- February 14 2018
Hearing Loop system written into law in Hamilton, making it compulsory in new or renovated city-owned public assembly areas, writes Jeff Mahoney
By Jeff Mahoney Hamilton Spectator
Ron Archer spent a career — more than a career; a calling — listening and speaking to people, and it was not only his duty but his devotion to care passionately about the clarity and carriage of the words coming out of his mouth … and coming at him from the mouths of others.
He was a minister in the Presbyterian Church. Then he lost much of his hearing.
“Without my hearing aids I can hear almost nothing,” Ron tells me.
Julia Colantino’s experience runs the opposite way. She started life deaf, completely. When she was three years old she received a cochlear implant.
Now she can hear. But not without the device worn behind her ear, under her hair. As it is, Julia, 20, hears only out of her right ear, but it makes all the difference.
Ron and Julia are two of the people who’ve set the stage for Hamilton becoming one of very few cities in North America (New York City is another), the first city in Canada, to write the Hearing Loops system into law, making it compulsory in new or renovated city-owned public assembly areas.
Case in point, the Sackville Hill Senior Recreation Centre, now being outfitted with the system.
The Loop is something Ron has been pushing for years. In 2014 I wrote about his quest to have it installed locally in more large public buildings, like theatres, concert halls, auditoriums and churches, where hearing can be a struggle for those with impairment, because of how ambient sound and compromised acoustics can complicate hearing aid reception.
Julia wrestles with such issues. She can’t hear music or sound distinctly in large public spaces; even in cinemas it’s hard to properly separate out words. When she went to work for Ward 7 Coun. Donna Skelly last spring and summer, she researched the Loop as background to a motion that she helped develop and that Skelly marshalled through council.
Hearing Loop systems operate like this: A long cable or wire is laid around a room, and sound from an audio source (microphone, TV, etc.) is fed, through an induction loop amplifier, into the wire in the form of a current.
Ron learned about the Hearing Loop when he spent three years in Scotland earlier this decade. This technology has existed for 30 years or more and is pervasive in Europe. In Scotland, as in several European countries, it is law for public buildings to be equipped with the Loop. Ron says he couldn’t believe how clear and distinct hearing was in theatres and concert halls there. So why not here?
“It was an amazing experience,” Julia says, of working on the motion with Donna Skelly’s team. “I cannot believe it is not more heavily used” in North America. Maybe, says Ron, it has to do with the telecoil device — it’s hard to disguise you’re hearing impaired (which some people want to do) when using it.
Julia inspired everyone at city hall with her passion, hard work and attitude, Skelly says. Having met her I can agree. Julia is a true force — personable, articulate, a powerful ambassador for the cause.
“Not only did the motion pass unanimously,” says Skelly, “but council insisted on a standing recorded vote. Everyone got to know Julia and we’re so proud of her.”
She and Ron are featured, along with Jacquie Reid and Levi Janosi of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (Hamilton), in a YouTube video about the Hearing Loop and its adoption by council.
Says Skelly: “I realized (from Julia) how widespread hearing impairment is and what an impact the Loop could have on so many lives.”