The Rotary Club of Los Alamos has funded an audio loop (assistive hearing system) installed Monday and Tuesday in Duane W. Smith Auditorium.
The project encompasses the first 14 rows and the wheel chair landing area in the center section of the auditorium. The system is configured as a phased array meaning the looping goes back and forth so each seat receives the same signal strength.
“A hearing loop is a wire that circles a room and is connected to the theater’s sound system,” Gary Clark of GWC Looping said. “The loop transmits the sound electromagnetically via a special loop driver. This electromagnetic signal is then picked up by a small copper coil (telecoil) that is an option in most hearing aids and is built into cochlear implant processors.”
Clark explained that the telecoil then functions as a wireless antenna that links to the sound system and delivers sound to the listener and has been corrected for their individual hearing loss. This pairing of telecoil and loop bridges the space between the user and the sound source and eliminates most of the background noise.
“Using a telecoil and hearing loop together is seamless, cost-effective, unobtrusive, and the user doesn’t have to seek additional equipment,” Clark said.
The idea for this project came about in March 2014 when Los Alamos High School junior Chloe Keilers spoke at the local Rotary Club about her experiences as a deaf/hard-of-hearing teenager and the blog she writes about life as a deaf/hard-of-hearing teenager.
Her mother, Marjorie Madsen Keilers, joined her and told the Club about her work with Hands and Voices New Mexico, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing unbiased support to families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
At the end of the meeting, Chloe mentioned how much Smith Auditorium needed an assistive hearing system. Rotary Vice President Linda Hull stepped in and has spear-headed the project ever since.
“Chloe and her mom inspired me to explore the possibilities of designing a Rotary project with this in mind,” Hull said. “After contacting independent consultants, other professionals in the field, and working with Auditorium Manager Ross Mason and the school’s Chief Operating Officer Joanie Ahlers, our Rotary Club was able to contract with GWC Looping, a company now working with installations at Los Alamos National Laboratory.”
Hull said the objective was to provide, within the Rotary’s budget for a community service project, the best hearing accommodation possible.
“Quality of sound, not quantity of seats looped, was always our goal,” she said. “Gary Clark of GWC Looping has provided the expertise and materials; Ross Mason has provided most labor; and Rotary has provided the $5,200 needed to fund the project.”
The new audio loop is expected to increase attendance and greatly enhance enjoyment of all lectures and performances at the auditorium for guests with hearing challenges.