It is frustrating not being able to enjoy the theater. Please know that the performance of the hearing loop depends on the installation skills of the installer - and while most hearing loop installers work very diligently to make sure the loop meets the IEC 60118-4 hearing loop standard it is possible that the one you are using fails to do so. Performance in a loop depends on microphones in the theater venue. Some venues do a fabulous job of micing each and every actor, other theaters depend on microphones that are hung above the stage or shot gun mics - something that will deliver a less than optimal signal for people with hearing loss. Read more about a theater in Chicago that explored this very issue here: http://journals.lww.com/thehearingjournal/blog/breakingnews/Pages/post.aspx?PostID=34
For a national list of theaters that have hearing loops installed that meet the IEC 60118-4 standard see www.loopwisconsin.com/Images_PDF/LoopedTheatres.pdf
Poor satisfaction with a loop also depend on the programming of the telecoil in your hearing aids. The telecoil setting needs to verified by the audiologist to ensure that it is transparent with the microphone setting. This means that the gain in the telecoil setting matches that of the mic setting with similar inputs.
I would love to know more about what exactly is better about the infra-red systems? How do you use the infra-red system? Do you use headphones or a neck-loop device? And if you use a neck-loop - is it necessary to turn the volume up to the max setting? If turning up the volume on the infra-red device improves performance - it may mean that a) your telecoil gain setting is not optimized in the telecoil mode, b) the telecoil is incapable of providing sufficient gain or c) that the telecoils are not properly oriented in your hearing devices. A visit to your audiolgist may clear this up or provide me with the make and model of your instruments and whether you use a T-coil only or a Mic/T-coil mixed setting so that I can try help you better via this forum.
Juliette Sterkens, AuDjsterkens@hearingloss.org
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