Assistive Listening Technologies and Wi-Fi – How They Work Together

For the more than 360 million people worldwide who suffer moderate to profound hearing loss, venues must create a listening experience that is equal to that available to the general public. It’s not only the right way to accommodate hearing-impaired parishioners, patrons, and customers—it’s the law.

 

Today we’re seeing public demand for listening solutions that extend beyond the traditional assistive listening market. Wi-Fi-based personal listening solutions, while delivering excellent sound quality, are designed for the convenience of the venue—owners and managers no longer need to purchase and maintain devices. Instead, users download an iPhone or Android app to their smartphone and then select the audio channel that corresponds with the video they want to watch in a multi-display setting.

 

While these types of solutions can be used by the general public as well as the hearing impaired, it’s important to note that they were not designed to meet the ADA standards for assistive listening or comparable laws outside of the U.S., which require venues to provide an equivalent listening experience for the hearing impaired. While the audio latency associated with Wi-Fi technology is negligible, it cannot provide an equal experience for people with hearing loss. This limitation combined with the requirement to provide a specific number of assistive listening devices means that Wi-Fi is not an ideal solution for compliance. That said, there are applications where Wi-Fi-based solutions can complement an existing assistive listening system (ALS) that uses RF, IR, or induction loop technologies, giving all patrons or customers the best possible listening experience.

 

How does that work? Let’s take a quick look at the best applications for Wi-Fi-based solutions and then discuss when they make a great addition to your assistive listening solution.

 

Applications for Wi-Fi Based Solutions for Personal Listening

Wi-Fi for personal listening is an exciting, emerging area that has a growing list of applications and the potential for many more. We are seeing ListenWiFi being adopted in venues for:

  • Higher education, particularly in student unions, where multiple televisions are available and the student wants to select the audio channel for listening.
  • Corporate fitness centers or lobbies with video walls. Employees or visitors choose the audio channel for the video they want to watch.
  • Museums with multiple video displays throughout the exhibit. Visitors can select the audio channel that corresponds with the video that piques their interest.

 

The Right Listening Options for Any Audience

When you need to provide both hearing and hearing impaired audiences with audio options, adding a Wi-Fi personal listening solution to a venue with an existing ALS can be a cost-effective approach.

 

For example, a theater may offer a movie in multiple languages. As a theater, the venue is required to provide an assistive listening device to any hearing-impaired person. The ALS device provides equal access to the movie audio, but what about translations for the general public? Purchasing transmitters and receivers for the full audience that doesn’t need a device for assistive listening is quite an investment. But adding a Wi-Fi-based solution gives the ability to access different audio channels to anyone with an iPhone or Android device. This cost-effective strategy allows the venue to remain fully compliant and provides options that create exceptional—and equal—experiences for all moviegoers.

 

To learn more about ALS and Wi-Fi solutions and to determine which is appropriate for your venue, please contact us at [email protected] or by phone at +1.801.233.8992 or 1.800.330.0891 (toll-free in USA & Canada).

The Detroit Science Center

The Detroit Science Center, founded by Detroit businessman and philanthropist Dexter Ferry nearly 30 years ago, was among the first centers for scientific exploration and learning in the country to include an IMAX Dome Theatre. An exhibit floor program plan encourages hands-on interaction, exploration and study of science and technology. Plans to transform the Science Center into a leading center for science education began in late 1998. In December, 1999, ground was broken on a $30 million expansion and renovation.
In March 2001, Advanced Lighting & Sound (ALS) of Troy, Michigan was asked to design and install the audio systems within the Center. The Center wanted to have independent sound systems, with the ability to tie all systems into one main system when necessary. Their requirements for audio within the Center consisted of one main demonstration area, the Science Stage, and five (5) satellite areas (the Sparks Theatre, IMAX Theatre, Motion Lab, the Matter Energy Lab, and the Hut).
Committed to following the American with Disabilities Act guidelines, the Detroit Science Center wanted an auditory assistance system capable of serving four percent of their total capacity. ALS choose to use ListenÆ products. “We wanted to use the Listen system because it offers a single tunable receiver with multi-channel capabilities and rechargeable batteries,” said Greg Koss, Advanced Light & Sound System Integrator. “This means a visitor can tune into each individual exhibit as they pass by it just by pressing one of the presets.”
Each of the five presentation areas was configured with an appropriate sound system which included a wireless Listen system. With each transmitter rack mounted and remote antennas placed on the top of each rack, the system was able to deliver the needed assistance for ADA compliance. The Listen transmitters were set up so that from the master control area, all transmitters could be tied into a single system with the throw of a single switch.
ALS later installed a sixth transmitter in the Science Center’s Planetarium.

