Posted in materials on June 1, 2016 11:22 am EDT

Assistive Listening: Do You Hear What I Hear?

Designers can spec tools to help when audio challenges go beyond worship space and AVL design.

Image courtesy of Listen Technologies.











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TAGS: architectural design, assistive listening, avl design, sound,


By Keith Loria

While savvy audio engineers and AVL contractors can work around audio problems in most houses of worship, sometimes it’s not just the architecture or layout that causes the problems -- it’s actual limitations of the human ear as people age.

Hearing aids don’t always solve the problem because they amplify ambient noise in addition to the spoken word.

“House of worship facilities can often present acoustic challenges [because] they are not always designed with the needs of people with hearing loss,” says Kim Spencer, director of marketing for Listen Technologies Corp. based in Riverton, Utah. “The same design elements that create a visually pleasing space also lead to an increase in reverberant and ambient noise.”

Hearing aids don’t always solve the problem because they amplify ambient noise in addition to the spoken word. So Listen Technologies has developed a variety of assistive listening products to address the problem.

Options & tools

Listen Technologies’ assistive listening systems for church spaces fall into three main categories: Hearing Loop, Radio Frequency (commonly referred to as RF), and Infrared (or IR).

These systems can be used independently or in combination, depending on the needs of a particular venue.

“Listen Technologies’ Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) expand the functionality of hearing aids and cochlear implants by amplifying the sounds you want to hear in houses of worship while limiting interference from other sources of noise,” Spencer says. “These solutions minimize problems like background noise and poor acoustics, thereby delivering high-quality sound directly to users’ ear(s).”

In the most basic terms, assistive listening devices consist of four key components: a microphone to collect sound; a transmitter to send the signal across a distance; a receiver to intercept that signal; and any one of several different attachments to transmit the audio from the receiver to the user’s ear, hearing aid, or cochlear implant. In addition, each device should be equipped with its own volume control for users to adjust to their comfort level, according to Spencer.

Sennheiser Electronic Corp., with U.S. headquarters in Old Lyme, Conn., offers a personal hearing assistant called the MobileConnect, which streams four audio channels via standard Wi-Fi onto smartphones so people with hearing difficulties can utilize it when at a worship facility.

Image courtesy of Sennheiser.

“This is beneficial not only because these devices are often customized to meet individual needs, but it also removes some of the stigma associated with utilizing an ALS [assistive listening systems] receiver,” says Vanessa Jensen with Sennheiser’s customer development & application engineering team in the Americas. “Furthermore, an induction neckloop can provide audio content directly to telecoil-equipped hearing aids, making the use of this system convenient for the listener.”

The MobileConnect app is free and allows adjustment of the EQ curve via an integrated personal hearing assistant. This reportedly allows the system to be used for more than ALS, including interpretation or visual description.  continued >>