Sheridan Many hearing aid users will be able to connect directly to the theater’s sound system thanks to new technology at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center. Verl Averett, WYO’s Technical Director, says that the new system will provide clearer sound for theatregoers who are hard of hearing.
The technology installed in February by Assist2Hear at the WYO includes two copper-wired hearing loops (circuits) for people with hearing loss. It is possible to use telecoils, which, according to the Speech and Hearing Clinic at Arizona State University, make it possible for hearing aids equipped with telecoils to be connected directly to the WYO’s audio system.
About 85% of hearing aids currently on the market have the ability to connect to a hearing loop via telecoil, and those users can do so with the push of a button or by adjusting the telecoil settings on their hearing aid smartphone app, according to Nichols.
People with hearing loss in a venue like [the WYO] will have the best sound in the house because hearing loops now snake through nearly every line of seats in the mezzanine.
According to Averett, the sound transmitted by the system to hearing aids equipped with telecoils is “a lot cleaner.” There’s no need for them to work hard to understand anything.
An independent receiver and headphones connected to the theater’s sound system can be provided for visitors with non-telecoil hearing aids in order to enhance the quality of sound and volume during performances.
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Averett says that WYO’s new assistive listening technology is part of a larger effort by the theater to make it as ADA-compliant as possible while preserving its historic architecture. Recently, the WYO removed part of the wall next to the theater’s sound board to make room for wheelchair seating. [note 1] Wheelchair users will be able to attend WYO productions without obstructing the theater’s aisles and remain a part of the audience thanks to the addition of new seats.
According to Averett, the installation of the hearing aid technology advances this objective. According to the ADA’s 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, “assistive listening systems” should be installed “in each assembly area where audible communication is integral to the use of the space.”
It is true that the WYO is the first place in Sheridan to install hearing loops, but other gathering places in the city are also working to meet the federal government’s mandate for these assistive listening devices. Library Director Cameron Duff explained to the library board of trustees that the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library’s Inner Circle meeting room will receive audio-visual upgrades, including equipment to assist those who are hard of hearing.
Public spaces are now accessible to everyone thanks to new technology, Averett said.
No matter what your disability is, you are welcome to come and see the show, “Averett explained.
If you’re interested in using the WYO’s new assistive listening system but wear hearing aids, Nichols advised checking with your audiologist to see if your devices have a telecoil.
A telecoil in your hearing aids will allow you to connect to WYO’s hearing loops via a smartphone app or the hearing aid itself, according to Nichols, WYO’s chief operating officer.
Prior to the show, Averett suggested checking out the WYO’s independent receiver if you don’t have hearing aids with telecoil capabilities. The receivers, which come with headphones like the hearing loop technology, will deliver high-quality sound to moviegoers.
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