Rocking and Rolling with Listen Tour Group

When you visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, OH, you have the option of taking a tour with a Listen wireless audio system.
John Grayson, corporate relations manager, explains how they have benefitted from the Listen products. As museums go, the Rock Hall can be pretty noisy. Hey, it’s rock and roll. But the cacophony isn’t always conducive to group tours. The Listen units really help to save the voice of the guide. Also, when we pause along the tour, large groups tend to slowly disperse as folks are drawn by their interest in the artifacts. The units are so practical for rounding everyone up and moving along. They help save time and keep the tour moving on schedule. “
Tour guides at the hall wear LT-700 Portable Transmitters with a head worn microphone. Each guest wears a personal belt pack with an ear speaker that can receive the transmitted audio up to 150 feet away. This can have other advantages as well, as Grayson explains. “Today when the group got on the elevator to move to another floor, one of the tour members fell behind and missed the car. When it was discovered that she had gone missing, the interpreter simply used the transmitter to tell her that we were waiting for her-three floors away. “
With their international appeal, the Rock Hall also uses the Listen devices for interpretation. Multiple tours (or interpretations) can all take place in the same area, thanks to Listen’s 57 channels and field tunability.
“People love them because of the clarity, “Grayson points out. “That seems to be the unifying theme when people finish the tour –it sounds so clear. “The tour guides also appreciate the system. “They (the guides) say after four of these hour-long tours, they are not going home hoarse at the end of the day.
Presentation, ease of use, flexibility, and clarity … all great reasons why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum uses Listen wireless audio for their guided tours.

Aging Public Address System Rejuvenated by Listen Stationary FM System

Each year thousands of snow enthusiasts glide down the slopes and half-pipes at the award-winning Sundown Mountain Resort in Dubuque, Iowa. A ready team of resort staff patrol the terrain to assist with emergencies and lost skiers, instructors are busy helping first-timers learn the basics, and lodge personnel attend to the skier’s and boarder’s equipment, appetite, and transportation needs.
To support all these efforts, the resort uses a public address (PA) system to make important and sometimes urgent announcements across the slopes. For some time, however, their existing, hard-wired PA system has been plagued by a constant “buzz” from stray voltage contaminating the system. This made sound intelligibility next to impossible.
Al Wilsey, of Sundown’s operations technical support team, said, “The horrendous noise was so bad that the staff shut off the system. The only other option was to shut off their chairlifts, which was obviously not an option.”
Sundown began an ardent search online to find ways to handle the noise. When sound filters didn’t work, and replacing the hard-wired system was time- and cost-prohibitive, they knew a wireless solution might be a better option. Unfortunately, wireless microphones were expensive and couldn’t effectively send a signal to the distant lodges and ski shacks “over the hill and through the woods.”
With the help of Lifeline Amplification Systems (Platteville, Wisc.), Sundown acquired an ideal wireless audio solution with a Stationary FM System from Listen Technologies.
“When we tried out Listen equipment during an on-site demonstration, we were thrilled that it eliminated the buzz,” Wilsey said. “We were really impressed that it could reach our lodges ranging from 100 to 400 feet away – and with hills in between. We thought wireless would require line-of-site conditions, but Listen’s system worked great. There was no signal interference either. Most importantly, we saw that it was reliable.”
Although the resort’s Board of Directors was initially hesitant to try something during the ski season, they were won over by Listen’s clear sound quality, ability to utilize existing equipment, and low price – 75 percent less than the other solutions they considered.

