By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published December 6, 2018
JASPER—Our Lady of the Mountains Church is a forerunner in having a hearing loop system installed, enabling those with hearing loss to fully participate in Mass.
Parishioner Nada Raffaelli, who has hearing loss, began exploring the idea of looping for the Jasper church after participating in a meeting of the Hearing Loss Association of America last year.
At the HLAA meeting, Raffaelli attended a presentation by Nick Hobbs, a technician from Active Life Hearing in Woodstock.
A hearing loop is a system, installed in auditoriums or sanctuaries, that allows users of hearing aids to hear clearly and comfortably without background noise and without special equipment. The components of a hearing loop are the loop amplifier, which receives an audio signal from the venue sound system, and the loop wire, which transmits the signal clearly to users of hearing aids in the venue. Those without hearing aids may use special earbuds and receivers to make use of the system.
Raffaelli approached pastor, Father Charles Byrd, about the idea. He was open to the project but wasn’t sure how to fund it.
Hobbs offered a reasonable price for the installation and while Raffaelli and her husband funded a large portion of the project, others chipped in.
“I spoke to all the church ministries that had money asking them to contribute … the Men’s Club, Knights of Columbus, and the Women’s Guild. They all did, along with numerous parishioners,” she said.
Parishioner Annette Martinengo was also instrumental in seeing the project to completion.
Martinengo, a past secretary of the Women’s Guild at Our Lady of the Mountains, met with Hobbs to gather estimates and each time he visited the church to do work.
“She and her husband, Enrique, gave a substantial donation even though neither has hearing loss,” said Raffaelli of her fellow parishioner.
Hobbs said Our Lady of the Mountains is the first Catholic church in which he has installed a looping system. He first learned of the technology from a college roommate.
“The immediate connection for me was that my mother had taught deaf students. She also signed the services in our church, so I grew up knowing a lot of people who were deaf or had profound hearing loss,” said Hobbs. “Most people do not know what a hearing loop is or does, however, as soon as they hear through one, they understand its potential. As churches learn about hearing loops, they realize that a hearing loop can help them reach the underserved community of people with hearing loss.”
According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), hearing loss is the third most prevalent health condition in older adults. Approximately 28.8 million adults in America could benefit from using hearing aids.
Although the project has a remaining $1,000 to be funded, Hobbs completed installation of the system in early November.
“I have always loved attending Mass but to be able to hear the Word of God clearly and Father Byrd’s homilies clearly has made attending Mass so much more meaningful,” said Raffaelli. “It is hard for a hearing person to relate, but for me it has been wonderful to hear and understand Father Byrd instead of waiting for my husband to summarize the homily. Also, I can hear the prayer of the faithful so I know what we are praying for every Sunday.”
Those with hearing aids with a T-coil can take advantage of the looping system. Raffaelli said most hearing aids purchased in recent years have the T-coil. Users should check with their audiologist to make sure the coil is activated.