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Trying Out Assistive Listening at Abravanel Hall

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend a symphony concert at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City. Since I work at Listen Technologies, I decided to seek out and use an assistive listening device to see what the process was like, as well as the listening experience. I found that they were available in one of the coat check locations on the main floor. There is a sign for assistive listening devices availability above the coat check window.

 

I checked out two units.One unit was for someone who has hearing loss to the point of not being able to hear conversations in a crowded, noisy environment. The other, I used to experience the product myself.

 

Check-out involved filling out a form in a 3-ring binder with my name, phone number, and the number of the unit, which was indicated by a number on a piece of tape on the device. Both were set to channel E and one had the belt clip missing. One set of headphones had cloth covers over the earpiece foam, while the other headphone had just the foam covers.

 

Instructions were given by the issuer as to how to turn the unit on and off and how to adjust the volume control. They also reminded me to return the units after the concert.

 

During the concert the device worked well. I could clearly hear the performer separate from the symphony and could adjust the volume control to achieve a good balance for my listening tastes. In this environment there was little to no background noise. The person with hearing loss said the device worked well and he enjoyed listening to the concert using it.

 

Whether you have hearing loss or not, I highly recommend checking out an assistive listening device next time you visit a public space like Abravanel Hall or something similar. It improved my experience, as well as the person with me. 

Keeping the Drama on Stage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), located in Ashland, Oregon, is known for a lot of great things. They’re known for fantastic performances, Shakespearean or otherwise. They’re known for cultivating diversity and culture in Oregon. And they’re becoming synonymous with providing great experiences for all of their patrons.

The OSF is definitely committed to providing a great experience to all. They strive to make their facilities accessible to everyone by providing a variety of accommodations for persons with disabilities; this includes people with hearing loss. Not only do they provide patrons with assistive listening devices from Listen Technologies, but they also schedule certain performances with sign interpretation and open captioning.

Going to the theater when you can’t quite hear what the actors are saying can be an incredibly frustrating experience for someone with hearing loss. For example, experiencing any one of Shakespeare’s plays without the ability to hear his rich language would diminish any audience member’s enjoyment.  Can you imagine seeing Hamlet without being able to hear the famous “To be or not to be,” speech or watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream without hearing Puck pose his continually impish quips? It would be more tragic than King Lear!
Luckily, the OSF is taking a fresh approach to combining assistive listening and Shakespeare, so those with hearing loss can enjoy each and every soliloquy. With the use of Listen Technologies RF assistive listening equipment, the OSF provides its audience members the opportunity to experience the theater the way it should be experienced. This product allows the theater to wirelessly transmit audio from a fixed box to personal, portable receiver that an audience member uses like his or her very own private radio. This solution keeps all the tragedy on the stage, so that the audience members don’t have to miss out on experiencing the drama the way it should be experienced.

The OSF typically offers eleven different plays throughout its ten-month season. Although, their namesake is the Bard, the acting company also performs works by modern and contemporary playwrights. They also offer all kinds of classes, various artistic activities & events, and a Green Show before performances. This sort of drama is not to be missed.

One Loop at a Time

When I first started at Listen Technologies I was told I would have certain kinds of moments. Moments that weren’t about marketing a product, per se, rather, they’d be moments that would show me that there are bigger reasons that we do what we do; moments that would reinforce why I decided to work for this company in the first place, because it helps people have better life experiences. I had several of these moments last Saturday as we helped kick off the Loop Utah Movement at the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Festival. Here are a few of them.

Gaining More Understanding

 

I am not a person with hearing loss and I have recently entered into a world of trying to understand what it must be like for people who do have a hearing loss. I won’t lie; it’s been a challenge for me to understand. I’ve stumbled over jargon and made silly mistakes along the way. It’s been a bit tricky for me to navigate through the ADA requirements. It’s been even harder for me to fully understand the human aspects of how frustrating it must be to have to go to a public space and not be able to fully participate. This began to change on Saturday.
As I arrived at the Sanderson Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for the festival on Saturday the atmosphere was strange from my perspective. Things appeared to be quite lively. There were lots of people outside smiling. There were snow cones, and fries, and games. There were lots of different vendors at booths, but things were quiet as I walked across the lawn. I didn’t understand what was going on. How could it be so quiet? It looked like people were having a great time. It suddenly dawned on me that the reason for the relative quiet was because people were signing to each other. Silly me! Here I was, already making assumptions about something I knew very little about—I have so much to learn.
At first the silence made me feel shy and awkward; I don’t know any sign language, so I felt incredibly out of place, but then I decided to use the situation as a learning experience. This was one of my moments, a moment that opened me up to learning what it feels like to not be able to fully participate in something. Personally, I feel it was very important for me to have this moment of clarity. I was humbled in a very good way. If I hadn’t been open to the human aspects of feeling vulnerable right then and there, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to grow and experience the things I did later that day.

