Tips on How to Set Up an Assistive Listening Center

Many of us rely on our sense of hearing to learn new things or enjoy events. Whether it’s in a school or a church, listening to a speaker or instructor can be an important way to gather information. So what about those who have trouble hearing? As many as 28 million Americans have trouble hearing for various reasons, especially the elderly. That’s why an assistive listening system can be a great asset for your space, even if it’s not required for your venue according to ADA guidelines. Here are a few guidelines and tips for how to set up an assistive listening center in your school, church, museum, art gallery, and more, so that your visitors, students, and congregants can hear and enjoy everything you provide.

What’s in an Assistive Listening System?

To find a system that works for you and your space, it’s important to understand the major components to what makes an Assistive Listening System (ALS). The two major devices in an ALS is the transmitter and the receivers.

The transmitter transmits the sound from a microphone to a receiver, which is connected to personal headphones or headsets. A transmitter might use FM radio waves, so listeners would “tune in” to the right frequency to listen to the target audio. Other transmitting assistive listening systems might use infrared or induction loop systems, but FM is the most common and easiest to set up.

The transmitter will transmit sound within a certain radius, and the receivers within that space will pick up the audio for listening. Many systems allow for added transmitters to increase that radius, or added receivers to allow multiple listeners at any given time.

When you pick an ALS, knowing what kind of transmission is important, how it can connect to a microphone or PA system, and how many receivers it can accommodate, is the first thing to look at. So, come with the knowledge of the size of your space that you hope to service, and the number of people who might need the system at any given moment. This will help you order the right ALS.

Involve users with hearing difficulties in picking your ALS. The best test to make sure that your chosen ALS works is to get the feedback and help from those who will use it. For most people with regular hearing abilities, trying on and testing a receiver in-use can be a positive experience, with no real change in the sound quality. But, those hard-of-hearing might not even hear the sound through the headset. By involving those with hearing difficulties, you can find the system that works best.

Make the assistive listening center materials visible. Many people with hearing difficulties assume that ALS devices are not available, or are too self-conscious about asking for the extra help. That’s why providing prominent, visible signage will help encourage use of your listening devices with greater ease. A sign featuring

Account for growth in your system. Some systems are set up to only serve a certain number of receivers per transmitter, or the transmitter is limited to only 1 frequency, or can only reach a certain radius. Finding the right system that is flexible for your needs, especially when you account for growth, is important.

For example, maybe your system for a current classroom or church community would only serve a small number of students or church members. But, maybe that classroom size grows to include the need for 5 transmitters, or the church grows in numbers and in size, and will need a second transmitter plus more receivers. A system like the Hamilton Buhl ALS-700 allows for an unlimited number of transmitters and receivers to be added as you grow. The ALS-700 also allows for dual simultaneous transmitting, which can be an added bonus for communities that would like to provide a bilingual service.

The work and effort in installing an ALS in your space is immediately beneficial to your environment, no matter how many people end up using it. By taking these options into account, your system can provide quality access to your materials to those who need it. For more help in choosing your ALS, contact us–we can provide you with a number of options suitable for your community and space.