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Story by Allen Cumbia. Photo by Janet Chase.

On September 7, 2014, when members of Richmond’s First Baptist Church met for worship, they stepped into a familiar, yet in many respects new, Sanctuary. Fresh coats of paint, plush new carpet and beautifully restored pews were a few of the immediately obvious changes.

Another significant change, not visible but rather audible, was installed in this renovated space. While the pews and carpet were removed, a hearing loop (also known as an induction loop) was put in place around the perimeter of the Sanctuary. The loop, a copper wire looped around the room, is connected to an amplifier fed from the existing sound console. Audio is inducted onto the wire and creates a magnetic sound field. People, situated within that loop, who have telecoils in their hearing aids or Cochlear implants will be able to access that inducted sound. Their hearing devices will not only restore volume, but also frequencies that the listeners might struggle normally to hear.

The advantages of this type of hearing assistance are many. No longer will individuals have to pick up hearing assist receivers when entering the Sanctuary and wear ear buds during the service. They will just activate their devices’ telecoil. Telecoils are also discrete; they don’t advertise to everyone else the hearing disability. And there will be no limit to the number of people who can utilize the hearing loop. Until this innovation we were limited to 16 hearing assist receivers in the Sanctuary.

One of our goals at Richmond’s First Baptist Church is to make worship a time and space where our members and visitors can encounter God both corporately and personally. When those individuals are unable to hear the Scriptures being read, or the prayers or sermon from the pulpit, their worship experience is degraded and diminished. As has been done with the creation of a Braille hymnal for our sight-impaired worshipers, we hope to create through this loop, one less stumbling block for our hearing-impaired to their encounter with the living God.

hearing loop diagram

hearing loop installation

hearing loop installation in sanctuary

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