Hearing loss is often referred to as an "Invisible Disability". There is no wheelchair, no white cane, and no physical indication that an individual may struggle in difficult listening situations.
And yet, statistics show that some 20% of Americans report some degree of hearing loss, with that number reaching as high as 33% by age 65. Imagine that 1 in 5 congregants in your church may not be clearly hearing the messages and music that inspire them each week.
Despite the use of hearing aids and PA systems, individuals with hearing loss still struggle to clearly understand the spoken word. Often, they report "attending worship services" among the top 3 most difficult listening environments. Reverberation, restless children, rustling papers, and even the hum of the HVAC all become amplified- competing for the attention of the congregant. Speech discrimination and intelligibility are of utmost importance in a church setting, and can be impossible to achieve in a public venue with hearing aids alone. Louder is not necessarily better for those with hearing loss, and in most situations increased volume can become incredibly distracting.
Sound is important. It has the power to connect and inspire us. Being able to hear the things we love, like music and messages of inspiration, connects us to each other and helps to create more positive human experiences. Hellen Keller once said, "Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people." Unfortunately, hearing loss can be very isolating at times. Many congregants become disengaged with their worship community, or stop attending services all together when they are unable to fully engage in services.
Fortunately, there are many things that a church can do to better serve those with hearing loss. Providing an Assistive Listening System in your church can increase attendance and a sense of community within your congregation, help people with hearing loss and language barriers feel less isolated, and most importantly, ensure that everyone hears inspirational messages during weekly worship services.