Listen Infrared System Ideal Solution for Divisible Rooms

Located 19 miles north of Salt Lake City in Layton, Utah, the Davis Conference Center offers over 32,000 square feet of meeting space incorporating ballrooms, break-out meeting rooms, and two exhibit halls. The Center is a high-tech facility, providing users such amenities as wireless internet, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, bright LCD projectors, “continuous break” dining and food stations, and even two weather towers that indicate the coming day’s weather through LED flood lighting.
The facility’s AV design also incorporates advanced technologies thanks to system designer David Drommond of Sound Design International. Automatic A/V switch­ing systems are used to route audio and video to the meeting rooms and exhibit halls, and infrared assistive listening systems from Listen Technologies are part of the package.
Drommond was an early adopter of Listen IR products. “I’ve known Russ Gentner (Listen Technologies CEO/President) a long time,” says Drommond. “When Listen began the design of their IR system, I was quite interested and Russ sought my input on what should be included in the system. I had been using other manufacturers’ products for a while, but those designs hadn’t been updated in years and were pretty costly. I liked what I saw in the Listen IR products and wanted to give them a try, so I specified them for this facility.”
System integrator Poll Sound installed eight Listen LT-82 Stationary IR Transmitters in a central equipment room, and placed LA-140 Stationary IR Radiator units in each of six meeting rooms.
LA-140 units were also placed in each of the two exhibit halls at the facility. “We used the white radiators for the meeting rooms because they blend in nicely with the walls,” says Drommond. “The black versions went into the exhibit halls’ rafters, which are also black, so they virtually disappear.” LR-44 IR Lanyard 4-Channel Receivers are available for use in each of the rooms.
The Davis Conference Center is set up with movable walls that can create many different configurations for meeting spaces, including the capability to open up the entire space. Drommond designed an infrared switching system for the center that senses when a wall has been moved and automatically combines the audio, video, and Listen IR systems for the new space.
“The advantage of IR is that it doesn’t penetrate the walls, so when rooms are set up individually the people using the Listen system are only getting the audio for the room where they are located,” Drommond says. “But, as soon as the wall moves, the Listen units in both rooms will automatically switch to the same audio source and will both transmit the same information. As far as I know, this is the first system of its kind that has been done this way so the hearing assistance systems can combine and divide along with the rest of the system. It makes it really slick for the people who work here because they don’t have to think! They move a wall and the system automatically resets itself to the new configuration.”
“We use the Listen systems for both hearing assistance and language interpretation,” says Jay Clark, AV Manager for the Davis Conference Center. “The center is perfect for groups of different sizes and interests who can all be here at the same time and each have their own AV sources running. The Listen system works really well for us because we have lots of diverse groups including senior citizens who need assistive listening as well as groups who need an interpretation system. We can have an interpreter anywhere, providing language interpretation services for a meeting, and the interpretation can be heard in multiple rooms. Assistive listening can be provided for single or multiple rooms, and everything can be combined. It’s really versatile and very useful.”

