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Assistive Listening Devices For People with Hearing Loss. A Guide for Performing Arts Settings

Assistive Listening Devices For People with Hearing Loss A Guide for Performing Arts Settings REVISED EDITION, JULY 2012 Funding for the Kennedy Center s VSA and Accessibility Initiatives is provided by
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Assistive Listening Devices For People with Hearing Loss A Guide for Performing Arts Settings REVISED EDITION, JULY 2012 Funding for the Kennedy Center s VSA and Accessibility Initiatives is provided by the Rosemary Kennedy Education Fund and Mike and Julie Connors. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has long been in the forefront of making the performing arts accessible to people with disabilities. The Center is committed to creating innovative and effective educational programs, models, and resources for the arts community and has launched an initiative to create a series of practical guides about accessible and universally usable arts programs and facilities. With 54 million people with disabilities 36 million who are deaf or hard of hearing 1 living in the United States, providing access is not only a mandate of federal law, but also an asset to be valued in welcoming new patrons and keeping audiences as their lives change. The Kennedy Center works to ensure that programs, performances, events, and facilities are fully accessible to people with disabilities. We are eager to find solutions to challenges and to share them with others in the field of arts and accessibility. We hope this guide will be useful and will assist in fulfilling the ultimate goal of making the arts accessible to everyone. Sincerely, Darrell M. Ayers Vice President, Education Betty Siegel Director, VSA and Accessibility 1 Pleis JR, Lethbridge-Çejku M. Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(235) Retrieved October 12, 2010 from Part I To Begin Part I: To Begin What is an Assistive Listening Device (ALD)? Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs), also known as Assistive Listening Systems (ALS), are tools designed to improve audibility in certain environments. The devices reduce the noise-to-sound ratio by bringing sound to the listener without interference or loss of intelligibility. ALDs can be used with a television; in small gathering spaces, such as classrooms or meeting rooms; and in larger venues like auditoriums, churches, lecture halls, and theaters. They can be used in conjunction with compatible personal hearing devices, such as hearing aids with telecoils and cochlear implants. Who Uses ALDs? ALDs are one of many tools that can provide effective communication for people who experience hearing loss. ALDs are most effective for people with mild to moderate hearing loss but can also benefit individuals with more severe hearing loss who use hearing aids and cochlear implants. In the United States, approximately 17 percent (36 million) of adults report some degree of hearing loss, with the prevalence of hearing-related disabilities increasing significantly with age. Within that population, there is a great deal of diversity with regard to degree of hearing loss and the use of personal hearing devices. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: Only 1 out of 5 people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually wears one. Approximately 188,000 people worldwide have received cochlear implants, including 41,500 adults and 25,500 children in the United States. 2 While individuals with more severe hearing loss may benefit from ALDs, performing arts venues should explore additional means of providing effective communication, such as captioning and sign language interpretation, for patrons and visitors who have more severe or complete hearing loss. Percentage of American Adults Reporting Hearing Loss by Age 3 18% of adults ages years 30% of adults ages years 47% of adults ages 75 years or older 2 National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders: Quick Statistics Retrieved on January 12, 2011 from 2 3 Pleis JR, Lethbridge-Çejku M. Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(235) Retrieved October 12, 2010 from Part II Getting Started Part II: Getting Started Include the Community Always include knowledgeable people with disabilities in an advisory capacity when purchasing equipment or providing accommodations for accessibility. Many states, counties, and cities have a commission, council, or service center that can advise an organization on the type of system that will work best in their venue and give referrals to vendors or technical resource centers. Other good resources include local or national chapters of organizations that provide services to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing such as: Hearing Loss Association of America (formerly Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, Inc.) 7910 Woodmont Avenue Suite 1200 Bethesda, MD (301) Voice (301) TTY Association of Late-Deafened