Experiencing the Arts with Hearing Loss

With Winter here, we find ourselves looking to movies, plays and art for respite during chilly days. Unfortunately, when you have hearing loss you may be hesitant to attend a performance or tour. Shari Eberts, a popular hearing loss blogger, provided this perspective in a recent interview, "sometimes people with hearing loss avoid cultural events like lectures, concerts, and plays for fear they will not be able to enjoy the experience. They worry that they won’t be able to hear the speaker or feel the emotion of the music or understand the dialogue in a show."

Fortunately, many theaters and museums offer assistive listening technology. Locally, there are many venues in the community that offer options to help you enjoy their performances. The Rochester chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America provides a list of theaters and other helpful information. Further away, The Lincoln Center in New York City is a great example of a venue working to make its performances accessible to all. It offers assistive listening technology such as headsets and neck loops and has two theaters equipped with induction hearing loops. Induction hearing loops allow you to access the performance audio directly from your hearing aid – no additional equipment to wear – making it the most discreet option. Another common assistive listing system is open captioning. Open captioning allows you to visually follow the conversation on stage.

Before you attend a new exhibit or performance, we have two recommendations. First, contact the venue staff to learn more about what systems or devices are available. For example, open captioning may require you to sit in a specific section of seats. Finally, don’t forget to talk with your hearing care professional. They can demonstrate how to connect your hearing aids to hearing loops and discuss other aid-specific options that may be available.