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).

What Audio Should You Feed to the Assistive Listening System?

When setting up an assistive listening system in your venue it is important to remember that speech is paramount. However, in many religious contexts and performing art venues, music will accompany the spoken word and is generally mixed through the sound system at a higher volume than the spoken word. In order to account for this, when setting up the assistive listening system, it is best to take a feed from the main (L/R or Mono) output of the console and run that signal through a compressor before sending it to the assistive listening transmitter.

As Production Director at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, with a weekly attendance of 2,500 congregants and 50+ assistive listening users, I use a mono matrix output fed from the left and right main outputs on our Soundcraft Vi1 digital console. I also use the onboard compressor to compensate for the decibel fluctuation between music and the spoken word before sending the signal to the assistive listening transmitter. If you are using a console that doesn’t have matrix outputs, you can also use a mono or record output. Or, as a last resort, you can use a post fader auxiliary output with all of the individual channel’s “aux” sends set to nominal. The compressor is key!

If you aren’t running a digital audio console, consider the purchase of a compressor as part of the overall assistive listening purchase. When setting the compressor, I start with a 5:1 ratio before adjusting the threshold just under the average spoken word. Then set the input volume on the assistive listening transmitter. Further compressor adjustments may be needed, but this is a good starting point.

Your final step is to take an assistive listening receiver with headphones and listen to the end result during a live production or service. At this point make your final compressor adjustments and set the “contour” on your ALS transmitter to optimize speech intelligibility. Input from those who have hearing loss and use the system is important. Consider asking several users of the assistive listening system how it sounds to them, then make adjustments as reoccurring complaints/suggestions occur.

At Park Cities Baptist Church, we use a separate assistive listening transmitter as a translation system for our Spanish speaking members. Setup of the system for this situation is simple. Plug any microphone into the XLR or 1/4” input in the back of the Listen Technologies transmitter. Speak into the microphone at a normal level while setting the input volume on the LT-800 transmitter. A compressor is not necessary in this situation since the assistive listening system will only be handling the spoken word from a single person.

One last consideration for the venue. Promote the fact that the assistive listening system is available and how to pick up a receiver. Promotion can be done via the website, programs, and newsletters as well as in venue digital signage.

Listen Goes On Tour At The Ely Cathedral

The Ely Cathedral is steeped in history. Originally, the site of a monastery founded by a runaway princess turned nun, the cathedral grew from a rather humble site to an awe-inspiring site that covers over 46,000 square feet, including the famous Ely octagon measuring at 170 feet in height and 742 feet in width.

Although the cathedral has had its fair share of pilgrims, it’s highly unlikely that its original purpose was to host bus-loads of tour groups snapping photos of its famous stained glass and restored stonework. Nevertheless, around 250,000 contemporary pilgrimages are made to the Ely Cathedral every year, which makes for some very busy (and possibly hoarse) tour guides.

Cathedrals, while being wonderful places to worship have rather specific challenges when it comes to the subject of acoustics. While some of them offer wonderful places to sit and listen to choral arrangements or reflect on the soul, they aren’t really built to be tour group or tour guide friendly: a small footstep can carry from one end of a nave to the other, mere whispers can echo, and the smallest giggle can be carried from the floor all the way up to heaven. So, how is a tour guide supposed to relay information, without shouting or whispering? And how is a tour group supposed to hear their guide without being shouted at or straining to hear?

Instead of spending pounds of sterling on honey and tea to sooth the sore throats of their busy guides, the Ely Cathedral thought of a better idea to solve their tour acoustics situation, they invested in Tour Group equipment from Listen Technologies. Listen’s Portable RF products allow a tour group user to simply plug into a small receiver that they carry with them throughout a tour, in this case the tour of the magnificent Ely Cathedral. A tour group member can adjust his or her own volume and will receive clear and consistent sound from the guide for the duration, so they don’t have to miss a single word of what’s said, even while other tours are happening simultaneously. The products are also a miracle for the tour guides as they allow them the opportunity to use a normal speaking voice, which is broadcast from a transmitter to each and every tour guest, so there’s no need for tea, unless it’s actually tea time.

Although it’s a place with a past, the Ely Cathedral is definitely looking at the present. Including a little technology from Listen to improve guided tours has made the cathedral a better place to visit, whether a guest is there on a personal pilgrimage or merely there to enjoy the beautiful stained glass.

