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Richey Suncoast Theatre gets hearing-assist system


Published:   |   Updated: January 17, 2014 at 09:19 AM

NEW PORT RICHEY — If you heard only every other word of a TV show or movie, the plot wouldn’t make a lot of sense.

Richey Suncoast Theatre officials also realize the importance of good sound for their plays and performances.

Director Marie Skelton and the theater crew got a bit of help from their friends at the Sertoma Speech & Hearing Foundation to install the latest gear for a hearing-assist system at the playhouse in downtown New Port Richey.

The hearing loop lets theater patrons who wear a hearing aid with a telecoil enjoy all that is happening during a performance.

The sound system sends a signal directly to the hearing aid so that every word of dialogue or note of music can be heard clearly, according to Craig McCart, executive director of the Sertoma foundation.

The installation, made possible through the St. Petersburg-based company Hearing Loop Group, is gaining popularity in many areas where crowds gather. It is a result of a joint project of the Hearing Loss Association of America and the American Academy of Audiology assistive listening devices.

People are amazed to find out how much easier it is for them to hear with these tools, Skelton said.

“The loop system is wired around the perimeter of the lower level and those with hearing aids and cochlear implants can hear everything said on stage,” Skelton commented in a news release.

The telecoil is a small copper wire inside the hearing aid that makes a big difference in a person’s ability to hear clearly and understand dialogue.

In the 126-seat balcony, people with hearing difficulties can hear the performance via FM headsets that allow them to adjust the volume so that they can hear clearly.

“The total cost of the project was $4,000, and the Sertoma Foundation used money received from the Rotary Club of New Port Richey and the West Pasco Sertoma Club to complete the project,” McCart said in a news release.

“We are so appreciative” to the clubs and the foundation, Skelton said. “It enhances the personal experience of a theater performance for the hard of hearing.

“It’s accessible and state-of-the-art. There is nothing like it in the surrounding counties for a theater this size.”

She also noted that speakers have been installed in the lobby so that anyone who has to leave their seat can still hear what’s going on in the performance.

Hearing loss is the most common birth defect nationally. Early detection and intervention are vital for an infant, McCart emphasized. The Sertoma foundation assists hard-of-hearing babies and children to hear the world around them so they can succeed.

For more about the foundation, go online to www.familyhearinghelp.org.

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