Patrons of The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College who have hearing loss can now more fully enjoy events because of a recently completed upgrade. A new assistive listening system has been installed in the Mainstage Theatre, Hanson Theatre, and Grand Upton Hall, which collectively serve more than 40,000 people annually.
The advanced system is compatible with telecoil hearing aids and implants, though patrons do not need hearing aids to benefit from it. Antennas in each of the three venues transmit a signal to FM receivers provided to patrons. The receivers can be used with earbuds or with loop attachments that communicate directly with telecoil-enabled hearing aids. The system is free to use.
“The Mendel Center is a valuable community resource where people of all ages gather, learn, and connect with each other. Offering a high level of accessibility to patrons with a varying range of abilities is important to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment,” stated Mike Nadolski, executive director of The Mendel Center. “With up-to-date assistive listening system access in the three largest venues of the building, we can encourage those with hearing challenges to stay engaged with their community and continue to be socially active.”
The assistive listening system installed in September replaces one originally put into operation when the Mainstage opened in 1992. The previous system had practical shortcomings including coverage of only 59 percent of Mainstage seats and obsolete technology unable to interface with 70 percent of hearing aids and cochlear implants equipped with telecoils.
People with hearing loss and deafness make up the single largest disability group in the US. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 1 of 8 Americans aged 12 and older has some level of hearing loss in both ears. Of those aged 65 to 74, 25 percent have disabling hearing loss. That number increases to 50 percent for those 75 and older.
“Many with hearing loss avoid social activities in theatres and large venues because hearing in these settings can be difficult, even with hearing aids,” Nadolski added. “Our hope is this assistive listening system will open new doors of participation for many within our community.”
Patrons who wish to use the system may ask for assistance at the box office, from any usher, and at the information desk in the Grand Upton Hall lobby. Lobby signage also will provide information about how to access the system.