric Hendricks

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Assisted Listening Devices
« on: June 13, 2011, 10:45:37 am »

In the past few weeks my mother has let me know that it is increasingly difficult for her to hear the pastor's sermon.  The church currently does not have any assisted listening devices of any kind, so I've decided to investigate the matter.  The sanctuary dimensions are approximately 60'x120'.  I'll be getting more information about any wireless devices they currently have, board outputs, etc., later this week.  I would appreciate any information about what to look for, pitfalls to be aware of, etc. so that I can make an informed decision.

I apologize for not having more specific information, but this is an area that I am completely unfamiliar with.

Thanks in advance.
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g'bye, Dick Rees

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Re: Assisted Listening Devices
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2011, 10:54:05 am »

In the past few weeks my mother has let me know that it is increasingly difficult for her to hear the pastor's sermon.  The church currently does not have any assisted listening devices of any kind, so I've decided to investigate the matter.  The sanctuary dimensions are approximately 60'x120'.  I'll be getting more information about any wireless devices they currently have, board outputs, etc., later this week.  I would appreciate any information about what to look for, pitfalls to be aware of, etc. so that I can make an informed decision.

I apologize for not having more specific information, but this is an area that I am completely unfamiliar with.

Thanks in advance.

Eric....

Please take this in the spirit of helpfulness in which it is offered.

Is she having trouble "hearing" or "understanding"?

What type of speaker system is in place?

Does it offer a high degree of voice intelligibility over the entire seating area?

Has your mother tried finding a seat closer to a speaker or in an area which has clearer, more present sound?

I do a lot of work with churches having aging populations and often find that those having trouble understanding or hearing the message are sitting in the same seat they've occupied for years.  We are creatures of habit and it has not been an easy task to get folks who've sat in the rear of the sanctuary their entire lives to move to the front pews as their auditory discernment diminishes.  Yet this can often be the best and least expensive solution.

Good luck to you in your quest.
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Eric Hendricks

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Re: Assisted Listening Devices
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2011, 11:30:37 am »

Eric....

Please take this in the spirit of helpfulness in which it is offered.
No problem.  I've been lurking for years, so I know that no offense is intended.

Quote
Is she having trouble "hearing" or "understanding"?
She seems to hear the worship music just fine, but the spoken word can be difficult.  And that depends on who is speaking.  She hears some people okay, but not others.

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What type of speaker system is in place?
One main over a sub at each side of the stage.  I will get specifics later this week.

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Does it offer a high degree of voice intelligibility over the entire seating area?
It can, but that depends on who is doing sound that day.

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Has your mother tried finding a seat closer to a speaker or in an area which has clearer, more present sound?
She has just started going to this church as we just convinced her to finally move in with us.  We usually sit toward the back since it is easier with her wheelchair and oxygen, and we've tried the center, sides, etc.

Quote
I do a lot of work with churches having aging populations and often find that those having trouble understanding or hearing the message are sitting in the same seat they've occupied for years.  We are creatures of habit and it has not been an easy task to get folks who've sat in the rear of the sanctuary their entire lives to move to the front pews as their auditory discernment diminishes.  Yet this can often be the best and least expensive solution.
I appreciate your experience.  I'm not in a hurry to throw money at the problem, as I want to find the right solution to the problem.  I'll see if I can arrange to have a place reserved for her up front next Sunday to see if that will solve the issue.  In case it is still a problem, what information should I obtain to make a proper decision? 

Quote
Good luck to you in your quest.

Thanks.
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Re: Assisted Listening Devices
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2011, 04:47:57 pm »


She seems to hear the worship music just fine, but the spoken word can be difficult.  And that depends on who is speaking.  She hears some people okay, but not others.

So this appears to be an intelligibility problem rather than a hearing problem.
Quote

She has just started going to this church as we just convinced her to finally move in with us.  We usually sit toward the back since it is easier with her wheelchair and oxygen, and we've tried the center, sides, etc.

You all are sitting in the reverberant field rather than the direct sound field and are listening to the aggregate of a complex set of reflections.  The sound system as described seems to be favoring music reproduction rather than voice, although one should not necessarily preclude the other.  You're correct in that it comes down to the skill and experience of the operator.

Williams Sound is one of the more prolific suppliers of hearing assist systems.  There are certain rules and regulations regarding these things.  I believe the ADA covers this for installers and proprietors of  public spaces.  Not sure how it applies to churches.

Brad Weber is one of the most experienced in such matters.  He will chime in sooner or later.
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Arnold B. Krueger

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Re: Assisted Listening Devices
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2011, 04:55:27 pm »

In the past few weeks my mother has let me know that it is increasingly difficult for her to hear the pastor's sermon.  The church currently does not have any assisted listening devices of any kind, so I've decided to investigate the matter.  The sanctuary dimensions are approximately 60'x120'.  I'll be getting more information about any wireless devices they currently have, board outputs, etc., later this week.  I would appreciate any information about what to look for, pitfalls to be aware of, etc. so that I can make an informed decision.