An Extra Bag of M&M’s

 

As a writer, I tend to be far better in textual communication than in verbal communication. I tend to get a little tongue-tied when approached by strangers, especially in crowded environments, which is why I was in absolute awe of my co-workers when they talked with people who visited our Listen Technologies booth at the festival.
Watching and learning from Cory Schaeffer, Tim Schaeffer, Kristin Rector, Carrie Keele, Mike Griffitt, and the Steering Committee Chair, Dr. Anne Lobdell was invaluable to me. They were incredible, whether they were demonstrating our small Hearing Loop, getting people to join the Loop Utah Movement, or merely talking to people about hearing loss prevention. It was great to have the opportunity to watch and learn from all of them. It also gave me the courage to have a few interactions of my own, one of which was quite memorable.
As all of my Listen comrades had wandered off to ready themselves for presentations or visit other booths, I was left alone to mind our table. Obviously, I was a little anxious. A few people stopped by and I shyly talked about Loop Utah. People politely took our informational kits and I even got one of them to sign up for Loop Utah e-mails. But the most incredible moment I had during this time on my own was with a small, similarly shy, twelve-year-old girl. Her name was Sara.
Sara approached our Listen table quietly. I smiled at her and she shyly smiled back. Feeling a little awkward I asked her if she had a hearing loss. She shook her head and looked down at some of the informational things we had on our table. I then asked her if she knew someone who had someone with hearing loss. Her facial expression as she looked up at me was something I’ll never forget. It was a mixture of sadness, loss, pain, and a little hopefulness; something that said, “Yes, and I love this person, but don’t know what to do, because I’m just a kid.”
It turned out that the person she knew was her grandfather and he was very important to her. She had no idea what kind of hearing aid he had (whether it was equipped with a t-coil or not) all she knew was that he didn’t like wearing it and that he didn’t like going places with her as much anymore. When I asked if her grandfather was with her to see if I could talk with him too, she admitted she was alone. Sara had come to this festival on her own to help find some answers for her grandfather to help make his life better. This simultaneously broke and filled my heart! What an amazing kid! My awkwardness and shyness wore away quickly. I knew I had to do something to comfort her or at least try to help her.
I asked Sara about some of the things she liked to do with her grandfather. Apparently, they both love going to the movies. Both of them also love mixing M&M’s in with their popcorn (we had a supply of M&M’s at the Listen table and yes, I gave her an extra bag). Instead of launching into a big speech about Hearing Loops, I simply told Sara about some of the different things she could do to help her grandfather. I gave her a stack of Calling Cards she could hand out to movie theaters she visited. And then together we sat down and quickly wrote a letter to the movie theater she and her grandfather visited the most asking them to install a Hearing Loop, so she and her grandfather could keep going to the movies together. She promised me she’d send the letter. I promised myself never to forget how I felt as I helped her. It was indeed one of my moments.

Not Just Numbers

 

I am someone who finds a great deal of value in being able to go out an experience cultural events, whether that is watching a contemporary version of some Shakespearean play, seeing an opera, or listening to an art historian talk about a Chagall painting on a tour at a museum. Granted, these things might not be everyone’s proverbial cup of tea, but no matter what one enjoys doing (sports, church, lectures, poetry readings, whatever) one should have the right to enjoy it fully. Watching drama unfold on a stage, hearing the notes of a talented soprano, learning about brushstrokes from an educated scholar, so that you know more about a work of art are important things to me personally. I don’t know that they’re important to everyone, but I fully believe that we all have instances and things we enjoy that cultivate who we are as human beings. Maybe it’s a rock concert for you. Maybe it’s cheering at a basket ball game. Whatever it is, I fully believe that these things make us more human; they make us better humans. There are those among us who are currently not participating in what they love doing, simply because they do not have access to assistive listening devices or equipment.

