Suggestions for Helping the Hearing Impaired Hear Meeting for Worship?

We have a number of participants / members at my monthly meeting that are having a hard time hearing the spoken ministry during meeting for worship. Sometimes it is due to hearing loss or people that just don't speak loudly enough. We installed a headphone system a while ago, but no one uses it - probably because of the nusience of wearing the earphones and because they creste a background static noise. We are considering getting some microphones that quieter speakers could use. I am curious to hear how other meetings may have addressed this issue.

Much Thanks

-dave

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Have you consulted with an acoustical engineer? That'd be the place to start. If you're in an old meetinghouse that was built before the invention of the microphone (or merely styled off of those, as Friends Meeting of Washington in Washington, DC is), there is likely a sounding board, which (if the benches are properly arranged, and people who aren't sitting in the facing benches / minister gallery under the sounding board make sure to face straight at it) should provide a fair bit of amplification. Obviously, there is a point where hearing aids etc. are just plain necessary, but ensuring good acoustics / lack of echoes is an important starting point.

Investment in a truly functioning hearing assistance system will help. Our meeting (Corvallis in NPYM) has four mics hung from the ceiling wired into an amp and a broadcast system.  Anyone who wishes may take a belt pack receiver, choose or bring a headphone and use it to get amplification.  Works for almost every Friend who's tried it. 

A nearby large meeting has a more sophisticated system with multiple mics, speakers built in to the ceiling for all to hear from, a smart volume control system.  There are headphones for an extra boost that any attender may borrow. 

Important in the design of both assistance systems were consultations with Friends who know the specific technology and the efforts of volunteer engineers who belong to each meeting and were willing to invest their time to get it all functioning. 

The solutions aren't solely technical.  It's been important to have some self advocates, some allies and a Committee on Ministry & Worship that's willing to guide and elder Friends to stand, speak audibly and direct their voices to the best place for all to be able to hear. 

That's a good suggestion. I will look into finding an acoustical engineer. I assume someone spoke with one when the hearing assistance system was installed many years ago, but I'm not sure. There is a sounding board behind the facing benches. Are you saying that the "loudest" place to sit would be facing the sounding board (i.e. facing the facing benches)? If so, we could encourage friends with hearing difficulties to sit there.

Thanks!

-dave



Mackenzie said:

Have you consulted with an acoustical engineer? That'd be the place to start. If you're in an old meetinghouse that was built before the invention of the microphone (or merely styled off of those, as Friends Meeting of Washington in Washington, DC is), there is likely a sounding board, which (if the benches are properly arranged, and people who aren't sitting in the facing benches / minister gallery under the sounding board make sure to face straight at it) should provide a fair bit of amplification. Obviously, there is a point where hearing aids etc. are just plain necessary, but ensuring good acoustics / lack of echoes is an important starting point.

Hi Jay,

We have a hearing assistance system, but nobody seems to want to use it. We have tried putting out signs, mentioning the system in our weekly announcements and giving them to people before meeting - we just can't seem to get people to use the system regularly. I think you hit the nail on the head with "Works for almost every Friend who's tried it". The system works, but the challenge has been getting people to use it.

The system you mentioned that has mics and speakers sounds interesting. I like the fact that once the system is turned on, it just works - no need to put on earphones. Could you provide me with the name of the monthly meeting? I'd like to reach out to them to find out more about there system and to see if they are happy with it.

Thanks so much!

-dave



Jay Thatcher said:

Investment in a truly functioning hearing assistance system will help. Our meeting (Corvallis in NPYM) has four mics hung from the ceiling wired into an amp and a broadcast system.  Anyone who wishes may take a belt pack receiver, choose or bring a headphone and use it to get amplification.  Works for almost every Friend who's tried it. 

A nearby large meeting has a more sophisticated system with multiple mics, speakers built in to the ceiling for all to hear from, a smart volume control system.  There are headphones for an extra boost that any attender may borrow. 

Important in the design of both assistance systems were consultations with Friends who know the specific technology and the efforts of volunteer engineers who belong to each meeting and were willing to invest their time to get it all functioning. 

The solutions aren't solely technical.  It's been important to have some self advocates, some allies and a Committee on Ministry & Worship that's willing to guide and elder Friends to stand, speak audibly and direct their voices to the best place for all to be able to hear. 

Our small meetinghouse in Midlothian, Virginia has a very high cathedral ceiling in the worship room.  We are not the original occupiers of the meetinghouse.  Once a building-long front porch was added, it looks like a built-to-order meetinghouse (inside and out) that seats 50 comfortably in the worship room.  However, it was originally a private home.  The sound is excellent in that worship room - never a problem hearing someone offer a message.

I am wondering if an extremely high cathedral ceiling improves sound?  I'm not an acoustics expert, so I don't know.  Does anyone know?  If such a ceiling does improve sound, I'd advise any small meeting that is building a meetinghouse, to consider having a high cathedral ceiling in their worship room.  Most Cape Cod building designs allow for such a room to be easily included without much extra cost.

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Hi Howard,

That is a beautiful meetinghouse. I think a worship room that size is ideal. Unfortunately our meetinghouse is very large - much larger than we need. We meet in a smaller room over the summer (when we have even fewer people) and it is much nicer.

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