Avalon ensures quality experience for hearing impaired

Laura Hansen, owner and CEO of Assist2HEAR checking the installation of the hearing tech at the Avalon.

Hearing experts have completed installation of a wire array at the Avalon Theatre that will take audio from on-stage performances directly into the heads of the hearing impaired.

The hearing loop system, valued at more than $30,000, will be completed once funds are committed. Then the contractor, Assist 2 Hear, will return with amplifiers to connect the wire array into the theater’s overall audio-visual system, owner and President Laura Hansen said.

Fundraising to pay for the loop audio system is ongoing, according to the Avalon’s website.

The date for Hansen’s return will be determined as construction work starts winding down.

The wire array set into the concrete floor of the theater last week is designed to emit a electronic signal that carries audio directly from the theater sound system, Hansen said.

It’s called an induction loop. Induction loops consist of a wire looped around a room and plugged into an amplifier, which is then plugged into an audio/sound system or TV, she said.

“It’s tied directly into the sound system,” she said. “Anything that comes through the mic or the sound system will come directly into the ear. People say, ‘It sounds like you’re inside my head,’ and we are.”

“Churches and public auditoriums are the perfect environment for loops,” she said.

There are also residential loops for home TV rooms, which can be wired or used with a seat pad that includes a loop.

They plug into the TV and the hearing aid wearer merely turns on the T-coil inside their hearing device.

T-coils are coils of copper wire mounted inside a hearing aid, which acts like a personalized, wireless loudspeaker, Hansen said.

When used in conjunction with an induction loop hearing system, T-coils block out the frustrating background noise so the only thing the wearer hears is the sound coming through the device.

The loop simply creates a magnetic field which is picked up by the T-coil. This technology makes the headphones typically provided in these environments unnecessary for hearing aid wearers.

The system at the Avalon will offer headsets for people with low hearing but without hearing aids, Hansen said.

“The key is, you can design all day on paper, but until you actually get on site and test it, you don’t for sure how it’s going to work,” she said. “I have already been here to run tests to make sure what we are doing will work. The goal is to get 85 to 90 percent of the seats (covered with the induction loop).”

About 85 percent of hearing aids have T-coils, Hansen said, so not every hearing aid wearer will benefit.

“There’s a huge initiative to get hearing loops in across the country, so people don’t have to use a headset. They use their own hearing aids, something which they’re already invested in. It’s a direct signal into their hearing aid. It gets rid of all the background noise,” she said.

“Most people have T-coils, but most of them don’t know they have them because their audiologist hasn’t activated them,” Hansen said.

Assist 2 Hear’s mission is to educate the public and individuals about available options to improve hearing in their own home as well as public venues and social settings, she said. 

“Basically, we want to help bring people back to social situations and let them participate in life through better accessibility for hearing and communication,” Hansen said.

Assist 2 Hear supports community and national organizations for the deaf and hard of hearing by giving 3 percent of its profits to charitable organizations.

“Our goal is to bring hearing loss to the forefront of disability compliance so it is no longer the ‘invisible’ disability,” Hansen said.


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