Adults, Inc. (ALDA) 8038 MacIntosh Lane Suite 2 Rockford, IL (866) Toll Free (815) Voice/TTY Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing 3417 Volta Place, N.W. Washington, DC (202) Voice (202) TTY National Association of the Deaf 8630 Fenton Street, Suite 820 Silver Spring, MD (301) Voice (301) TTY 3 Part II Getting Started Know Your Legal Obligations Many theaters and other performance venues are unaware of or confused by their legal obligations to provide effective communication for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Effective communication includes, but is not limited to, such tools as assistive listening devices (ALDs). Requirements for assistive listening devices were first addressed in the 1991 Americans with Disability Act Accessibility Standards. The 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards) address when theaters and assembly areas are required to have ALDs, how many receivers must be available, and where signage must be posted. This booklet addresses legal obligations as defined by the 2010 Standards. When are Assistive Listening Systems Required? To determine whether your theater or assembly area is required to provide an assistive listening system under the 2010 Standards, answer the following questions: 1. Is audible communication integral to the use of the space? Yes or No 2. Is audio amplification provided? Yes or No If the answer to both questions is yes, the theater or assembly area is obligated to provide an assistive listening system. How Many Receivers are Required? The chart on the following page shows the number of receivers that a theater or assembly area must have based upon seating capacity. Of the available receivers, 25%, but no fewer than two, must be hearing aid compatible. If the entire seating area is served by an induction loop system, hearing aid compatible receivers are not required. However the venue is still obligated to provide the minimum number of receivers as outlined on the opposite page. 4 Part II Getting Started Number of Receivers Required Based on Seating Capacity Capacity of Seating in Assembly Area Minimum Number of Required Receivers Minimum Number of Required Receivers Required to be Hearing Aid Compatible 50 or less to 200 2, plus 1 per 25 seats over 50 seats ¹ to 500 2, plus 1 per 25 seats over 50 seats ¹ 1 per 4 receivers ¹ 501 to , plus 1 per 33 seats over 500 seats ¹ 1 per 4 receivers ¹ 1001 to , plus 1 per 50 seats over 1000 seats ¹ 1 per 4 receivers ¹ 2001 and over 55 plus 1 per 100 seats over 2000 seats ¹ 1 per 4 receivers ¹ 1 Or fraction thereof. What makes a receiver hearing aid compatible? A receiver is considered to be hearing aid compatible when it can interface with a telecoil installed in an individual s personal device, such as a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Receivers are not hearing aid compatible if the type of earbud or earphone requires a patron to remove his or her own in-ear hearing aid or if the earbud or earphone interferes with the individual s personal device. Additional Technical Requirements for ALDs The following specifications are outlined in the 2010 Standards: All receivers must have a built-in 1/8 inch (3.2 mm) standard mono jack. Systems must be capable of providing a sound pressure level of 110 db minimum and 118 db maximum with a dynamic range on the volume control of 50 db. Signal-to-noise ratio for internally generated noise in assistive listening systems shall be 18 db minimum. Peak clipping shall not exceed 18 db of clipping relative to the peaks of speech. 5 Part II Getting Started Signage Theaters are required to post signs with the international symbol of access for hearing loss to notify patrons that ALDs are available. The signs must be posted at each assembly area or at each ticket office. For example, if a venue has three auditoriums in one building and one central box office with windows that serve all three auditoriums, a sign must be posted either at the entrance to each of the three theaters or at the central box office. This facility is equipped with a hearing assistance system. Please ask for a receiver. While not specifically required, it is advisable to place signs in prominent locations near the box office, at the entrance to or in the theater lobby, and at the location where the receivers are distributed. Information about the availability of ALDs should also be posted on your organization s website. Resources For technical assistance, information on legal requirements, or to get the complete 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design contact: Access Board 1331 F Street, NW, Suite 1000 Washington, DC (800) Voice (800) TTY Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTAC) To contact the DBTAC closest to you call (800) Voice/TTY or visit U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Section - NYAV 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C (800) Voice (800) TTY 6 Part III About the Technology Part III: About the Technology How Assistive Listening Systems Work There are