Renovated library equipped for hearing aide system

The renovated Jamaica Plain Branch Library will have a technology called a looping system to help those with hearing loss, according to Susan Jacoby, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America-Boston Chapter, which is the group that helped get the system installed.

A dedication of the new looping system will be held to introduce it and other adaptive devices to the community on June 17 at the library, starting at 10 a.m.

The looping system involves installing a wire around a space to be “looped,” according to Jacoby. The space can be as large as an entire building, concert hall or auditorium, or as small as a meeting room, a car, or even just a pillow to sit on to watch TV. The speaker’s or singer’s voice is then transmitted directly to an individual’s hearing aide.

As a result, people with hearing loss will be able to have interactions with librarians without having to ask for information to be repeated or missing words.

According to Jacoby, many people with hearing loss don’t realize that they already have a receptive T-coil installed in their hearing aide.

“A hearing aide is only good in certain quiet environments: where the speaker can face the listener directly. Otherwise, hearing becomes difficult because of ambient noise, speakers not facing the listener, or more than one speaker talking at once,” Jacoby said. “However, the overwhelming majority of hearing aides already come with a T-coil. The trouble is that most audiologists just sell hearing aides without telling their clients how to turn their T-Coil on or about other adaptive devices and supportive resources. Many audiologists are also misinformed and say that the T-coil is only good for use with a telephone.”

Jamaica Plain City Councilor Matt O’Malley was an instrumental force in getting the system installed in the library, said Jacoby. Jacoby and Janet Nicholas met with O’Malley during his office hours, and he agreed to help them then.

Jacoby said that her group felt that spending so much money on the renovation and not doing anything to make the library more accessible was “just wrong.”

“It’s a simple issue,” Jacoby said. “While hearing loss may be an invisible disability, it certainly greatly affects the lives of a growing number of folks.”

The dedication event will be on June 17 from 10 a.m. to noon. The event will introduce the library’s looping system and include a panel discussion on looping and other technologies and resources for support for those living with hearing loss.

“On average, it takes between 7 to 10 years for someone to acknowledge that he or she is in fact experiencing a hearing loss. There is still a stigma associated with hearing loss that doesn’t exist for people who, for instance, need and wear glasses,” said Jacoby. “The dedication will provide an opportunity not only to learn about the best adaptive devices and practices, but also to begin to talk more openly about living with hearing loss – whether as someone who needs a hearing aide or as a friend or partner who wants to be heard.”

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