There could be challenges if you attend church or a place of worship without an assistive listening device. It’s difficult to rely on speaker systems and what hearing you have.
You may regularly attend church or make odd visits, like on Christmas Eve (hey, God doesn’t judge). On your arrival, it’s silent and just the way you like. People enter the room quietly, searching for a seat. Very few chit-chats are going on, but maybe to the people sitting next to you. You may see the occasional wave from regular churchgoers greeting each other across the room. Easy, or so you think.
But then service begins. The pastor or minister speaks, and then you wonder how you will make it through the hour. Words echo across the ceilings, and choir voices raise and lower without following a word.
Added to the difficulty of speech clarity, other sounds that appear from silence, like people coughing, restless kids, and any noise from outside, get absorbed right into the walls, creating a symphony of sounds that makes it harder to hear.
Even with your hearing aids and cochlear implants, the sounds still wouldn’t improve. You spend the whole ceremony copying what others are doing to get through.
While attendance is declining and church attendance is perceived mainly for older adults, more young adults are coming to church than ever before, seeking a spiritual perspective on their lives right after the pandemic. When the hearing that you’ve got isn’t allowing you to benefit from showing up, you will feel the need to stop going to church. But it doesn’t need to be so
Church has always been an activity that has been important to humanity for many years. However, church or the practice of religion has not been the most accessible space for people with hearing loss to attend. Being able to hear clearly, engage, and understand the message or reflect on the bible is why you are there in the first place.
Here are the top five ways you can be at church or your place of worship without feeling like you are not following along.
1. Hearing (Induction) Loops
Hearing loops are great for getting sounds into your hearing devices, like hearing aids and cochlear implants. Your device has a t-coil or t-switch that will allow you to switch the microphone to a telecoil to connect with the hearing loops throughout the building.
Your church needs to have installed the induction loops for it to work. There are usually wires underground that circle the perimeter of the room. You’ll need to sit within the circular loop. Although there are personal portable hearing loops you can carry or set up, it’s usually for one-on-one conversations and come with a microphone that will make it difficult if people are speaking away from the podium.
2. FM Assistive Listening System
You might recognize the old FM system if you had hearing challenges since childhood. These devices require your teacher to wear a device around their neck with a microphone and a transmitter connector that directs audio to your receiver connector, which you carry to get sound into your ear.
For public spaces, FM system’s transmitter can be built in with the microphone and speakers to assist with bringing sound to the receiver. Yet, any conversations away from the microphone will still be difficult to hear.
When using an FM assistive listening device, you can use many different attachments: a clip-on to attach to your hearing devices, a headphone, or a hearing loop for the neck that will direct sound to your hearing device wirelessly.
Some churches have installed large screens at the front to highlight the service programs and lyrics to sing along. The same screen can be used to provide closed captioning services. A captionist may be available to help transcribe the congregation service, or you can use an automatic caption software that directs audio from a microphone into a speech-to-text app that you can see on the large screen or your smartphone using a complementary app.
4. Audio streaming over WiFi
Maybe you don’t want to look down at your phone constantly. Some churches can connect the sound system wirelessly to your phone using a complementary app. The app can relay the sound from the microphone.
Using an audio streamer will be a good option if you regularly use your phone to listen to audiobooks and music or watch videos. An audio streamer is attached to the microphone and directs the sound wirelessly. You can capture the sound wirelessly through an app. Through the app, you can listen from your smartphone the same way you listen to audiobooks or watch videos.
Another hack to consider, particularly if your church or place of worship does live streaming on social media, like Facebook, or online, you can tune into the audio from your smartphone while physically present.
5. External microphone connector
Some hearing aid brands have external microphones that can connect directly to your hearing aids and devices without any other device to wear in between.
You’ll need permission to place your external microphone at the podium or near the sound speaker if it is accessible. However, suppose there are too many of these devices at the podium because other churchgoers also have hearing loss. In that case, it might be a good idea to nudge the church or place of worship to consider getting a solution that would work for everyone.
When God is calling
There are a variety of devices that can help you listen well at church or your place of worship. These devices are meant to help improve your experience without having to sacrifice not hearing what’s going on.
A religious place is well built to use some assistive listening devices you may have used at school, the theatre, or the counter at a store. It is a matter of sharing your concerns with management to make the experience more enjoyable and accessible for you and others who may be experiencing similar challenges.
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