Boswell Hall Schuler Performing Art Center's system to assist the hard of hearing

“It’s wonderful now,” said John Centa as he described the Boswell Hall Schuler Performing Art Center’s system to assist the hard of hearing. Centa has been active in getting systems into auditoriums in the area for many years. For years going to a performance in the center on the main North Idaho College campus was an exercise in frustration for people with serious hearing loss. Several years ago an F.M. system provided assistance, but often the shows were heard but not understood. About 10 years ago an infrared system was put in place which helped, but it was still difficult to understand conversations on the stage, according to Centa. Two years ago a new computerized sound board was purchased for the auditorium along with other improvements. According to John Gallegos, Technical Director for the Schuler Performing Arts Center, a compressor was included in the upgrade. The compressor put a cap on how loud the sound could be played even when a gong was struck full force. Two microphones installed over the stage pick up ambient sound, but doesn’t distort the music or conversation. The whole system runs through the controls that mixes the sound for the auditorium, but can still be controlled separately. “This means that people listening through hard of hearing units hear exactly what the audience hears,” said Gallegos, “It’s a real time mix.” Gallegos said it took him a long time to figure out the settings, as well as lots of experimenting. He discovered it needed to be a brighter sound (less bass) than the rest of the auditorium. The Performing Arts Center now offers two options to assist hard of hearing individuals. The receiver for both is the same. One system uses ear buds that fit over hearing aids, or can be used directly over the ear for those with minor hearing loss. Users of this option will need to adjust the volume of their hearing aids as well as the volume control on the receiver. The other option uses a loop that lies around the neck and rebroadcasts the sound into personal hearing aids equipped with a telecoil. Both units use the same receiver which cannot be covered or obstructed in any way. “If someone holds their printed program over the receiver, it won’t work,” said Gallegos. Patty Baker, house manager for the center, said, “People who need to use the units just need to ask an usher when they arrive for an event.” She added, “A drivers license or another piece of identification should be left with the house manager and returned in exchange for the device after the show.” Instructions for how to use the devices will be provided with each unit and the ushers will also be available for assistance. John Gallegos is pleased with the system now “because there is no longer feedback from hearing aids in the audience.” John Centa and others with hearing loss are pleased also. “This is a world class operation,” said Centa.

For More Information
Justin Van Eaton (208) 769-3424

Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2007

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