At a recent memorial service at Vashon United Methodist Church, the widow of the deceased arrived expecting to not hear much. Her severe hearing loss required that people speak loudly. Her hearing aid, with the ambient noise it picks up in an amplified audio setting, offered little help.
She was given one of the four headsets the church purchased to go with the new HearingLoop technology installed this summer. As soon as it was turned on, her face lit up and she exclaimed, "I can hear!"
Giving the hearing impaired greater ability to hear services is exactly the intention the church’s board of trustees had in mind when they made the decision last March to purchase a HearingLoop for the sanctuary. They also plan to install a HearingLoop in an Education Building meeting room.
"We are making it possible for everyone to worship and be a part of our community," says Reverend Kathy Morse, "so all can participate in the life of the church."
HearingLoop systems can be found in churches such as Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in the U.K. and also airports, sports arenas, museums, and concert halls. Hearing Loop access is indicated by a logo that incorporates the universal symbol for hearing assistance along with a "T" which signifies the telecoil-compatible system. When placed at entrances, the sign informs people that the building or venue is looped.
Trustee Cliff Moore, a retired engineer who is also hard of hearing, suggested the church obtain the system and was instrumental in its approval by the Trustees. The system was installed by Spencer Norby of Tacoma. "This is an exciting technology," he explains, " because it picks up the signal from the microphone directly rather than every single noise happening in the sanctuary. This is known as an inductive pickup."
Most people will be able to access the Hearing Loop with their hearing aid by setting it to "T" -- which activates the telecoil or "T-coil." An audiologist may need to turn that part on. For those whose hearing aids do not have a telecoil, they may borrow one of the four headsets such as the widow used at her husband’s memorial service.
To find out if your hearing aid is compatible with the Hearing Loop, Spencer Norby advises you to give your audiologist call and ask: 1) Do I have a T-coil? 2) Does it need to be turned on?
New Audio-Vision System
In addition, an audio-visual (AV) system has been installed at Vashon United Methodist Church. The system is giving the seeing-impaired better access to hymns and prayers and enriches the service with artwork and educational videos.
Both the Hearing Loop and AV system are part of a major round of church improvements that also includes a new roof, bell tower repairs, exterior lead paint removal and repainting, and a remodel of the adjacent education building.
Tom Nicolino, a congregant for 43 years and current Chair of the Board of Trustees, is excited about our church improvements. "It’s amazing to look at our facility and think about the major things we have done over those 43 years: We built a parsonage, we did a total remodeling of the sanctuary and fellowship hall and now we are finishing the current improvements. When this work is complete it will provide years of service for us all. Especially note the quality of the work in preparing and painting of the Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall exterior. The result of this work is better than anticipated; it makes our old church look new again."