High ceilings, large spaces, religious ornamentation and complex architectural geometries are features commonly found in many places of worship such as churches and synagogues. Combined, these characteristics result in acoustically imperfect environments that make audibility difficult for many. For worshipers who are deaf or hard of hearing, trying to discern what is being communicated during services within these places of worship can be exponentially more difficult. As such, it is important that places of worship implement and improve their audio accessibility to create a welcoming environment for all. This will help parishioners who need hearing solutions stay connected and inspired during church services.
Facts and figures about hearing loss and hearing aids for places of worship
Before diving into the solutions that houses of worship can deploy to improve audio accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, let’s look at some relevant data:
According to statistics provided by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders:
- 2 to 3 in every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears.
- About 15% of the US population ages 18 and older, totaling about 37.5 million people, also report some level of hearing loss.
- About 28.8 million American adults could benefit from using hearing aids.
According to the White House, the provisions of President Biden’s proposed Build Back Better Act set to take effect in 2023 would result in a $35 billion investment by the U.S. government in efforts to expand Medicare coverage for include hearing aids and services.
Although places of worship are not required to provide assistive listening devices to those in need, as outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), California and Texas are notable exceptions. State regulations in California and Texas require places of worship to provide assistive listening systems to their worshippers.
Hearing aids alone are not enough
Although many worshipers who are deaf or hard of hearing already have hearing aids, these alone are often not enough. While hearing solutions and hearing aids are generally helpful, many tend to amplify all sounds in close proximity. Since there can be significant amounts of background noise in many places of worship, worshipers cannot always rely on their hearing aids. By implementing modern hearing aid solutions, houses of worship can create better listening experiences for their worshipers with hearing loss.
Modern hearing aid solutions for modern places of worship
FM radio based solution
Assistive listening solutions based on FM radio have been around for some time. A house of worship’s main mixer was broadcasting audio signals through an FM radio transmitter. Congregants who are hard of hearing can tune in to the broadcast using radio receivers and headphones provided by their place of worship.
Although a proven solution, FM radio-based assistive listening systems are not without their drawbacks. FM signals are subject to interference from other nearby electronic equipment. Moreover, their audio quality often leaves something to be desired by modern standards.
Places of worship may not always have enough radio receivers available in the event that many hearing-impaired worshipers are present. Someone will also need to ensure that these radio receivers are fully charged or have fresh batteries before each service. Plus, you’ll need to sanitize after each use, an especially important point in the age of COVID.
Wi-Fi or hearing loop based solutions
The latest assistive listening systems based on Wi-Fi or Hearing Loop not only provide better audio fidelity, but also provide additional health benefits. Using Wi-Fi-based assisted listening systems, worshipers in attendance can tune into the church service via an app from their own smartphones or tablets.
In addition to being much more cost effective, Wi-Fi-based assisted listening solutions are also easier to deploy and integrate seamlessly into existing Wi-Fi networks. Unlike older radio-based solutions that have poor audio quality and are prone to signal interference, new Wi-Fi-based solutions provide a much better listening experience for hearing-impaired worshipers. Devotees can also easily adjust the volume of the religious broadcast to their liking from the palm of their hands.
Assistive listening systems based on Hearing Loop (sometimes called induction loop systems or “telecoil”) are an alternative to Wi-Fi solutions with similar benefits. Instead of streaming from a place of worship’s Wi-Fi network, hearing loop systems transmit audio signals through a magnetic field. Worshipers with hearing aids equipped with a telecoil will automatically pick up the magnetic signal when they enter a place of worship equipped with a hearing loop. It does not require additional receivers, which means less equipment to manage compared to older radio solutions. Similar to Wi-Fi-based systems, worshipers can adjust the volume of the religious broadcast simply by adjusting the sensitivity of their hearing aids.
Learn more about hearing aid and listening solutions by contacting Adorama Business Solutions.