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Churches are Embracing Assisted Listening Devices to Spread the Word to All Parishioners
By: Steve Fox

For years, churches have dealt with the problem of diminishing attendance and have often looked to technology to make the services more accessible to everyone. For larger congregations, the use of large screen projectors and monitors have become important vehicles to give parishioners a closer look at the services, and plasma and LCD screens are commonplace in many churches.

In addition, many churches have utilized the Internet to post sermons and special events for those not able to personally attend services, and many congregations have increased interest among young people by turning to social media to publicize events and direct people to their websites.

For many of those who regularly attend services, especially the growing numbers of baby boomers, the task of fully hearing the proceedings has become more and more difficult, and churches nationwide are once again turning to technology to address the situation.

Assisted Listening Devices to the Rescue
Assisted listening devices have been around for many years, but the resurgence in their popularity is evident according to Johnny Berguson, president of Kingdom, a dealer that sells to thousands of churches nationwide.

He said, "Millions of people sit in church each week and can't clearly hear what is being preached. Even though churches are exempt from the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), we are finding that many churches want to be accommodative to their parishioners and are installing assistive listening systems by the droves."

Assistant Pastor Joe Jackson of Community Baptist Church in Grand Ledge, Michigan, said, "We had a WWII veteran who was in his mid-80s, come to us and asked if we could get something to help him hear the sermons. We looked into our options and purchased a package containing a transmitter and six receivers and got an extra one just in case. The reaction has been really great and we have four or five people using the receivers every week."

Janet Pitts of the All Faith Baptist Chapel in Lakeland, Florida, was equally as excited, saying, "We've had people who were hearing impaired who did not go to church because they couldn't hear the sermons. We discussed the problem and ordered an assistive listening system with six receivers, and it really went over well. Aside from hearing the sermons, our music director has a soft voice, and it has helped people hear her, as well."

How It Works
Assistive listening systems come equipped with a transmitter and a number of receivers, each of which have ear buds. Many of them have individual volume controls so that each user can manually adjust the sound to suit his needs.

This feature, according to Jackson, is very important because everybody has a different level of hearing loss. The transmitter is connected to the output of the audio mixer and can then amplify anything coming out of all of the microphones that are hooked into the system. This can be sometimes problematic if all areas of the sanctuary are not set up with microphones. If the church does not have an audio system, the microphone can be plugged into the system.

 Like so many other areas of technology that are becoming commonplace in churches, assistive listening systems will be made available for more and more congregants.

"If 11 people in every hundred have some hearing problems today, the need for these systems will only grow as the population ages," said Kingdom's Berguson.

Assistive Listening Devices:

Steve Fox is the president of Fox Marketing Services. He frequently writes about technology. He can be reached at foxy555@aol.com.

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