How To Use And Sanitize An Earspeaker

I recently attended a Women Tech Council event where attendees were able to tour the beautiful new Adobe building in Lehi, UT. We supported the event with a loaner equipment sponsorship of our portable RF equipment to ensure that not a single sound was missed.

Each tour member was given a receiver and an LA-164 ear speaker. The great thing about an ear speaker as opposed to traditional headphones is you can easily sanitize between uses. Additionally, it is only over one ear, allowing you to hear the audio while also being aware of your surroundings. The first time you put an ear speaker on it can be a little tricky, but once you see the proper position it’s easy!

This video shows just how easy it is to use and sanitize:

Congregation Hears Service Inside & Outside

This blog post has been re-purposed from a “Listen User Profile” of actual Listen customers detailing their experience with Listen Solutions.

When Pastor Mark Ailanjian at the New Heights Church in Vancouver, Washington needs to be outside the main sanctuary during Sunday services, he has a simple solution to monitor the proceedings.
He dons a Listen Technologies Corporation wireless receiver and headset, and goes about his business on the 17-acre church campus. He might be in another building when he hears that the offering has begun. Then he heads back to the sanctuary for the presentation of the gifts.
“That’s not always at just the same point in the service,” Ailanjian said. “I wear the system so I can know when the next step is happening.” He’s not the only one. The senior pastor at the 5,000- member congregation has to be in and out of the service as well, there for the opening prayer, and maybe off to the Welcoming Center for part of the service, always returning in time for the sermon.
The New Heights Church purchased the wireless assistive listening system more than three years ago as a means to help the elderly and others with hearing disabilities hear the services clearly.
The Listen system transmitter takes sound from the main microphones and routs it over wireless FM radio waves directly to the small battery-powered receivers worn by listeners. The receivers send the sound through the headset or ear bud to the parishioners’ ears, allowing those with hearing impairments to enjoy the full spectrum of sound without the garbling effects of interference.
Since New Heights purchased its system, at least several of the 16 units are used at every one of the eight services offered every weekend. In addition, New Heights takes the system with them for off-campus events. Coordinating a church picnic or calling the group together at a community bowling or paint-balling event becomes much easier with Listen.
“We even use it as a paging system,” he said. “We ask someone to pick up a lost child, or escort someone to the first aid station.”
But more often than not, it’s the young mothers who use the Listen system at New Heights Church.
“It’s mostly nursing moms who need to step out of the service but who want to hear what’s going on,” Ailanjian said. “Sometimes they have crying babies and don’t want to disturb other people. Or sometimes they listen to the service while their toddlers play on the playground.”
Ailanjian said he’s been pleased not only with the quality auditory assistance systems but also with the many other uses.“It’s been a trouble-free system,” he said. “I’m very pleased with how they’ve served us.”

AV Week – Tour Of The LDS Conference Center Part 3

This blog is the third in a three part series. To read part two click here  >>> To read part one click here >>>

The LDS Church has a history of embracing technology to communicate its message to the community with its first radio broadcast in 1922 and first video satellite broadcast in 1972. Presently, in addition to its semi-annual General Conference and many independent productions, the church produces and broadcasts “Music and The Spoken Word” live to BYU TV and KSL TV every Sunday morning and later distributed to more than 2200 TV and radio stations. If you’ve ever seen a broadcast, you know that in addition to the beautiful words and music, it is visually inspiring.
During our tour of the LDS Conference Center which was part of our AV Week (a week set aside for the audiovisual community to celebrate, promote and share the impacts of the AV industry across the world) activities, we were able to get a firsthand look at the video production process.
Guy and Jeff testing out the robotic cameras
While I’ve talked a lot about the audio installations (after all we are all about audio here at Listen), but the video installation is second to none in producing feature films and educational videos. Using Sony digital HD technology, there are more than 120 fiber drops throughout the campus. Several control rooms handle all the steps of production. The video capture control room could easily be confused with a teenagers gaming room. We had a chance to play around with the mounted cameras using the joystick fashioned control. I was amazed to see how a camera that was mounted on the top balcony of the 1+ million square foot building could zoom in on the wall at the front of the room, showing the texture details in the paint.
In the video control room everything comes together. During a production, the director calls the shots on everything. All of the camera, lighting and audio are choreographed ahead of time, but there are constantly changes and mishaps that need to be taken into account.
Let’s talk lighting for a minute. With 70 dimmer racks and approximately 100 dimmers in each one, there are over 6000 controllable outlets and dimmers. There are stage lights, lights that project images on the walls and lights that change the look of the famous organ pipes. When you are in the audience of a major production, it’s as if you are center stage. From the lighting control room the computer has a map of the stage allowing you to easily use pre-programmed settings or to try your own. Once again, we were allowed to have a little fun as we experimented with the controls (you should have seen the 70’s Technicolor transformation the organ pipes made)!
Amanda testing out the lighting controls
Now for a little more audio talk! From the audio mix room they run 2 HD systems simultaneously. Everything is multi-tracked through Pro Tools so that if they get to the end of a show and need to redo a piece, they can pull that mix and it is recorded and mixed again within 5 minutes. While it is currently a digital set up, they are actually in the process of going back to analog with and API Legacy Vision consul. Digital audio just doesn’t have the same quality as analog and doesn’t offer the flexibility that is necessary. We listened to a recording of the Tabernacle Choir accompanied by the Orchestra at Temple Square and I really noticed all of the layers of sound that contributed to the piece.
Thanks again to Jason McFarland and his team for providing this tour. Being new to the audiovisual industry, I am so glad that I could experience such an impressive display of AV at its best.

