When FM isn’t enough: how loops improve on a good system

Many venues use FM devices as their hearing-assistive technology of choice, and some people with hearing loss benefit from FM system. But for many, like Greg Bawden, FM devices are imperfect and awkward, and loops offer a much better level of comprehension and engagement.

Beginning with nothing, not even a PA!

greg bawden 2009

Greg Bawden, HLA-WA president, also serves on the board of the Riverview School District.

As a member of the Riverview School District, Greg attended board meetings without any assisitive listening devices at all in mid-2012, so understanding dialogue was not easy for him. “I can hear someone next to me (or ideally in front of me) but if they are further than a few feet out, I have trouble understanding what they say.  And my hearing loss (and my ability to distinguish words in speech) varies considerably day to day,” he explained via email. “So the first few board meetings were very hard.”

Next comes FM

The district then connected the PA and FM systems, which helped somewhat when Greg connected the FM receiver to his hearing aid streamer. But he still struggled to adjust both devices to find the sweet spot, where he could hear clearly without being overwhelmed with distorted sound from the PA. Connecting the FM receiver to a neck loop improved things yet again, but if he turned his head while wearing the neck loop, the orientation of the T-coil would change, and the sound would drop out.

Finally, a loop—and better hearing

Finally, Greg drew on years of solid relationships and the professionalism of the district to make the loop installation happen. Greg told us he appreciates the district’s commitment to working with him every step of the way. Since most of the district’s projects had come in under estimates, the loop was ultimately paid for under the bond. The loop was so affordable, though, Greg believes operations funding could have covered it, if needed.

Yet despite the relatively low cost, the loop has made a huge difference for Greg. “The loop has made it MUCH easier for me to participate in regular board meetings,” he wrote us.

Thanks to Greg Bawden and the Riverview School District for their advocacy. If you’d like to advocate for hearing loops in your school district, email us at loopseattle@gmail.com.

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