Hearing Loops allow people with hearing loss who have smart hearing aids (hearing aids with telecoils) and cochlear implants go out and experience things they love in public spaces and venues. The benefits of Hearing Loops are easy to understand: they’re more hygienic and they offer a personalized sound experience that’s delivered from the source of the loop straight to a users hearing device. They are also compliant with the ADA.

I’m told that the current percentages of people with hearing loss in the United States fall somewhere between 17% and 20%. When I think about these numbers, I find it staggering. Not because of the ones and sevens or the percentages, but because of the human faces behind these numbers who are limited in experiencing things they may have used to loved to do, much like Sara’s grandfather.

When we quote numbers like this, we must remember who they represent. They represent our loved ones, our friends, and ourselves. When you really think about it—I mean really, really think about it—these percentages are much bigger than just 17% or 20%, because when you know someone with hearing loss, you become part of that number, too. What I mean to say is that Sara’s grandfather isn’t alone, he has Sara. Sure, they’re just two people, but imagine what would happen if everyone was as brave as Sara. If we all pool our collective resources and advocate for changes together as people who don’t necessarily have hearing loss, but as people who are concerned about it, we can make huge differences.
At some point in your life, you’re going to know someone who has a hearing loss. It could be your grandfather. It could be your mom, your dad, your favorite sibling. It could be your child. It could be you. When you think of the faces of these people you love, can you honestly say that they deserve to experience less in life? If you could make things better for them, wouldn’t you?

Although I’ve only listed a few, the moments I experienced on Saturday made me more aware of the importance of the Loop Utah Movement.

I do not personally have a hearing loss, but I am increasingly passionate about creating meaningful cultural experiences for others. I fully believe that this makes us all better as people. Looping venues in the State of Utah has become important to me. Not because I work for Listen, but because I believe in making people’s lives better. I sincerely hope that you too will consider joining this movement. Together we can make a difference, One Loop at a Time.

A New Day at Caesar’s Palace

Caesar’s Palace is home to one of the newest and most elaborately constructed theaters that is devoted to a single show. The Colosseum is a 4,100 seat theater and home to the new show featuring one of the world’s top selling female recording artists, Celine Dion. 

Construction of the $95 million theater began in Spring of 2001 and was completed when the show opened in March of 2003. “A New Day” was created by Franco Dragone, known for his work with Cirque du Solei. The 58 member cast performs on a 22,450 square foot stage with a state of the art sound and video system. Outside Caesar’s Palace is a giant 120 foot Mitsubishi LED wall marquee. In the theater, the show takes advantage of a video wall made up of 12 50-inch video cubes behind the stage, a state of the art 5.1 Meyer Sound System, and a Listen Technologies Corporation assistive listening system.
Listen products are ideal for the Grammy Award winner’s live performance. With a Listen LT-800 Stationary Transmitter installed with the main sound system, guests use individual LR-400 Display Receivers to hear the audio anywhere in the theater. Guests simply check out a receiver from guest services free of charge and find their seats. The units are electronically locked on channel, so the guest simply puts on the earphones and adjusts the volume to a comfortable level.
 
Listen products are widely used for live performances, theater productions, and other presentations due to its exceptional audio quality, ease of use, and simple maintenance. For more information on Listen products and their applications, check the web site at https://www.listentech.com

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

Assistive Listening Solution Hits A Home Run at UNLV

Hear the roar of the crowd. Listen to the crack of the bat. Wait …is that the announcer trying to say something over the stadium noise?
 
When the University of Nevada, Las Vegas was designing and installing their new high-fidelity sound system, they wanted a completely integrated system for the entire stadium. Their requirements were specific: High volume intelligible sound with no feedback throughout the stadium; input sources of C.D., laptop MP3, cassette, two booth mics, a crowd mic, a field mic, and field line jack; and everything had to work with their assisted listening system (ALS). And it all had to work simultaneously with their assistive listening system (ALS).
 
Listen Technologies rack mounted LT-800 Stationary Transmitter and LR-400 Display Receivers fit the bill perfectly. With two lines of input, there was no problem integrating the ALS with the stadium sound system. And with 57 field programmable channels, set-up couldnít be easier. UNLV personnel simply scanned the frequency range to find a clear channel, and then locked the transmitter and receivers to that channel.
 
