Hearing loss no longer means having to settle for poor sound quality or miss out entirely on enjoying theater, museums, lectures and more.

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The Seattle Repertory Theatre is one of dozens of Puget Sound area theaters, museums and other public spaces that are getting into the hearing loop. Since the venue installed this high-tech assistive-listening system in spring 2016, the entire theater-going experience – from picking up tickets at the box office, to ordering a glass of wine in the lobby, to watching a play – has become enhanced for people with hearing loss.

“We’ve had people tell us they are enjoying theater for the first time in years because they could hear all of the dialogue,” says Elisabeth Farwell-Moreland, Producing Director for the Seattle Repertory Theatre. “We started out with about 24 headsets and once people found out the loop was here, we needed to add more. That didn’t happen with our old infrared system.”

Hearing loss no longer means having to settle for poor sound quality or miss out entirely on enjoying theater, museums, lectures and more thanks to the grass-roots hearing loop movement sweeping the nation. During the past decade, more than 20 states have adapted active loop campaigns to install this assistive listening system that uses a wireless signal to transmit speech or music directly from a venue’s PA system to the telecoil, or T-coil, in your cochlear implant or hearing aid.

“The hearing loop movement is exciting because people with hearing loss, who have long been underserved and left out of disability planning, can now fully participate in many activities as others do,” says Cheri Perazzoli, Founder/Director of Let’s Loop Seattle and Director of Advocacy for the Hearing Loss Association of America, Washington State.

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How the hearing loop works

The hearing loop system optimizes the listening experience in two ways. First of all, it reduces distance. The sound is more clear and louder because it goes directly from the PA system to the hearing aid, instead of traveling across a large room. Second, the loop reduces the signal to noise ratio.

“Think about how much noise is around you from people talking, laughing, maybe clapping, at a theater auditorium, an airport or other public spaces,” says Hillary Perry, Doctor of Audiology at Puget Sound Hearing Aid & Audiology. “The loop decreases the extraneous noise, providing a more direct signal from the source you want to hear.”

Coverage is provided wherever you see the T-coil symbol. For example, locations at the Seattle Repertory Theatre include both performance theaters, the box office, concierge desk and lobby concessions stand.

If your personal hearing device is equipped with a T-coil, set your device to the “T” setting to turn off your microphone. Depending on the device, this is done by pushing a button, toggling a switch, or using a remote control. For devices not equipped with a T-coil, participating venues offer the loan of a receiver that works with the hearing loop system to wear around your neck. You may also purchase your own personal loop that will work in any location where you seen the T-coil symbol.

Bagley Wright Theatre (Seattle Repertory Theatre)
Bagley Wright Theatre (Seattle Repertory Theatre)

How to get into the loop

The first step to getting hooked into the Seattle hearing loop is to ask your hearing health care provider if your hearing aid has a T-coil.

“I always encourage my patients to be advocates for themselves,” says Perry. “There are so many hearing-assistive technologies available – from iPhone apps to public space programs like the loop. Your audiologist or hearing specialist should be able to discuss with you what is available and what’s appropriate for your needs and your lifestyle.”

Come in and try new hearing aid technology, 30 days risk free, at one of Puget Sound Hearing Aid & Audiology’s 13 convenient locations.