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Hearing loop system installed at St. James Church in Madison Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Jane Lepeska Grinde, Catholic Herald Correspondent   
Thursday, Sep. 19, 2019 -- 12:00 AM
hearing at st james
Bruce Best, left, Good Shepherd parishioner, spearheaded the effort to get a hearing loop system installed at St. James Church in Madison. His hearing aid works with the system, while Michael Schultz (next to Best) without a hearing aid uses a receiver with the system. The loop is visible on the floor inside the pew. (Jane Lepeska Grinde photo)

MADISON -- Thanks to a grant from the Apostolate for Persons with Disabilities of the Diocese of Madison, Good Shepherd Parish was able to have a hearing loop installed at its St. James Church this summer.

Located near Regent and Mills Sts., St. James is one of the oldest churches in Madison.

Taking the initiative to get funding for the project, parishioner Bruce Best said he did it for a selfish reason, “I could only hear about 25 percent of what was said at Mass.”

His audiologist, Veronica Heide, gave Best the idea for pursuing the system.

How it works

At a recent meeting at the church, parishioners heard from Mike Mair, Platteville, owner of My Hearing Loop LLC, the company chosen to install the system. Mair, who has been in business 42 years, explained and demonstrated how the system works.

Hearing loop systems provide a magnetic wireless audio signal that is picked up by hearing aids set to the “T-coil” (short for telecoil) setting. Most hearing aids have this setting.

Special wires have been installed in the floor at St. James Church, which comprises the hearing loop that broadcasts audio signals from microphones directly to hearing aids or cochlear implants.

For those with hearing loss who do not use hearing aids or cochlear implants, portable receivers with T-coils are made available, so that they can hear the clarity of speech sounds transmitted through the hearing loop.

Mair said the system is very safe, using a relatively weak magnetic field. “Walking outside, the earth’s magnetic field is stronger so those who have medical devices need not be concerned.”

The loop, installed on the floor, has its wiring covered by a special covering. The wire produces the magnetic field. The technology was invented in Great Britain, said Mair, who added that some public places in Europe are required to have the hearing loop installed. He showed a sign that is posted wherever the loop is available. “I get pictures of the signs from my friends who travel.”

Attendees at the meeting with the T-coil in their hearing aids immediately noticed the difference when they adjusted the T-coil setting. Others used the receivers provided.

While St. James Church built in 1905 has excellent acoustics for music, it is not so for voice. Speaking from the podium, Heide said, “As I talk louder, my voice starts to echo, which makes it hard to understand. The T-coil talks directly into the ear, picking up the voice without the echo.”

Increasing the volume through the speaker system does not help individuals with hearing loss; it simply makes the background noise louder.

Msgr. Tom Baxter, pastor, thanked those involved for the getting the system installed, especially citing Best for his leadership. He said the parish will buy more receivers and train the ushers to help hearing-impaired attendees to use the system.

Grant funds project

The grant was written for $6,275, which fully funded the installation of the hearing loop with T-coil system into St. James Church. The parish intends to apply for another grant in two or three years, said Best, to install a system at its St. Joseph Church after renovations, including new carpeting, are completed.

Best sought three bids for the system and chose My Hearing Loop LLC from Platteville based on its experience and cost. On its website, the company has the following announcement:

“If you have a Catholic church that is part of the Diocese of Madison, grants are available through the Apostolate for Persons with Disabilities. The Apostolate for Persons with Disabilities has a fund to support the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the life of the Church. Hearing assistance falls in this category. Contact us or visit the Apostolate for Persons with Disabilities website (www.APDMadisondiocese.com) for more information.”

In writing the grant, Best included several comments from parishioners regarding the need for a system. He received the approval of the parish council and followed up with the necessary paperwork.

Now that the system is in, Best said, “This technology is truly amazing. For the first time, I can now hear all of the words spoken during the readings and our inspiring homilies.”

 
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