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).

Begin a Tour with the End in Mind

Who says “show and tell” has to just be for kids? Being able to provide a live, behind the scenes look at what makes your company work can be an effective and exciting marketing tool when done correctly.

In my last post for manufacturers, I discussed tips for a successful facility tour here: Group Tours Speaking Up.
As you prepare to conduct a tour of your facility, consider why you’re doing it and who your audience will be. When you know this, you can create a successful tour that blows away the participants’ expectations.
The purposes for conducting a tour include: 
  • Show off the company and products: Giving people a behind the scenes look at your company, manufacturing facility and products can help build stronger brand affinity and appreciation among participants. When people have a better understanding of who you are on the inside, they will be brand champions.
  • Demonstrate processes and technologies:  People are naturally curious and want to know how things are made and what makes them tick. Demonstrating your processes and technologies is a strong way help tour participants connect with your company and products through a greater understanding of how they’re developed.
  • Community Relations:  Building strong relationships with the community is essential for any manufacturing facility. This includes people who live nearby, government officials and other community leaders and tourists who are looking for something interesting to do while in town.
  • Investor relations:  Keeping investors happy can be a full-time job. Taking investors on a VIP tour can increase understanding of who you are and what they’re investing in, which can effectively increase their passion and support of your company and products. 
  • Orient new employees: When you bring on new employees, giving them a tour of the facility will help them know and appreciate the work they’re doing, and give them greater insight into the overall vision of the company.
Manufacturing tours are an effective marketing tool because people can immediately see the value and utility of your products and processes. But that’s only when tours are done right. If you keep your audience in mind and plan accordingly, you’ll find tours to be one of your most successful and rewarding promotional activities.
To learn more about our products and how they can make your guided tour more positive and memorable, head here http://bit.ly/LTManufacturing or call 1.877.760.9271.

Induction Loops In Museums

Utilising induction loops for applications such as museum exhibits where attendees tend to be moving through a space in a short period of time and therefore cannot easily access loan equipment, is a common practice.  Since the majority of new hearing aids have T-coils installed, users equipped with these do not need to request extra equipment to receive the signal.  The only requirement being  to simply move a switch from ‘M’ to ‘T’ (mic’ to T-Coil) on the hearing  aid.

In a museum, where the user will be moving across a number of exhibits, assistive listening solutions using RF/FM which by its nature is a “broadcast medium” require users ask for equipment and be directed to change frequencies to pick up a specific audio feeds or areas.
Hearing loops can be designed to confine their coverage to tightly defined local areas for the benefit of both the hearing impaired and non-hearing impaired, by delivering audio for an exhibit to the viewer/attendee by having them simply move into that loop area.
The normally abled user would be provided with a loop-listener which works on the same principal as the T-Coil in the hearing aid.  For this type of application a low overspill area coverage system would be designed. This noticeably improves the user experience and eliminates the possibility of user error.
Another significant benefit with these types of induction loop systems is the ability for addition of further looped areas at a later date.  Low overspill induction loop systems provide an opportunity for further expansion without tearing out existing systems with the related cost and disruption. For example; when an exhibit is added locally within the museum, the field from the existing loop(s) is already localised to the specific area of the current exhibit(s) and therefore no issue with cross talk or addition of more RF channels has to be addressed.
In order for a system like this to work satisfactorily the electromagnetic noise floor must be clear of background noise produced by units such as transformers. Occasionally people complain that induction loops are noisy when you step outside the looped area. This is not noise produced by the loop but rather, electromagnetic background noise produced by noisy transformers or bad wiring practice within the building, such as live and neutral power being separated by a long distance and forming a loop, causing the signal to noise ratio to be much higher than is acceptable. In most situations where a buildings electrical wiring is modern and the loop is positioned away from any noisy transformers this noise outside a low overspill loop is too low to notice.
The following is an example of a museum system  that utilises a combination of localised systems and low overspill induction loops to provide a free moving ‘guided tour’ to its patrons allowing them to move seamlessly between exhibits without having to conform to a pre meditated tour or change between channels when moving between exhibits. As you can see a large number of areas are covered simultaneously.

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.

