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Keep church members involved:
According to the Better Hearing Institute almost one out of every 11 persons has hearing loss. By offering barrier free hearing access, churches will help their auditorially challenged members once again join in the worship experience and prevent some from giving up on attending because they can not hear well enough.
Loop systems are the preferred assistive listening systems
Unlike FM or infra-red assistive systems which usually sit unused, hearing loop systems: Require (for those with T-coils) no pick up and remembering to return portable receiving units or wear a headset. Operate on a universal frequency (FM systems operate on differing frequencies, requiring receivers for each church). Are inconspicuous: No need to display “I am hard of hearing!” with visible headphone. Loop systems offer an easy and invisible solution to an invisible problem & are thus more likely to be used. Work in transient situations: They allow hands-free listening while moving around in church where other assistive listening systems are impractical. Are hearing-aid compatible. There’s no need to juggle between hearing aids and headsets (for example, when shifting from sermon to singing during worship). Deliver personalized in-the-ear sound customized by one’s own hearing aids to address one’s own hearing loss. …Are, for all these reasons, more likely to be used – and to be increasingly used – once installed (as people purchase future hearing instruments with T-coils).
How a person with hearing aids can benefit from a hearing loop: Digital hearing aids have significantly improved in the last decade, but they still do not restore hearing to normal. Therefore, understanding speech in reverberant places such as auditoriums or churches is often still difficult. Hearing aids equipped with T- coils can help greatly in this situation. When a hearing aid is set to “T”-coil, the instrument becomes a personalized speaker in the ear for the sounds that are picked up by the microphone of the public address system. That way sounds are heard clearly, without distortion or background noise pick-up.
By Dr. Juliette Sterkens
I heard David Myers speak in October 2008 at a Wisconsin HLAA meeting in Menomonie. I probably would not have attended this meeting if it weren’t for the fact that our daughter goes to school in this small town and we wanted to try out our new tandem bike on the trails in that area.
I heard him elaborate about how successful he had been in bringing hearing loop technology to Western Michigan. In 1981 I had moved to Wisconsin from the Netherlands, where loops had been in use for a long time so I had occasionally wondered why they never made it over in this country.
On our tandem ride that afternoon we made our plans: we wanted to make the Fox Valley Communities accessible for persons with hearing loss just like David Myers had done in Western Michigan. Max decided to retire early from test and development engineer career and become “my” loop installer. From then on I spent every spare moment on the telephone. I called churches, city council members, museum and Seniors Centers directors, and even spoke with an architect from the Oshkosh Convention Center that was being remodeled at that time. I started talking to my patients about what the T-coil was for. The best thing we probably did was to install a large flat screen TV and hearing loop in our office waiting room. Demonstrations were invaluable. How do you explain to a person that they are missing something, when they don’t know what they are missing? I even had a church council meeting in my waiting room so those with hearing aids could experience a loop.
Within a month I had support from local Foundation for a loop installation at the Oshkosh Convention Center. A church under construction agreed to put the loop wire in so that an installation would be easier later, the Seniors Center wanted a loop for a large meeting room and a patient offered to fund an installation in a church in memory of her husband. Max attended hearing loop installation training and he installed two large loops at our Oshkosh Convention Center under remodeling a week before the carpeting went in.
I then contacted every audiologist and dispenser in a 30-40 mile radius and informed them of the Fox Valley Hearing Loop Initiative and asked them to discuss the usefulness of T-coils. I created a binder with a list of churches in community and now ask every patient routinely what church they belong to, if they have trouble hearing and if I may use their name when I speak to ministers and other patients.
I formed a Facebook group and invite fellow professionals, patients, their friends and family to join this group to stay informed. I email to everyone who wants information. I hand out Fox Valley Hearing Loop Initiative copies, progress notes of what has been accomplished and FAQ sheets. I endlessly reprogram instruments, hand everyone an information sheet on how to use the different programs (MT vs. T), how to access the programs and I then follow up with a demo in the waiting room. About 80% of the hearing instruments we dispense come standard with a T-coil, though I don’t always gave access to the t-coil program. Recently I attended a public hearing about a $40M new campus building and was pleased to find out that hearing loops are now seriously being considered for this building, thanks to some induction loop info I sent them.