In The Loop: Hearing Aid Technology Grows, But Are You Using It?

This blog was originally posted at The Sahuarita Sun. Read original post >>> 

In technology time, the idea of “looping” to help those with hearing loss hear better is ancient. But everyday, there still are people with access to better hearing who aren’t using it.

In Green Valley, that could amount to quite a few, as at least a third of the over-60 population is estimated to have some level of hearing loss, and half of the over-75 crowd, significant loss, says Lou Touchette, a Green Valley resident who found help for his own hearing loss through looping technology, and has installed the wire system in numerous facilities throughout Tucson and Green Valley. He’s also part of the Arizona Loss of Hearing Association (ALOHA), a non-profit support group for the deaf, hard of hearing and their families and its “Let’s Loop Tucson” initiative to equip as many rooms and facilities as possible, making it easier for the hearing impaired to hear with more clarity.
The Technology
Looping technology has been around for years, and more than 80 percent of hearing aids have a loop called a telecoil, or t-coil — a tiny spool of wire that converts sound from a microphone, TV or radio into magnetic energy that fills a room, helping users hear with less background noise. Every hearing aid manufacturer has a t-coil model, said Dr. John Cobb, an audiologist with Arizona Hearing Specialists in Green Valley. But probably 20 percent of hearing aid owners don’t use them, he says.

Many don’t know whether theirs has a t-coil, and if it does, how to activate it, he said, noting that Arizona is one of the few states in which hearing aid sellers must, by law, indicate on the purchase contract whether a hearing aid has a coil.

Some people don’t use their hearing aids at all, often because they’re in denial about hearing loss, Cobb said. As speech-discriminating skills start to fade with age, depression, anxiety and paranoia can result, according to a National Council on Aging survey. But once a person accepts hearing loss, the fix is relatively simple for most, say fans of looping, which has become so popular in Green Valley that it is now one of, if not the most-looped, areas in the United States. Maybe even only second behind Holland, Mich.

There Are Options

“I’ve heard that, but don’t think it’s documented,” Cobb said. A transplant to Green Valley from Texas three years ago with hearing loss of his own attributed to playing in a rock band when he was younger, Cobb sees many patients who can’t admit they need help.

With about 30,000 part- and year-round residents in Green Valley and its abundance of senior citizens, it’s likely that at least 10,000 people here have some hearing loss, many of whom could benefit from looping, Touchette said. For some, it might only involve activating a switch on a t-coil hearing aid they already have.

And Green Valley’s getting looped, alright. The first known hearing loops were installed in Green Valley Recreation facilities in about 2004, said Shelly Freeman, GVR lead sound and light technician. For a year, she researched ways to improve sound quality for patrons of the organization’s major social halls before deciding on looping.

“Nobody in Green Valley or Tucson was doing it at the time,” she recalled. Years later and with the understanding that no system is perfect, especially with a microphone moving around with a performer on stage, she still calls looping a good investment. Coaching the hearing impaired on how to set their hearing aids for the right size room and type of event was a challenge partially met through loop workshops, but is ongoing, she said. While t-coils were originally designed to amplify a land-line telephone, there are many more magnetic sources now that can be “heard” by a coil-equipped hearing aid. The newest challenge is that users start with a phone volume and don’t adjust it for a large-room setting, Freeman said. Settings differ for a soloist and a full concert, and can even be adjusted to minimize a robust horn section so other instruments and vocals don’t get lost. “Not a lot know they have these options,” she said.