Museum of Contemporary Art Mounts Listen for Gallery Tours

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland is a non-collecting institution, and thus is recreated three times a year. This ensures a steady stream of traffic through its 23,000 square feet of gallery space. Like most museums, MOCA conducts tours, some led by docents, others by artists. All share a common thread: unparalleled sound, thanks to equipment from Listen Technologies Corporation.
While reviewing the museum’s overall sound options, Grayson saw an unmet need for a reliable, portable system to facilitate these ‘walking talks.’ From this came a rather innovative sound solution for the tours.

Each of two Listen LR-600 Wireless FM Receiver/Speakers were mounted onto a microphone stand so they could be moved by floor managers from one area to the other as the tour moves through the galleries. With an LT-700 Portable FM Transmitter worn by the tour leader, a unique answer to portability was found.

The superior sound from the Listen speakers is made all the better by being positioned mid-room rather than in front of the group. In addition, opting for speakers rather than individual receiver packs worn by patrons has allowed folks to join in or move on from the group at their leisure.

“It’s a highly effective means through which the tour leader communicates with participants,” said MOCA’s Director of Development, John Grayson, “providing an ideal solution for intimate, one-off tours. And everyone appreciates that they don’t have to shout to be heard, which makes it easy to conduct three or four consecutive tours.
“Listen offers a variety of solutions for tour groups in this kind of atmosphere and really addresses making the visitor experience more pleasurable. In fact,” said Grayson, “the folks at Listen have solutions to problems you never knew you had.”
That’s just what we at Listen like to hear.

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.

Menachem Begin Heritage Center Delivers Experiential Exhibits

The Begin Museum of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem was inspired by the life and leadership of Menachem Begin, a former Israeli Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner. The architecture is modest with an air of dignity and was intentionally designed this way as a representation of Begin’s own character.
The museum uses an experiential process in its exhibits, telling the story of the engaging life of one of the most important leaders in the history of the state of Israel in a unique fashion. The Museum integrates pictures, reconstructions, original artifacts, documentary films and dramatizations, interactive contact screens, dramatic lighting and an enveloping sound track in ten exhibit areas. Visitors are immersed in the key phases of Begin’s life – his childhood in Poland, his years as the commander of Etzel and as leader of the opposition, and the period when he served as prime minister of Israel. The museum receives 350 to 400 international visitors per day conducting tours in groups of 25 people.
Barkai Benny Brookstein, Ltd, Israel’s leading professional audio-visual company worked closely with the project consultant and the museum to design, supply, install and program the AV and Control System needs for the exhibit.
Audio is a critical element of the exhibit, each of the ten exhibit areas has a unique message. The museum wanted to ensure that the audio portion of the exhibit could be heard clearly by all guests.
Additionally, due to the international diversity of their guests, they needed to provide their message in multiple languages. The base broadcast is in Hebrew, but the audio is also available in English, Russian, French, Spanish and Arabic. The result is a requirement for 40 individual transmissions in 10 locations.
Barkai Benny Brookstein, Ltd knew that in order to deliver on the museum’s requirements they would need to provide a reliable system whose quality could be trusted. They turned to Listen Technologies for the solution. Listen Technologies GmbH worked closely with Barkai to create a custom Stationary IR system to meet the auditory needs of the museum.
Listen’s Stationary IR system is ideal for the museums need to transmit 40 transmissions in multiple locations with no interference between channels. Placement of the IR radiators was key to avoiding interference, especially with the close proximity of the exhibit areas and the open atmosphere. Listen and Barkai worked closely together to determine the appropriate number of radiators and placement for clear signal coverage. The Listen system also offers higher modulation frequencies which decreases the risk of light interference from fluorescent lights and other sources.
Listen’s compatibility with other manufacturers allowed for the implementation of a seamless audio system for the exhibit. An Alcorn McBride Audio Binloop Playback System was used for the multilingual recording for the exhibit. A Crestron control system is used to select the needed language as well as other museum AV and lighting system needs.
At the end of the exhibition visitors are left with the full scope and depth of the heritage of Menachem Begin – and with Listen’s Stationary IR System they won’t miss a single sound.
Listen Technologies