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New addition to Tempe Public Library will improve communication for the hard of hearing

The hearing loop enables hearing devices to eliminate background noise


"The hearing loop will aid Tempe Public LIbrary's hearing impaired visitors." Illustration published on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018.

The installation of a new hearing loop at the Tempe Public Library will make it easier for people with hearing aids or cochlear implants to communicate. 

The loop enables hearing devices to act as wireless transmitters by eliminating background noise, making it easier to hear and communicate. 

Tempe Public Library's hearing loop is projected to be fully installed by October, and was funded by the Arizona Community Foundation, a group that aims to improve the quality of life across the state through effective charity and philanthropy. 

According to Tempe ADA Compliance Specialist, Michele Stokes, the Arizona Community Foundation awarded a $23,000 grant to the city of Tempe, and the city will cover costs above the amount of the grant.

“I personally have profound hearing loss,” Stokes said. “I appreciate the clarity of sound that the hearing loop provides.”

The loop is being installed by OTOjOY, a company that hopes to provide "equal access to sound for everyone, everywhere."

Advocates for those who are hard of hearing believe that the installation of the loop is the first of many steps towards helping those who have a hearing disability. 

According to Michele Michaels, Hard of Hearing Program Manager for the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, there are over one million people hard of hearing in Arizona, and at least 31,000 of those live in the city of Tempe. 

“No longer will they need to strain to hear and understand, or have to arrive early to check out an assistive listening device,” Michaels said. “Hard of hearing people will have greater access to communication in these rooms.”

While the loop is definitely a step in the right direction, Michaels also acknowledged some other concerns regarding the hard-of-hearing community. 

“One of our concerns is the number of low-income hard-of-hearing Arizonans who cannot afford hearing aids,” she said. “We are looking into a solution for that problem.”

According to The Hearing Centers of Arizona, Arizona has multiple hearing loops throughout the state and was the second state in the nation to install hearing loops in the House and Senate of the State Legislature. 

Ingrid McBride, director of the Audiology Clinic at ASU, said that the Phoenix metropolitan area is still in its infancy when it comes to providing widespread accessibility of hearing loop systems but hopes to soon see further expansion of the systems.

“It would be nice to see loop systems available in many different venues throughout the Phoenix area,” McBride said. “And I would like to see ASU with its reputation for innovation to lead by example. It would be great if classrooms, MU meeting rooms, theaters and ballrooms were looped.”

Founder and CEO of OTOjOY, Thomas Kaufmann, said that other states and countries are far ahead of Arizona when it comes to hearing accessibility.

"What I’d personally like to see in Arizona is more inclusion for people with hearing challenges in the music world," Kaufmann said. "Many concert venues or night clubs don’t provide assistive listening systems despite their legal obligation to do so, or they don’t take it seriously and the systems aren’t connected, aren’t charged or are nowhere to be found."

When Kaufmann first started on his mission to provide hearing accessibility for the hard-of-hearing community, he was told that some of his goals would be impossible to reach.

"I believe that everybody deserves to be treated with respect, fairness and kindness," he said. "To me, that means everybody should have the ability to feel included in our society or community. That’s what I fight for on a daily basis."

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