O.C. Sound Reviews Listen Wireless Audio

O.C. Sound is the pro audio company started by Bob Johns and myself in 2000. Over the past few years, we have found the need for some form of wireless transmitter/receiver system for a remote speaker system. These are either outdoor events that required a second set of speakers a couple of hundred feet away from the mains or in a hotel conference hall that would have been involved extensive cabling through congested areas.
We had tried using a wireless in-ear monitoring system but found that it was prone to dropouts and static interference, which was not an option for us as we pride ourselves in high-quality sound.
After some research, we contacted Listen Technologies. We all know what they say about first impressions and I can tell you that the people at Listen really impressed. Very easy to talk to, great communication both from salespeople and the technical support. I had some questions on the specific system we needed such as frequency choices, antenna type, etc. and the Listen staff went above and beyond in helping.
We finally decided on the LT-800 Transmitter with the LR-100 Receiver. There are two frequency options with this system 72 MHz and 216 MHz each have 57 channels to choose from but the differences are in audio frequency response and range.
072 – Range is 1500 feet “line of sight” from antenna to antenna. Audio Frequency range 50Hz to 15kHz
216 – Range is 3,000 feet “line of sight” from antenna to antenna. Audio Frequency range 50Hz to 10kHz
For us, the range and comfort of having a stronger signal was more important than the slight loss in the upper-frequency range. Since most of the events we would be using this for would be predominantly speech with some music. Also from talking to the technical staff, their opinion was that although the 216 MHz system was rated to 10Khz you would have a hard time hearing any difference between the two. There is no difference in price between the two.
Once we settled on a system and place the order, the units were shipped right away and arrived within a few days.
Eager to test them out we took them to our church, Orangeville Baptist, which is made up of a 6,000 sq. ft. gymnatorium and about 30,000 sq. ft. total building area. The transmitter was set up in the main sound booth in the gym and we took the receiver to several areas in the building. The signal had to go through concrete block walls, poured concrete walls and floors with re-bar, etc. and there was no loss of signal anywhere in the building. So we jumped in the car plugged into a power inverter and went for a drive. Just over a kilometer down the road, we started to get some static and lose signal. Considering the transmitter was still inside the church we were very impressed with how far we got.
Today, September 11 was our first real test at an event. This is a yearly memorial service put on by a local funeral home, Dods & McNair and is attended by about 1,500 people. Approximately 600 people are in the tent and others are spread out in the grassed area around the tent.
The main tent with antenna pole mounted in the corner
o.c. sound
About 200 feet away from the tent they have an area set up to serve food. This is where we set up the remote speakers.
o.c.-sound
During setup and testing, we just used the standard helical antenna and it worked perfectly. However just to be sure of having a strong signal we did use the coaxial dipole antenna on the transmitter and hung it from a pole mounted to the side of the tent. The sound quality was excellent; there was no interference or drop-outs. We did run the signal through a time delay to align the audio. This gave us full even coverage from the tent all the way to the remote speaker location.
LT-800 Transmitter set up
lt-800
View of the main tent from remote speaker location
o.c.-sound
The LT-800 has lots of features and input options that make it an extremely flexible tool. Check out the details here.
lt-800
Peter Bruce Orangeville, Ontario Canada is a Christ follower, married and has one son. A Land Development Project Manager in Orangeville Ontario, Picture taker, Audio Engineer, Guitar player, Play and watch soccer.
Read his blog or view his photos at http://picsandsoundbypeter.blogspot.com/

