Hearing Amplifiers and Assistance for Movies, Church, and Restaurants

If you enjoy going to church, movie theatres or restaurants and would like to know what assisted listening devices are available to make the experience more enjoyable, we have broken down what is available to help and what you need to know both for hearing aids wearers and non-hearing aid wearers.

Assistive Hearing for Church/Houses of Worship

One of the most challenging situations to hear clearly is while attending a worship service. Many churches offer their own hearing amplification system that is intended to help parishioners listen to sermons more clearly. In the past, the systems were often large FM or infrared devices in which the speaker would wear a microphone, and the listener would wear a headset. The sound from the speaker would go directly to the listener’s ears, blocking out surrounding noise and making it easier to hear what is being said.

What is more common these days is a hearing loop type of system that lets users receive the signal of the speaker directly to your t-coil equipped hearing aids. Loop systems are fantastic; they give the listener direct and clear sound without having to wear a headset that is provided by the church. Loop systems work very well with hearing aids that are equipped with a telecoil (some hearing aids do not have a t-coil). All the listener needs to do is to switch on the telecoil, and they will get the sound directly from the speaker into their ears without background noise or the sound becoming blurred.

Loop systems work great if you wear hearing aids that have a t-coil, but what can you do if you don’t wear hearing aids? Luckily there are a couple of outstanding, relatively inexpensive, products that are equipped with telecoil receivers that that let you hook into the loop system get the sound straight from the source. (Before purchasing any products you should check with your church to see what kind of system they are using.)

Unfortunately, the most popular personal sound amplifiers like the Empower are not telecoil equipped, and cannot hook into a loop system. One in-ear hearing amplifier that does have a t-coil receiver is the Etymotic QSA Personal Sound Amplifier. It uses similar technology to what is used in a hearing aid but at a much lower cost. This type of in-ear amplifier will allow you to access your churches loop system (if they use a loop system).

Another product that you may find useful in a worship service is Pocketalker 2.0. It is a newer version of a very popular handheld hearing amplifier called the Pocktalker. The 2.0 release includes a built-in t-coil receiver that can work with venues and houses of worship equipped with a loop system.

Another device similar to the Pocketalker 2.0 is the Bellman Maxi.  The Maxi also has a t-coil receiver that works with hearing aids and cochlear implants as well as with regular headphones or earphones.

Hearing at the Movies and Theaters

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires most public venues (like movie theatres) to provide assistive listening systems at no charge. The Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) that are generally produced usually use infrared light waves or an FM radio signal to transmit sound from the performers’ microphones to earphones worn by the viewers. These can be a massive help to hearing movies correctly, however, you may prefer to use closed captions and audio descriptions when you go to the movies.

A popular system that is currently used in a lot of theatres is CaptiView. With CaptiView all you need to do is secure the device in your cup holder, and it will display the text onto a screen. Some theatres also offer glasses that display text onto the lenses of the glasses. These closed captioning devices aren’t always available for all show times so you should check listings beforehand.
To get an assistive listening device at the movies, all you have to do is ask at the box office. You will probably have to leave some form of identification, which you will get back when you return the device. If you aren’t keen on the idea of wearing public headphones, you can try bringing your own. They should be compatible, but you never know.

If you would rather not ask for a device, you may be able to use a general behind the ear amplifier or handheld amplifiers. Please see this post for more information on some of the different types of personal sound amplifiers that are available.

Assistive Hearing for Restaurants

Having difficulty hearing in restaurants is one of the easier situations to be able to fix using a hearing amplifier.  Most high-quality hearing amplifier devices have settings that are intended to be used while in a restaurant. There are a couple of options that we would recommend depending on how self-conscious you are about hearing devices.

If you aren’t bothered by putting a device that contains a microphone on the table that you are seated at and then also wearing headphones to hear what others are saying, handheld hearing amplifiers can work well in a noisy restaurant.  A couple of good quality ones to look out for are the Pocketalker 2.0 or the Bellman Maxi Amplifier. They will help you hear what other people are saying in one-on-one conversations or small group settings. Most of these personal amplifiers come with earphones or headphones for people without hearing aids or have a neck loop for hearing aid users listen through their hearing aids. These types of devices can also work well for hearing aid users who need a bit of a boost to help listen in challenging situations. What is excellent about these amplifiers is that they only amplify the sound of the speaker’s voice while reducing the background noise.

If you are unwilling or unable to pay the high cost for hearing aids but would like something to help you hear in a noisy situation, there are many inexpensive devices that are similar to a hearing aid. One very useful product is Empower. This small device has similar technology to hearing aids, and people often use them in place of them. They can be extremely useful for a restaurant situation because they are discreet and they have specific settings that are intended to be used while in restaurants that will drown out the background noise and allow you to focus on the speaker’s voice.


Frances Martin
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