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Ecclesistical & Heritage World No.99

Hearing loops – why your venue should have one

Hearing loss is the second most common disability in the UK.  The number of people affected is increasing and estimates suggest that by 2035, 15.6 million people in the UK will have hearing loss – that’s one in five of the population. Like every public building, places of worship and heritage venues should be accessible to people with hearing loss, as leading specialists in the field Contacta explain.

BlaydonWhat is a hearing loop?

A hearing loop delivers the sound from a sound source such as a microphone, direct to a user’s hearing aids.  It amplifies only the sound a listener wants to hear and not the background noise.   It helps hearing aid users hear clearly in noisy environments or when they are far away from the sound source, and out of the effective listening range of their hearing aids.  

Speech or music is picked up by the microphone and converted into a magnetic signal by an amplifier.  The signal is transmitted towards users via a hearing loop aerial.  This is often a ‘loop’ of cable around a room, or a small loop of wire contained underneath a counter in one-to-one situations.

The signal is then picked up by a telecoil within a user’s hearing aid or cochlear implant, which converts it back into sound.  

univoxThe law

The Equality Act 2010 states that everyone should be treated equally.  It replaces previous anti-discrimination laws, including the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). 

In reference to the provision of hearing loops, the Act states that “Service providers are required to make changes, where needed, to improve services for disabled customers or potential customers… and to provide auxiliary aids and services (such as information in an accessible format, an induction loop for customers with hearing aids).”

The term “potential customers” is key.  While venues might assume they don’t currently have anyone who needs a hearing loop, environments should be inclusive and accessible to all.  Plus, it should be remembered that staff and volunteers can also benefit from assistive listening systems.

“For me, the experience of using the hearing loop was like going to ‘heaven’.  I left feeling uplifted and positive.” 

21st century sound for
Places of Worship

Traditional places of worship are notorious for poor acoustics degrading the intelligibility of the spoken word. Ironically, for the hard of hearing we have largely solved the problem with the development and continuous improvement of induction loop systems.
However, for the majority, with apparently good hearing, little has been done to improve the intelligibility of sound in these highly reverberant environments.

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Checking the loop signal strength 002

Regulations and standards

Part M of the Building Regulations 2010 provides guidance on complying with regulations that cover the access to and use of buildings.  It states that to obtain the full benefit of situations such as discussions or performances “a person with hearing loss must receive a signal that is amplified in both volume and signal to noise ratio,” and provision must be made for a permanent system in larger spaces.

Requirements of Part M are only met if a hearing loop (also known as an induction loop), or alternatives such as a radio frequency or an infrared hearing enhancement system, is accompanied by signage, so those that need it know it is there. 

BS 8300 is a code of practice compiled by the British Standards Institution detailing the required design of buildings for meeting the needs of disabled people. 

Revisions in 2018 included specific reference to the needs of people with hearing loss, detailing where loops should be located, their installation, maintenance and staff training.

The common feature throughout both the law and the regulations is the need to offer an inclusive experience for people with hearing loss, to give them equal access and to ensure their safety; assistive listening systems are essential for emergency announcements and alarms as well as entertainment, worship and good customer service.

Testing and maintenance

Installing a hearing loop is only the first step.  Systems should be regularly tested which can be done by staff with a small portable device known as a loop listener.  

A maintenance plan, with annual visits from a qualified engineer, makes sure loops are performing to the correct standard.  It also ensures venues continue to comply with the law and standards governing accessibility, and worshippers and visitors return because of the positive listening experience.

You can find out more about your specific requirements by contacting a loop system expert in your area and there is a selection in our online directory under Loop Systems - just click here.

Just to be clear: choose your speakers with care

Whether you’re a regular member of the congregation or attending a wedding, funeral or some other religious ceremony, there’s nothing more frustrating than having to struggle to understand what is being said. That was brought into sharp focus recently at St Mary the Virgin, in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside – a local church struggling with exactly that sort of sound issue. Complaints of distortion and patchy coverage were common among the congregation, leading to an urgent need for an overhaul of their sound system.

Click here to read the full story.

New AV system brings added life to services

In an era characterised by rapid technological advancements it is imperative for places of worship to adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs of their congregations. Putnoe Heights Methodist Church in Bedford has taken a commendable step in that direction by partnering with Scanaudio to install the NEC PA703W projector and Kramer VP-440X video switcher – ushering in a new era of multimedia capabilities that promise to enhance the worship experience for all.

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Streaming service brings the church to all

In an age when technology seamlessly integrates with spirituality, St Elphege’s RC Church in Wallington, Surrey, has taken a significant step forward by partnering with Scanaudio to introduce a state-of-the-art web streaming service. The groundbreaking initiative aims to bridge the physical and digital realms of worship, allowing the congregation to connect with their faith, irrespective of physical presence.

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Keeping it simple is the watchword for St Ann’s new system

Dating from the 1890s, St Ann’s Church in the Welsh seaside town of Rhyl now boasts thoroughly modern audio-visual systems – both in the church and the church hall – courtesy of Richard King Systems. The facilities now include upgraded sound systems, new audio loop systems, updated AV-projector systems, and comprehensive wi-fi coverage.

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New church is blank canvas for sound system

The completion of The Lighthouse Church in Heswall, Wirral, is the culmination of a nine-year project to build the brand new church as a place of worship, service and hospitality. As the previous 1960s building was showing its age, with many things wrong that were going to be very expensive to fix, it was decided to create the building that was really needed.

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Contacta offers hearing access for all with new RX-30 rechargeable loop listener

Assistive listening specialists, Contacta Systems, have launched a new rechargeable loop listener, offering worshippers enhanced access to sound.

The RX-30 is a complete wireless receiver, designed to help people with hearing loss who don’t use a hearing aid or cochlear implant.

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21st century sound for places of worship

Univox Audio have added the unique Activo Speaker series from Fulgor Service to their product range.

Ken Hollands, director at Univox Audio said: "With speech intelligibility at the core of everything we do, we are pleased to bring the unique speaker technology from Fulgor Service to the UK to help transform the service that our pro audio installers deliver to their customers."

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Magnificent self-built church accessible to all

When the congregation of High Street Church in Cambridgeshire outgrew the 19th Century chapel, members decided to rebuild a larger church in 2008, entirely by themselves. Finding the skills necessary to build the place of worship from within the congregation, The Ark is believed to be one of the largest self-built projects in the UK.

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Iconic Liverpool building gains wireless FM assistive listening

Previously known as Great George Street Congregational Church, a £6m renovation saw this iconic building in Liverpool’s China Town converted into a community arts centre in 1975. Now known as the “The Black-E”, the management of the 19th century Grade II listed building asked Contacta to install a hearing loop in the main hall in 2021.

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Scanaudio provide induction loop at Temple Farm

Temple Farm is a new 84-acre UK headquarters for the International Bible Students Association (IBSA) located near Chelmsford, Essex. The site has up to 1,000 volunteer workers per day alongside a small number of outside sub-contractors and is professionally managed and run by the organisation.

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