Thus far we have 10 churches and 3 venues looped, and several other churches are awaiting site visits. Each installation involves not only the actual placement of the loop but follow-up at worship services, creation of hand-outs and brochures and decals for windows. The churches in return are asked to promote the loops by making announcements before every worship service, adding written information in their bulletins, and sending news-releases to the newspaper. We have found out that church secretaries know lots of people and often they do not belong to the church they work for. This helps to spread the news fast.
What is needed now? There is so much to do: first of all we need awareness of all hearing instrument users that if they do not get instruments with t-coils they will be literally left out of the loop! We need trained installers who are willing to work with audiologists, hearing instrument specialists and local HLAA groups to make hearing loops the standard. We need all dispensers of instruments to become involved as this will make their patients so much happier with their instruments. I also need community awareness: People who operate public places need to understand that hearing aid users are frequently not hearing well for reasons out of the control of the users and venue operators and that this induction technology can makes a world of difference. By speaking to service organizations I hope to do just that. Awareness on the part of the clergy is also needed. This summer we are asked to install a temporary loop and address the annual meeting of 600+ members of the United Church of Christ in Green Lake. I am hoping that this will help to spread the word in Wisconsin. I have spoken with three different area charitable foundations in the hopes of securing financial support for an awareness campaign but the recession has pretty nixed my chances there. So now Max and I have focused on making the installations affordable and hoping word of mouth will do the rest.
Why did I become a “hearing loop activist”? I do it because I believe with all my heart, that hearing loops are the missing link to hearing aids. I agree with David Myers, when he said that hearing loops will do for hearing instruments what Wi-Fi has done for laptops. I want to make a difference in the life of persons with hearing loss; in my office I can only help one person at a time, but through these loops I will be helping thousands of folks. I know this may sound pretty hokey, but I would die a happy woman knowing I pulled this off in the Fox Valley. In addition, it would have made my father, who was hard of hearing himself, very proud!
I would like to thank a few persons: my husband Max, as he is the one who supports me 100%. Without his technical know-how this would not have taken off: My sister, who flew in from Germany to help me set up the financial side of the business: Cindy, a patient who has helped to set up a website: Audiologists Doreen Jensen and Candy McGinnis-Dahl who are helping to spread the word among our patients and the Fox Valley and last but not least, David Myers, who has is cheers me on and is always ready with support.
BIO of Juliëtte Sterkens, AuD:
Bio: LeRoy “Max” Maxfield
We have been married 27+ years and we have two children: Joëlle and Lars. I love to cook, travel, and garden and I specialize in spring flowering Dutch bulbs (what else?) and tending to the fish in my water garden. Max loves to study astronomy and is an avid runner.
Better Hearing Institute
© 2015 BHI. All rights reserved.
Identifying and addressing hearing loss early brings many benefits. From enhancing your quality of life, to helping protect against several health consequences linked to unaddressed hearing loss, the case for early treatment is strong.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to never put off a hearing test and treatment, however is simply this: We “hear” with our brain, not with our ears. When we have a hearing loss, the connections in the brain that respond to sound become reorganized.
Fortunately, for many people, hearing aids can provide the sound stimulation needed for the brain to restore the normal organization of connections to its “sound center” so it can more readily react to the sounds that it had been missing and cognitively process them.
In fact, the vast majority of people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. And dramatic new technological advances have completely transformed hearing aids in recent years, making them more effective, comfortable, and easy to use. So the sooner you identify hearing loss and start using professionally fitted hearing aids if recommended by a hearing healthcare professional, the sooner you’ll begin to reap the rewards of better hearing.
The benefits of early treatment on quality of life and health
For many years, experts have known the positive impact that addressing hearing loss has on quality of life. Research shows that many people with hearing loss who use hearing aids see an improvement in their ability to hear in many settings; and many see an improvement in their relationships at home and at work, in their social lives, and in their ability to communicate effectively in most situations. Many even say they feel better about themselves and life overall.
More recently, however, researchers are discovering a significant link between hearing loss and other health issues, such as cognition, dementia, depression, falling, hospitalization, mortality, and overall physical and mental health.
To get a fuller sense of why it’s so important to treat hearing loss sooner rather than later, just consider the latest research on hearing loss and these seven health issues:
Better Hearing Institute
© 2015 BHI. All rights reserved.
Hearing Loop advantages include:
For all those reasons, Loop systems are far more likely to be used – and increasingly used – once installed.
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