many types of assistive listening systems but all function using the same basic principles: Step 1: Capture the sound. Use high-quality microphones to capture the sound as close to the source as possible. Step 2: Transmit the sound. The sound captured by the microphone is converted to a signal and broadcast to the covered area. Step 3: Receive the sound. The person using the system has a receiver that picks up the signal sent by the transmitter. The receiver may be one that is purchased as part of the system and distributed by the venue or it may be the patron s own hearing device if that device has a telecoil built into it. The receivers may or may not have built-in headphones, and there are several kinds of coupling devices, such as induction neckloops, earbuds and headphones. 1. Capture the Sound 3. Receive the Sound Stage Microphone Various Receivers 2. Transmit the Sound Radio Frequency Transmitter Induction Loop Infrared Radiator Panel 7 Part III About the Technology Types of Assistive Listening Systems There are four types of assistive listening systems that use different signals: Hardwire System The hardwire system is a closed system in which the sound is never broadcast outside of the cables. Seats in the assembly area are hardwired and listeners must plug receivers into a built-in jack. This is similar to the type of system used in airplanes where headphones are plugged directly into the jack in the armrest of the seat. This booklet does not address issues related to hardwired systems. Radio Frequency (RF) System Radio frequency (RF) systems, sometimes called FM systems, operate like a small radio station. A transmitter broadcasts the sound on frequencies designated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for use primarily by ALDs. The receiver is tuned to the frequency broadcast in the theater so the listener hears the correct program. Infrared (IR) System Infrared (IR) systems use invisible light on the infrared spectrum to transmit the sound signal to the receiver via radiator panels. These systems are sometimes referred to as line of sight systems because the receiver must be in line of sight of the radiator panel as infrared waves will not go through solid objects. Induction Loop System The induction loop system broadcasts electromagnetic current within an area encompassed by a cable antenna. To receive the signal, an individual must be within range of the magnetic field generated by the cable antenna, usually inside the looped area. Infrared Radiator Panel Induction Loop System Radio Frequency Transmitter 8 Part III About the Technology Types of Receivers Receivers come in a variety of styles, shapes, and sizes. Regardless of the type of receiver, in order to accommodate the widest range of users with varying degrees of hearing loss and to be compatible with hearing aids and cochlear implants, the receiver must have a 1/8 inch (3.22mm) output jack. The jack allows the user to plug in a number of different coupling devices, including induction neckloops, to make the receiver compatible with the user s personal telecoil-equipped hearing aid or cochlear implant. Stethoscope Receiver Pendant Receiver Types of Coupling Devices Different people prefer and benefit from different types of coupling devices. A variety of coupling devices should be available so that patrons may choose the combination of receiver and coupling device that ensures maximum benefit from the ALDs. Monaural Earbuds A single earbud that provides mono (one channel) sound. The earbud covers or is inserted into one ear. Binaural Earbuds Two earbuds that cover or are inserted into both ears. Binaural headphones can be mono (one channel) or stereo (two channels). Monaural Earbud and Headset Binaural Earbud and Headset 9 Part III About the Technology Induction Neckloops and Silhouettes Induction neckloops or silhouettes are used only by a person whose hearing aid or cochlear implant speech processor has a built-in telecoil. When plugged into a receiver, these coupling devices generate a magnetic field that connects to the individual s hearing aid or speech processor via the telecoil. The neckloop is worn around the neck while the silhouette goes behind the person s ear, close to or touching the hearing aid or speech processor. In order to use the telecoil, most people will need to switch their hearing aid or speech processor from the microphone to the telecoil setting. Induction Neckloop Personal Audio Cables and Cochlear Patch Cords Some cochlear implants require the use of a personal audio cable or a cochlear patch cord to connect the receiver to a patron s speech processor. This technology is not very common. Many cochlear implant users now have speech processors with a built-in telecoil and can utilize the induction neckloop. If a patron does bring his or her own personal audio cable, the cable should plug into a receiver via the 1/8 inch jack. Induction silhouette Cochlear Patch Cord Personal Hearing Aids Personal hearing aids and cochlear implants may have a built-in telecoil which