Lots of Looping

Freeman favors the t-coil system over others on the market because it allows a dignified way for the user to hear better without letting the world know they need help. T-coil equipped hearing aids can be worn over the ear, in the ear or as a plug in the ear canal. Those without t-coil aids can use a portable receiver, which picks up the magnetic sound and channels it to a headset.

Since GVR looped five facilities, at least 15 other area organizations have added the technology, including nine churches, Joyner-Green Valley Branch Library, La Posada retirement village, Casa de Esperanza Senior Center, Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging; Community Performance and Arts Center, and Cobb’s office. The latest to get looped is the Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteers Building, where dozens of active volunteers and Pima County Sheriff’s staff meet monthly. The system was donated by Cobb and installed by Touchette, who will formally be recognized for their efforts at SAV’s next meeting November 12.

It’s so new, officials are still getting their heads wrapped around it, so to speak, said SAV President Wilma Ludwig. It was installed just before the last meeting with no time to notify attendees in advance. Ludwig isn’t sure how many will benefit but said the group plans to purchase headphones for those without t-coil hearing aids.

“We’re also hoping that, with the receivers, maybe by trying this people will realize their hearing is not what it should be,” Ludwig said. “I’m glad we have this and will encourage people to use it.”

Cost-wise, getting looped runs $250 to $300 for a home installation, and $2,000 or more for a church or other large venue, depending on complexity, said Touchette, who also teaches classes on how to install loops in the home. He lost much of his hearing driving farm tractors as a kid then later working as a jet fighter mechanic without much ear protection. He eventually developed tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, and in 1977 was diagnosed with severe hearing loss. In the 1990s, he joined a self-help group for the hard of hearing where he learned about telecoil technology, and has been an advocate for it since.

After moving to Arizona, he joined the ALOHA board in Tucson and took on the “Loop Tucson” challenge, part of which involves giving demonstrations on looping and training workshops. In 18 years, he has installed 100 loops.

Cobb said he’s been told by patients how much t-coils have changed and improved the quality of their life. One of Freeman’s fondest moments involved a GVR stageplay actor several years ago who couldn’t hear his cues. She said she asked him if he had a telecoil but didn’t know how far the loop extended into the stage area. They tried it and discovered it worked, and at the next rehearsal he was on time with all his cues without any help.

Generally, the loops in all GVR facilities work well, she said. “We get good feedback from members.”

She welcomes any GVR member wanting to know more about the system and would consider offering workshops again if there is interest, she said.

Printed with permission from the author, Kitty Bottemiller.

Calvary Chapel Offers Language Interpretation

With a thriving ministry in Salt Lake City, Utah, Calvary Chapel had just one drawback: they did not offer Spanish language services, and thus could not adequately serve the growing Hispanic community around them. The solution? Real-time language interpretation equipment from Listen Technologies Corporation.

The first step was to research their options, notes Calvary’s Jim Harris, church administrator, who turned to the internet for his search. It didn’t take long for him to find Listen’s real-time interpretation and assistive-listening products. “We were impressed with the customer service and follow-through” provided by the greater Salt Lake City-area-based Listen dealer, Marshall Industries. The sound quality and competitive prices sealed the deal.

Answering an immediate need

The church placed an announcement in their bulletin, asking for volunteers comfortable enough with Spanish to assist with the interpretation. They found two. In the meantime, Listen sent them a demo. As soon as they had it, a family arrived for Sunday’s service needing language interpretation. The husband shared that his wife, who did not speak English, hadn’t attended church in over a year. She used the wireless equipment that morning and hasn’t missed a Sunday since.

The interpreters, who take turns between translating printed materials and interpreting services, watch the service on a monitor from a room offstage. They have Spanish/English Bibles printed with side-by-side columns, one in English and the other Spanish.

Real time in no time

The entire process – from the decision to try Listen’s equipment to the implementation of the system – took only four to six weeks, with assistance every step of the way from Listen’s corporate office and the dealer. Calvary also learned from Marshall Industries that their language interpretation system could be augmented to provide assistive listening. They offer listening assistance now too, thanks to the addition of a wireless transmitter for that purpose.

