We recently explored the experiences people have when visiting the theatres and concert halls. We discovered that poor experiences are commonplace for people with hearing loss.
We asked 143 people with a range of hearing abilities, from mild to profound hearing loss, what theatre trips have been like for them. A huge 94% said their experiences have been poor, with 83% saying they had been disappointed because the right provision wasn’t available to allow them to access and enjoy the performance.
The survey asked about assistive listening systems and there was a clear preference for induction hearing loops. More than three quarters of survey respondents (77%) said they preferred them over an infrared or FM system.
Hearing loops send sound straight into the hearing aid when it is on the T-setting. There is no need for any other equipment to be used. Infrared and FM systems require users to use a headset and receiver which they collect from staff at the venue.
More than half (56%) of those who had used headsets and receivers with infrared or FM systems have had poor or very poor experiences.
Find out more about loop versus infrared versus FM. Decide which you prefer.
A few theatres have started installing a new digital system.
These systems operate via an App on a smartphone or other digital device, which relays sound to hearing aids via Bluetooth (if the hearing aids have this capability), or an intermediary streamer (if you have one), or a neck loop (provided by the venue).
They allow you to personalise the sound by adjusting volume and tweaking the low, mid or high frequency sound you hear. Those without hearing aids can use headphones to access the sound system.
The system is less costly for theatres to install and can double up to also provide audio-description for those with visual impairment.
Like the idea? Loathe it? Tried it?
According to our survey findings, theatres can make themselves more inclusive and accessible by offering:
They also need to consider ticket offices, bar areas, eating areas, and with ushers and customer service staff.
We focus on topics and subjects where we feel we can make most impact and where we feel change or improvement is both necessary and possible. By participating in our surveys and other activities, you can help bring about the outcomes you want.