Maintaining the system is also simple because UNLV uses a Listen LA-311 16-slot Charging Case. Receivers are stored in the case between games. With Listen’s SmartCharge there is no guessing which units have to be charged or how long until they are done charging. Each unit receives the correct charge, and then charging is automatically shut off.
 
Ease of installation. Simplicity of use. Convenient maintenance. Once again, Listen ALS products hit a home run!

Qwest Center Patrons Experience Full Exciting Sound

Hard of hearing fans can now enjoy a hockey game’s blow-by-blow commentary, Stevie Nicks’ velvety voice or a circus ringmaster’s baritone with a new wireless assistive listening system now installed at Nebraska’s largest new venue.
 
The modern Qwest Center Omaha, with more than one million square feet of convention, arena, meeting, exhibition and ballroom space, installed Listen Technologies’ assisted listening system in its grand arena and convention center in time for a late September opening. The Listen system, which uses FM radio waves to wirelessly transmit noise-free sound to individual patrons wearing headsets or ear buds, was chosen for its clear signal that is effective for medium- to high range hearing impairment, for its ease of use and versatility.
 
Beth Ellsworth, a field representative with the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, tested the system and liked what she heard. “This particular system makes the sound not just louder, but much clearer,” said Ellsworth, who has a moderate-to-severe hearing loss. “This system screens out the background noise. It was really great.”
 
Like many who are hard of hearing, Ellsworth has not attended many concerts. But she plans to now. “I’m going to look at the Qwest Center schedule to see when Simon and Garfunkle are coming,” she said.
 
The Listen system at Qwest Center, which also meets the requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, includes both portable and permanently installed transmitters, which are wired into the building sound systems. Patrons who use the system clip on small battery-powered receivers and don headsets or ear buds, channeling the clear sound right to their ears.
 
Christy Harris, senior vice president of administration and Qwest Center project director, said she is pleased to offer patrons a full experience, whether they have come for sports or music, a convention or a circus.
 
“This system allows the hard of hearing the chance to experience the excitement and sounds here, just like everyone else,” she said.
 
For more information on Listen products, check the website at www.listentech.com. To see the Qwest Center Omaha event schedule, go to www.QwestCenterOmaha.com.

Surf City Sound Merits Badge for Wireless Sound System at Scout-O-Rama

Although the Boy Scouts of America don’t offer merit badges to vendors, if they did, it’s likely that Surf City Sound of Orange County, California, would have earned one for their brilliant solution to sound system needs at the organization’s recent Scout-o-Rama.
 
The annual outdoor event draws scouts and their families, as well as others interested in an entertaining, educational family outing. Scout booths – no two booths are alike – offer demonstrations and activities ranging from wall climbing to solar cooking, knot tying to leatherwork. Local law and fire enforcement agencies also sponsor a variety of demonstrations. This year more than 27,000 enjoyed the event, which included performances from skate and bike teams and other entertainment. It goes without saying that developing an event-wide sound system — for an area that spans approximately 1,300 linear feet (396.2m) — was no small order.
 
Surf City’s Ross Ricks handled the contract. His first order of business was to take the event’s sound system into the 21st Century by replacing what would have been miles of cable, with a self-contained, wireless system. This not only brought an obvious ease to the situation, but also streamlined setup and teardown needs. “Our Listen representative was a great help,” says Ricks, who notes that Listen’s recommendations took much of the guesswork out of the equation.
 
So how does one set up a system to handle paging, announcements, public addresses and background music for an outdoor event of this size? Familiar with Listen equipment used for assisted listening in churches, Ricks sensed a similar wireless concept would be a natural solution. “We first set it up and tested it in our shop to gauge range and other things,” says Ricks. “Once that was done, the rest was really simple.”
 
The system began with 10 Mackie 1521powered speakers – at 500 watts per unit – for maximum blast power. These were mounted strategically throughout the grounds. A Listen LR-400 receiver was mounted onto each speaker. Ricks then strategically placed a Listen LT-800 transmitter and a LA-107 Ground Plane Antenna (mounted 30 ft. (9.1m) in the air). An extra-long LA-266 Professional Camcorder Cable was plugged into a Listen LA-202 Power Supply.
 
 It was a job well done, according to Lara Beecher of the Orange Country Boys Scouts of America. “The sound system, which was heavily utilized throughout the day, was great. It was really crisp and clear, and helped create a more festive, smooth-flowing event.”
 
Purchasing the Listen equipment was a “no-brainer,” says Ricks, who is certain he’ll be using it for other contracts. “We’re a full-service audio/visual shop with onsite production and a recording studio, so this offers us greater flexibility. We’re that much more prepared for concerts, company picnics, carnivals and other community events.” Perhaps next year Surf City Sound should have a booth and teach a few of the scouts some tricks of the trade.
 
For more information on Listen products, check the website at www.listentech.com.

Eagle Audio & Lighting Delivers Event-Wide Sound System

Celebrating 15 years in Ft. Worth, Texas, the Race for the Cure® features more than 18,500 women, men, and children converging on the streets of Sundance Square to walk, run, or stroll to raise money for breast cancer research.
 
Sundance Square is a 20-block commercial, residential, entertainment and retail district. Sundance Square’s beautiful landscaping, red-brick streets and turn-of-the-century buildings make it a delightful setting for this special event celebrating survivors and loved ones involved in the battle against breast cancer.
 
The annual outdoor event offers more than the race as part of its schedule. Vendors set up booths for education outreach, food and entertainment. Prior to the race there is an aerobic warm up, a master of ceremonies starts the race and at the conclusion of the race there is a closing ceremony with awards. The entertainment features a musical performance by a local band. Developing an event-wide sound system — for an area that spans approximately 2,500 linear feet (762 m) – is no small feat. Particularly one that can deliver excellent audio quality for both spoken word and musical performance.
 
Enter Jerrell Evans, Audio Operations Manager for Eagle Audio & Lighting. Evans and his team have been providing the audio to the Ft. Worth Race for the Cure® for the last five years and have seen the audio system needs grow just as the event has grown. The solution came via a system that included a Shure microphone system with speakers and a Listen LT-800 Stationary FM Transmitter and a LA-107 Ground Plane Antenna on the main-stage. Two delay stations were equipped with a Listen LR-100 Stationary Receiver/Power Amplifier connected to a weather proof powered speaker.
 
Listen’s Wireless Audio Distribution System is ideal for events that don’t have existing hard-wire infrastructure available for audio distribution. Additionally, it saves rental staging companies significant time, money and hassle to deliver sound to their events.
 
The Listen equipment “blew me away” says Evans, who is certain he’ll be using it for other events. “We’re a full-service sound, stage, lighting and video rental company. I can see this equipment being used for many of our events, one that comes to mind is a Fourth of July event we do that has eight different stages and eight different sound systems. It will be easy to integrate the Listen system with the other systems we use.”
 
For more information on Listen products, check the website at https://www.listentech.com

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 from sight.” 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 are able to 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.”
 

The Hult Center for Performing Arts

The Hult Center for the Performing Arts opened in 1982 through perseverance and initiatives by the citizens of Eugene, Oregon. Since its opening the Hult Center has been delighting audiences and world renowned performers alike with its stunning architectural and acoustical features.
 
The Hult Center has become the artistic cornerstone of the community offering a range of environments for its artists. From the towering glass lobby, to the massive 2,500 seat Silva Concert Hall with its basket weave ceiling, to the intimate 500 seat Soreng Theater with its intriguing asymmetrical design, to the divine Jacobs Gallery downstairs, the Hult Center is a stunning venue for all.
 
The Hult Center strives to provide excellent services and support to its patrons and offers assistive listening devices to patrons at no charge. The assistive listening system had been in use for almost all of the twenty five years the Hult Center has been open. Recently the operations team determined that the existing system was in dire need of an update if they were going to continue providing quality service for their patrons.
 
Denny Conn, Head Audio Engineer for the Hult Center contacted Steve Armstrong, from Pros, Inc. to assess options for their assistive listening needs. Mr. Armstrong reviewed the possibility of repairing and upgrading the existing system or installing a completely new system. Because they wanted to broadcast in stereo as well as provide a descriptive listening channel, he recommended a new Stationary IR System from Listen Technologies. “He told us that it would provide us with enhanced performance over our old system, and at a fraction of the price we would pay for another competitor,” stated Mr. Conn.
 
Steve Armstrong contacted Kyle Anderson, President/CEO Principal Designer of AGI to arrange for a product demonstration. AGI, a Listen dealer is noted for designing and installing complete audio, video, lighting and acoustic solutions for large and small organizations throughout the world. “We brought in key potential users of the system to hear how it sounded and test how easy it was to use. All were very impressed with the quality of the Listen system,” said Mr. Conn.
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