in September 2007
Assisting the Hearing Impaired, Part 4
By David Lee Jr., PhD
MoPix for you and me?
Editor’s Note: Part 1 of this discussion appeared in June, Part 2 in July and Part 3, last month.
“A hearing loss is not visible and often it is overlooked and misunderstood.” This sentence summarizes the challenges associated with assisting the hearing impaired. As systems integrators, we primarily focus on developing and providing technologies that help people who can hear to hear better sound. Few of us focus on helping people with hearing loss to hear better sound.
My purpose for writing this series was to raise awareness, point out the upsides of this niche market and spark at least a mild discussion with some of you. I am proud to say that, within the context of this valuable publication, this has been achieved. Your response regarding this topic has been amazing. [See Feedback in this issue for samples of the responses.—Ed.] You have let me know that there is much more to learn, create and apply. So, let’s get started!
We need to improve the quality of technologies for people with hearing loss. I am a mere pupil of hearing-impaired concerns. But, I am on a trail of learning that is helping me to understand the psychology of persons who have hearing loss. Recent research suggests that the hearing-impaired discussion stems from three primary issues: understanding the nature of hearing and consequences of hearing loss; the use of technology to enhance communication for those with hearing loss; and educational strategies. We have discussed these broad issues briefly in this series. Some of you pointed out to me an assortment of pros and cons linked with technologies for the hearing impaired.
Your comments and my research have led me to understand that hearing-impaired people, although appreciative of hearing technologies, are at the mercy of the technologies that are available. For example, wireless FM or infrared systems function reasonably well. But wearing the external headphones add social stigma for some users. Hearing aids are used widely by people with hearing loss. However, hearing aids amplify sound. They do not necessarily clarify sound in a noisy house of worship environment. There is ongoing research and development fixed on increasing the quality of hearing aids and the telecoils inside most of them. Better hearing aids and better telecoils could lead to broader use of induction-loop systems in house of worship settings.
Closed captioning is used frequently by people with hearing loss in their homes when they watch television. Closed captioning is being used in a small number of house of worship settings. However, when captions and live video are projected onto large screens in a worship facility, the busy nature of captions can be a nuisance to some people. Soon, there may be a solution to this problem.
MoPix (www.mopix.org) is enhancing the moviegoing experience for people with hearing loss. MoPix is a rear window captioning system that displays reversed captions on an LED text display that is mounted in the back of a theater. Theatergoers who want to see the captions are given, at no charge, an adjustable acrylic panel that reflects the captions so they appear superimposed in the lower third or any part of the movie screen they desire. The captions are not burned into the film. Thus, no special print is needed.
The captions are located on a CD that plays in synchronization with the film. The captions are visible only to persons using the acrylic panels. Currently, MoPix is only available for use in theaters. However, there is some push to develop MoPix for use in other settings. Wider use would spawn the development of real-time captioning technology for use with an adapted form of MoPix.
These technologies are enhancing the worship experience for many people. We have to get these technologies into more house of worship settings. We also must continue developing better technologies and better educational approaches that enable all people to share a worship experience equally, without stigma or nuisance.
There is another reason we have to develop these technologies soon: As you and I grow older, and as we expose our hearing to the high SPL environments that we are creating, we may soon scream for technologies and empathy that will help us sustain our dignity and quality of life. That’s what I’m hearing. What are you hearing?
[Have comments, suggestions or experiences with some of the issues and technologies Dr. Lee is addressing in “House of Worship: Business”? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.—Ed.]
David Lee Jr., PhD, CEO of Lee Communication Inc., Orlando FL, is a licensed minister and has more than 25 years of experience as a systems integrator. He is a member of Sound & Communications’ Technical Council. Send comments to email@example.com.