Getting in the Loop

It’s music to the ears of hearing-impaired patrons of the Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts … literally. A recent $100,000 investment in hearing assistive technology leaves the center’s three main stages outfitted with induction loop systems, or hearing loops, that interact with telecoil-equipped hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Browning Center director Frank Bradshaw said the beauty of the new system is that no one else in the audience will ever know who’s hard of hearing and who isn’t. “A person with hearing loss no longer has to check out a clunky device at the box office, wear it around the neck or sit in a special seat,” he explained.

Utah Rep. Gage Froerer, who is deaf in one ear, knows the frustration of attending films, lectures and other public performances and not being able to follow along. “If you’re missing all or part of a conversation, you become kind of invisible,” Froerer said. “You’re put into an uncomfortable situation, so you just back off and tend not to participate in those types of events.”

Froerer, whose legislative duties included working with an association of audiologists, encouraged Bradshaw to purchase hearing loops. “We thought it was important to be proactive about making the performing arts as accessible as possible to all populations, including the hearing-impaired,” Bradshaw said. “To our knowledge, we are the first major theater in Utah to install hearing induction loops.”


The number of Utahns who are deaf or hard of hearing
*Utah Division of Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing