Audio loop system for hearing aid users installed at retail stores in Sudbury
4 Your Independent Grocer locations, 2 Giant Tiger locations have the technology
It's now easier for hearing aid users in Sudbury, Ont., to understand what a cashier is saying to them at the grocery store.
The Sudbury branch of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association has teamed up with two retailers to install a hearing loop system at cash registers in stores.
Also known as a frequency induction loop system, a hearing loop is a wireless system that sends signals to individuals' hearing aids. The hearing aid must be equipped with a telecoil (t-coil), small copper wire that acts like an antenna.
"I like to say they have a speaker in their ear," said Joe Stacknik, hearing awareness co-ordinator in Sudbury. He explained that a microphone is near the cashier. The system sends a signal to a customer's hearing aid when they're standing by the checkout, to amplify what the cashier is saying.
"The cashier doesn't have to do anything — they just have to do their job," he said. "They don't have to bend over to talk into the mic or anything like that."
People with hearing issues may face challenges in loud public settings. During the pandemic, mask use and Plexiglas barriers have added to the challenges.
"People with hearing loss were struggling — even people without hearing loss were struggling to hear people in masks and behind barriers," Stacknik said.
Hearing loop systems have now been set up at four Your Independent Grocer locations in Greater Sudbury, as well as two Giant Tiger locations. There are plans to set the system up at the Independent Grocer in Espanola, as well as at FreshCo.
The Sudbury Theatre Centre is already set up with the technology. A few local churches have hearing loops, and the Places des Art building will have the systems installed once it opens.
"Sudbury's been kind of the test market, but we're going to go throughout northeastern Ontario. That is the big picture for us," Stacknik said, adding that there are plans to install the system in North Bay, Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie.
With files from Sarah MacMillan