We've had a Williams FM-based system for about a decade. It is pretty heavily used and well-liked. The most common question is "How can get a hearing aid that works this well everyplace else?"  Our sanctuary has a seating area that is flat an about 80' by 35'.  No problems with coverage at all.
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Lee Buckalew

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Re: Assisted Listening Devices
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2011, 07:15:04 pm »

So this appears to be an intelligibility problem rather than a hearing problem.
You all are sitting in the reverberant field rather than the direct sound field and are listening to the aggregate of a complex set of reflections.  The sound system as described seems to be favoring music reproduction rather than voice, although one should not necessarily preclude the other.  You're correct in that it comes down to the skill and experience of the operator.

Williams Sound is one of the more prolific suppliers of hearing assist systems.  There are certain rules and regulations regarding these things.  I believe the ADA covers this for installers and proprietors of  public spaces.  Not sure how it applies to churches.

Brad Weber is one of the most experienced in such matters.  He will chime in sooner or later.

Churches are not required to follow ADA in any of their construction.  Many do but it is not a requirement.

That said, one of the issues with adding some type of Assisted Listening Device (ALD) for someone who hears and understands some things well but not others is the issue of time delay combined with isolation. 
Depending on where the person is seated in relation to the speakers (and maybe the presenter) the difference in time of arrival to the ears from the PA vs from the ALD can actually create more smearing of the sounds than they experienced before.  This tends to happen with borderline users and it also can be more pronounced with over ear vs. in ear pieces used with the receivers since these don't isolate the wearer from the acoustic environment.
 
Your situation may well be a case where simply moving to a different place in the auditorium would make all the difference and could be worth checking out before investing in new equipment.

Lee Buckalew
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: Assisted Listening Devices
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2011, 11:15:27 am »

I agree with the above. I would add that in many churches the sound at the back is not good because of reflection off the back wall.

I think that it is good for any church to offer Hearing assistance devices, (and ear plugs for those on the other end of the sensitivity curve) 

Williams Sound is one good source for RF systems.  A couple of notes from experience at our church.  You do want a different mix if you have the hardware to do it.  More speech, less instruments.   Time delay is useful.  We look at where the users are sitting and add delay for the majority.

It is helpful to ask one user to take the responsibility of alerting you if it isn't working. I had a woman who did this and I didn't realize how valuable it was until she bought a better hearing aid and stopped using the system.  A few weeks later I forgot to turn it on and a woman complained a few days later.  Not good!  I have recruited a new volunteer. 

Someone needs to have batteries on hand.  This can be one of the sound guys, or an usher, or anyone.

Frank
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Brad Weber

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Re: Assisted Listening Devices
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2011, 06:24:33 pm »

Churches are not required to follow ADA in any of their construction.  Many do but it is not a requirement.
That's generally true, unfortunately it is not quite that simple.  For example, if a third party operates a day care on the church premises and pays for that privilege then the area of the building involved has to be ADA compatible.  Similar if you rent facilities to outside groups.  Basically, if there are areas of the church used by outside parties with some form of compensation for that use then those areas likely need to be ADA compliant.
 
There are three basic types of assistive listening systems RF/FM, IR (infrared) and IL (induction loop).  Each option has advantages and disadvantages.  For example, IR systems are line-of-sight so solid objects and walls block the signal, bad if someone holds up a hymnal in front of the receiver but good in situations like theatres and courtrooms where this can be used to prevent eavesdropping outside the room.  I believe that Sennheiser, Phonic Ear, Sound Associates and Williams Sound are some of the IR ALS system manufacturers.
 
The primary advantage of Induction loop systems is that they work directly with hearing aids incorporating T-coils without requiring any dedicated receiver (compatible receivers are available for those who use headphones, ear speakers, etc.).  IL systems are very common in areas such as the UK where probably 90%+ of hearing aids have this capability.  They have not been as common in the US both because a smaller percentage of hearing aids have integrated T-coils and because many hearing impaired individuals who may benefit from such systems may not necessarily use hearing aids.  Induction loop systems can also take greater planning to work properly and can be more difficult to install in existing spaces (although some improvements have been made in thsi regards).  Ampetronic and Oval Window are probably the two most well known names in IL systems.
 
RF systems operating on frequencies designated for ALS use are probably the most common in the US.  These are typically easy to integrate and often a less expensive option.  The Williams Sound brand noted is common.  My personal 'go to' manufacturer for RF ALS systems is Listen Technologies while other manufacturers include Comtek, Gentner, Nady and Telex.
 
I think Dick hit the biggest issue right on the head in that the first step is determining whether the underlying problem is the intelligibility of the audio system or hearing loss.  Obviously sitting in a different location won't improve someone's hearing, but if intelligibility is part of the problem it may help with that aspect.
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Eric Hendricks

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Re: Assisted Listening Devices
« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2011, 05:02:56 pm »

I wanted to thank everyone for their responses to this thread.  My mother wasn't doing to well for quite a few weeks, but we've been back to the church for the last couple of Sundays.  We tried a couple of different locations closer to the front, and that solved the problem. 

Thanks again for the help.
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