“We were already familiar with wireless,” says Harris, who explains that the pastor uses a wireless mic with the youth group.  Still, they were “surprised” by how seamlessly the Listen system worked, how easy it was to install, and how clear they found the sound. Another bonus, unique to this equipment, is that Spanish-speaking churchgoers need not sit in a specified section of the sanctuary.

Since implementing the system, Calvary, which in the summer hosts a Church in the Park every Wednesday, has been able to use Listen’s transmitter to facilitate sound at these outdoor events full of fellowship, music and breaking bread (a barbecue is part of the afternoon activities). It is flexibility like this that has made Listen’s equipment and service priceless to the ministry and to its Spanish-speaking community.

St. John’s Engages and Enlightens Congregants

When it came time to upgrade the sound system at the beautiful St. John’s Lutheran Church in Santa Rosa California, Pastor Michael Schmid chose top-rate equipment.
His reason was simple. “Sound is vital,” the pastor said. “There is no point in being there if people can’t hear.”
For his parishioners’ assistive listening needs, he chose Listen Technologies Corporation. Listen provided the church with high-quality wireless sound that allowed those with hearing impairments the flexibility to sit in favorite or preferred locations in the sanctuary. That freedom can be extremely important to some in a house of worship.
“The system we had before was hard-wired to designated seats,” Pastor Schmid said. “But that wasn’t desirable. We wanted a system that would enable them the freedom to sit wherever they want.”
Utah-based Listen Technologies Corp. designs and manufactures wireless devices to help people hear better. Listen’s LT-800 transmitter, which was wired off of the main audio mixer for the church sound system, sends a clear, noise-filtered signal directly to parishioners wearing discreet battery powered receivers with headsets. The system also helps the church meet the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Greg Adams, chief engineer and systems designer at Sound Expressions in Santa Rosa, said the pastor and others at the church were delighted with the Listen system when they heard the quality of sound.
“The Listen equipment sounded so good in there, it basically blew everyone away,” said Adams, whose company sold and installed the system. “All the different options with speakers, the neck loops, the ear buds, made it real easy to accommodate any particular hearing impairment.” St. John’s later decided to extend the Listen system to the Cry Room by installing an LR-600 Wireless Speaker/Receiver. That way, parents of fussy children could still hear the sermon.
“You can just turn the Listen speaker on to hear the service,” Pastor Schmid said. He’s been very pleased with the system’s performance.
“We want to bring the best to the Lord and also the best to the people,” he said. “So high-quality sound is very important. It’s not an area that you want to skimp on.”

Sign Language Interpreters Benefit From Wireless Audio

Houses of Worship are finding more uses for assistive listening systems with the availability of products offering increased flexibility along with great sound quality. For example, Grace Brethren Church in Simi Valley, California, is using a Listen system not only for assistance to hard of hearing congregants, but also for a hard-of-hearing sign language interpreter. She uses a Listen receiver to listen to the pastor at the podium or other audio over the PA system in order to interpret the spoken word into sign language.
As with many Houses of Worship, the walls at Grace Brethren Church are highly reflective for sound. Audio bounces around the room, making it very difficult for the hearing impaired interpreter to distinguish the speech in order to translate it into sign language. To solve this problem, the interpreter now wears a Listen belt-pack receiver and ear speaker to listen to the speech routed through the assistive listening transmitter.
“I don’t know what I would do without it,” said Marcia Walter, sign language interpreter at Grace Brethren. “Before I was literally at the mercy of the speaker at the pulpit. It they were too far back or turned even slightly, I couldn’t hear clearly or read their lips to interpret. I have been so thankful for this system. If I can help even one person to hear and understand the message better, my joy will be great and I will feel we have succeeded in our goals.”
Other members of the congregation with hearing loss may also listen to the assistive listening transmission and control their own volume while sitting anywhere in the congregation hall. One member of the audience at Grace Brethren uses a belt-pack receiver with a neckloop. The neckloop works with any T-coil hearing aid and allows the user to significantly adjust the volume in order to hear and understand the service, without environmental distractions that can otherwise be picked up by a hearing aid. This solution has been well received in many houses of worship.
With Listen’s LR-600 Wireless Speaker/Receiver, Grace Brethren or any other house of worship can pick up and amplify the assistive listening audio in a nursery or any remote room to listen to the service. No hard wires are needed!
Listen Technologies