Grace UMC Hears Need for Greater Worship Experience
By Barb Ceruti
“You can hear the minister’s every word much clearer. Therefore, you understand the complete message, and it’s not like listening to a foreign language anymore,” said Freda Whittle, a parishioner at Grace United Methodist Church in Naperville. She is referring to the hearing loop technology recently installed at Grace, which uses the telecoils in most hearing aids and cochlear implants to allow hearing-impaired churchgoers a greatly improved worship experience.
The hearing loop system at Grace was borne of a need expressed by several parishioners for better sound and clarity than their hearing devices alone could offer. Ron Laub, facilities manager at Grace, acted upon that need, hiring Assistive Hearing Systems (AHS) of Palatine, IL, to install the system in April. Steve Thunder, AHS division manager and acoustical engineer, trained members and staff at Grace on how to use the technology.
Working with the telecoils in church members’ existing hearing aids, the hearing loop feeds audio signals wirelessly through them via electromagnetic waves. Thus, the background noise and muddy reverberations that used to plague those worshiping in the spacious, vaulted sanctuary is eliminated.
“I can hear the minister speak, which encourages me to attend church on a regular basis,” said Grace member Miriam Harrison. Church has become much more meaningful for me and those of us who are hearing impaired.”
Jim Nelson, another Grace member, concurs: “The voices sound natural, which makes me pay closer attention to the service. With the hearing loop, I can hear the total message and not just parts of it.” Acknowledging that the sound quality with the hearing loop is far superior to that of hearing aids alone, Nelson is delighted to hear Bible verses again. “I can even hear the pages turning and the presenter breathing!”
“This is the wave of the future,” said Laub of hearing loop technology. Research and statistics back his claim, as a resounding 86% of people with hearing loss prefer hearing loops over the FM or infrared systems found in several public arenas in America. More and more venues are employing the technology, including auditoriums, theaters, places of public transportation, conference rooms, etc.
For houses of worship like Grace, more parishioners will be able to fully participate in worship again, as 84% of those with hearing aids have telecoils in their devices, and new models of cochlear implants are equipped with them.
Said Laub, “It’s very exciting for us at Grace to have this technology. We heard the need for it, and we’re happy to have been able to provide it. We are a very welcoming congregation, and the hearing loop allows us to extend that welcome more fully to everyone.”