makes the hearing aid compatible with systems that use induction technology. The hearing aid with a telecoil acts as its own receiver where there is an induction loop system. The person wearing the hearing aid with a telecoil has a switch on his or her personal device to move between the aid s built-in microphone and the aid s telecoil. The user has the ability to adjust the volume on the personal hearing device. Once the personal device has been switched to the telecoil setting, the microphone is off and the user will only hear what is broadcast via the induction loop system. Hearing Aid with Telecoil Switch (t-switch) Additional Resources: The Access Board has three excellent documents available on the Internet: ALS Bulletin for Consumers at ALS Bulletin for Installers at ALS Bulletin for Providers at 10 Part IV What to Consider Part IV: What to Consider Before Purchasing Assistive Listening Devices Each of the systems has its pros and cons. In order to determine which system will work best for a particular venue, consider the following questions: Does the space have many physical obstructions? How large is the assembly area? Will the system need to work outdoors? Are there other materials or technologies in the space that might interfere with the ALDs? How many performance spaces are in the venue and how close are they to one another? Does the system need to be portable? Will the system be used for anything in addition to assistive listening, such as audio description? Before the final purchase of an assistive listening system, consider inviting the manufacturer to do a demonstration in your venue. Whenever possible, test the system during a live event and solicit feedback from people who use assistive listening services. Location of the Transmitters or Radiator Panels and Physical Obstructions How the signal is directed and the number of objects that it has to pass through on its way to the receiver can make or break the usability of your assistive listening system. Obstructions such as support pillars, walls, deeply recessed boxes, or balcony overhangs can reduce the quality of the signal or block it entirely. Radio Frequency (RF) signals can travel in all directions and through physical obstructions but proper placement of the transmitter can enhance the quality of the sound. The more objects that the signal has to go through to reach the receiver, the more it can become distorted. (Think about how the radio reception in your car is affected when you go through a tunnel.) Placing the transmitter or the antenna for the transmitter at the front of the theater facing the audience will maximize reception. Placing additional transmitters or antennae around the space can also improve signal quality in places with large obstructions. 11 Part IV What to Consider Infrared (IR) radiator panels transmit the infrared light signal in one direction. IR signals will bounce off solid objects and walls but the strength of the signal will be diminished. Additional radiators will minimize areas of poor reception in irregularly shaped spaces or theaters with lots of obstructed areas. A sound technician/contractor experienced with infrared systems can maximize the coverage by a radiator and determine exactly how many will be needed to cover a specific area. Induction loop systems are hardwired and the user must be within the magnetic field generated by the physical cable looping the space. The signals can be directed and controlled, depending on the installation and strength of the system. Placement is important because the magnetic field is subject to interference from certain building materials. A professional technician/contractor experienced with induction loop systems should be able to make the loop work in most spaces. Size of the Assembly Area Getting a system to fit the size of the theater or assembly area is extremely important: Small RF transmitters for use in classrooms and small meetings rooms are adequate if the receiver is never more than 25 to 30 feet from the transmitter. Large RF transmitters can cover anywhere from 200 to 500 feet and the signal strength can be increased with the use of a more powerful antenna. There are small and large IR radiator panels that cover different areas. A knowledgeable person is crucial to determining the size and quantity of radiators necessary to cover a performance space adequately. A single small room may be easily covered by a loop but larger spaces will require multiple or a phased array of loops in order to ensure adequate coverage. The installation of induction loop cables/wires can be very complex and must be done by a professional. Possible Interference All three systems, RF, IR and induction loop, may experience interference from materials or objects built into or used in the space: RF systems can pick up other RF transmissions if the channels or frequencies are close to one another on the spectrum of potential channels and frequencies. IR systems are subject to interference from ot
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