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Assistive Listening for Smart Phones
By: Carrie Keele

"Please turn off your cell phones" is a common request heard at the start of worship services, live performances and most any event where phones and other mobile devices are likely to distract users and those around them or prevent people from being fully present.

That may change as venues increasingly discover the power of the ubiquitous cell phone, acting as an assistive listening solution, to help people become more engaged at churches and other houses of worship.

Delivering audio over Wi-Fi is not new, but improvements in the technology and significantly lower latency (virtually no audio delay) have made it suitable for use with personal smart phones as an assistive listening solution or a solution for live audio.

That's music to the ears of thousands of people who attend religious services for the spiritual and social support it offers but find themselves unable to fully engage in the experience because they struggle with hearing loss or impairment.

Imagine being able to help those individuals reengage at their preferred house of worship because they can once again hear the motivating words of a sermon or poignant verses of a hymn.

Visualize a worship service where congregants are able to hear speakers and vocalists clearly, remain present in the moment and be inspired through their practice or devotion despite poor acoustics or the distractions of ambient noise. That is the power of audio over Wi-Fi delivered directly to a smart phone.

To implement audio over Wi-Fi technology, venues simply connect audio from their various audio sources whether a microphone at a podium or a television to the local area network via a secure server and are ready to stream to individuals' smart phones.

Guests at venues featuring audio over Wi-Fi technology download a free app on their phones, connect to the venue's wireless network and tune into the audio source of their choice.

Clear, intelligible sound is delivered directly to their ears via personal earbuds or headphones. If individuals have Bluetooth-connected hearing aids, they can stream audio directly from their phone to the hearing aid.

Audio over Wi-Fi delivered via smart phones is an easy and affordable way to provide congregants a more engaging experience at churches, temples and synagogues.

For a nominal investment (often less than $800), houses of worship can purchase an audio over Wi-Fi system and use their existing wireless networks to provide clear sound and translation services to congregants. Audio over Wi-Fi systems can be used alone or as a complement to existing assistive listening solutions such as induction loops or radio frequency systems.

Audio over Wi-Fi systems are scalable to accommodate thousands of users and can be used throughout houses of worship, including in overflow seating areas and cry rooms.

Because congregants use their own smart devices to stream audio and ear buds to hear, there are no receivers or headsets for houses of worship to maintain, store or loan and track. The Internet load of audio over Wi-Fi is minimal (meaning there is no reduction in a venue's Internet speed or range) and there are no frequencies to coordinate.

Houses of worship struggling to connect with members and congregants who have hearing loss or who find it difficult to hear at services should consider leveraging the power of the personal devices so many of those individuals carry in their pockets and purses.

Instead of asking them to silence their cell phones, invite them to take advantage of their devices during services to hear more clearly and engage more fully in worship.

Deliver pure, uninterrupted sound directly to their personal devices and help them reconnect with their spiritual community and the power of the word.

Best Practices for Implementing Audio over Wi-Fi in Houses of Worship

 Spread the Word Raise awareness of the availability of audio over Wi-Fi through signage and posters, notification in weekly bulletins, information posted on the house of worship website, and announcements at weekly services.

 Educate New Users Offer tutorials on how to download the app, connect to the venue's wireless network and tune into a preferred audio source. Place small laminated cards with directions on how to access audio over Wi-Fi in pews and hymnals.

 Troubleshoot Train ushers and greeters on how to use the assistive listening technology and common challenges new users are likely to encounter (e.g., not being able to find the wireless network, not knowing how to adjust the volume on headphones, etc.) so they are prepared to help and ensure users have a positive experience.

 Share Good News Promote the success of the audio over Wi-Fi technology and positive user stories via word of mouth and online reviews/stories. Celebrate increased attendance and engagement at worship services.

Carrie Keele is corporate marketing manager at Listen Technologies, a leading provider of assistive listening products for 20 years. Audio Everywhere from Listen Technologies is a plug-and-play audio over Wi-Fi product that uses a venue's existing wireless network to stream clear sound to smart phones, www.listentech.com.









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