Disneyland Unveils Enhanced Technology For Guests With Visual Disabilities

Beginning July 6, guests with visual disabilities will be able to explore Disneyland Park in a whole new way through an enhanced Disney-designed device that provides a detailed audio description of outdoor areas. This feature compliments the audio description inside Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks’ attractions and theaters that was launched over a year ago.
“Disney Parks have long been at the forefront of providing accessibility for guests with disabilities,” said Greg Hale, chief safety officer and vice president of Worldwide Standards and Auditing for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. “We are pleased to build on this legacy with new technology that enables us to do something that has never been done before – provide a rich audio description in moving attractions and outdoor environments.”
The enhanced audio description service adds more options to the existing device including:
  • Descriptions of outdoor locations throughout Disneyland Park.
  • An interactive audio menu that allows guests to choose the type of information they would like to receive about outdoor areas – from a description of their surroundings to information about nearby attractions, restaurants, and entertainment.
The 7.2-ounce handheld device continues to offer Disneyland Resort guests:
  • Detailed audio description of key visual elements, including action and scenery, for more than 20 attractions at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks.
  • Assistive listening for guests with mild to moderate hearing loss.
  • Handheld captioning that enables guests to read captions while enjoying specific attractions.
  • Activation of closed captioning on pre-show video monitors.
“I know of no other public space in this country, or anywhere else for that matter, that is as welcoming and accessible to people with disabilities as Disney’s theme parks,” said Larry Goldberg, director of the WGBH National Center for Accessible Media in Boston, which is considered a pioneer in developing multimedia and new technologies that make media accessible for the disabled. “With their captioning systems for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing and now outdoor environmental description for guests who are blind or visually impaired, Disneyland Park is now more inclusive than ever. WGBH is proud of our role in helping make this happen.”
WGBH teamed up with Disney to deliver outdoor audio description, marking the latest collaboration between the two organizations that began with the installation of WGBH’s Rear Window® Captioning system in Disney’s theater-based attractions in 1996.
Disney has patented and licensed the assistive technology that could serve a wide variety of retail, commercial and industrial applications. The technology is already being used at the World of Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, The Hall at Patriot Place in Boston and the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas and was awarded the National Society of Professional Engineers 2010 “New Product Award.”
“We are particularly excited to make this technology available beyond Disney Parks and extend accessibility where it was previously impractical,” added Hale.
Other examples of Disney Parks’ services for guests with disabilities include:
  • Accessible experiences – Disney Parks’ focus is on providing guests with accessible experiences, from vehicles at The Little Mermaid-Ariel’s Undersea Adventure that enables guests to remain in their wheelchair during the ride to American Sign Language interpretation at live shows.
  • Pamphlets for guests with disabilities – Disability-specific pamphlets, including one for guests with visual disabilities, provide an overview of services and facilities available for guests with disabilities. Braille guidebooks also are available to assist guests with visual disabilities during their visit.
  • Resort access – Disneyland Resort hotels offer special equipment and facilities for guests with disabilities such as phone text, visual indicator door knocks, and sloped-entry pools.
The handheld assistive device is offered at no cost with a refundable deposit at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort theme parks. For further information about services for guests with disabilities, guests should visit www.disneyland.com  or call 714-781-7290.
*U.S. Patents 6,785,539 and 7,224,967 may apply.

Listen Tech In The Cash Cab!

In the true spirit of Listen’s mantra to “Personalize, Simplify, and Customize”, RP Dynamics, a Listen dealer from Mississauga, ON, Canada, has Listen products incorporated as a key component in the hit Canadian cable TV show Cash Cab on the Discovery Channel! Participants enter the cab and on their way to their destination they answer questions for the chance to win cash.

Discovery Channel's Cash Cab
Discovery Channel’s Cash Cab

This application takes audio from within the Cash Cab and then transmits it wirelessly from a Listen LT-800 transmitter in the trunk of the cab to an LR-100 rack receiver in the production vehicle that follows the Cash Cab around during production. Listen products feature an 80dB signal to noise ratio, which makes them perfect for high quality wireless audio transmission.

Now THAT is a trunk rack!
Now THAT is a trunk rack!

This is a perfect example of a progressive and creative dealer pioneering Listen products into new and exciting applications!

Check out some numbers behind the original Canadian production of Cash Cab.

3850 = Total distance in kilometres driven by the Cash Cab
920 = Rough number of questions asked this whole season
527 = Approximate litres of gasoline used
155 = Total hours of actual filming for one season. (But closer to 212 if you include lost material, false start days, etc.)
99 = Number of official games played this season
17 = Days of training in the mandatory taxicab driver training program
10 = Hours it takes to film one 30-minute episode
8 = Number of cameras used to film Cash Cab. Five cameras inside the cab, two mounted on the roof, and one mobile camera
2 = Wardrobe changes for Adam

Listen Technologies
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