Sertoma’s Donation Improves Communication in South Carolina Community

Service workers at the Lexington Chamber of Commerce in Lexington, South Carolina, install the new hearing loop that was partially paid for by the Lexington Sertoma Club, Feb. 3, 2016.

February 25, 2016

Social events, both small and large, help create a sense of belonging and unity within communities. We may not always realize it, but at times, individuals with hearing loss can feel isolated, or left out during social events simply because of communication limitations.

Approximately 20% of Americans have hearing loss, and even those with hearing aids are not always able to understand or hear speech effectively in large group settings.

In order to compensate, and break down these communication barriers, specific types of technology called “hearing looping systems” are now being implemented into public vicinities to accommodate those that have hearing loss.

This technology allows public places to ensure that sounds can be heard clearly and concisely by individuals with hearing loss regardless of their seating location.

Here’s how it works. The majority of hearing aids are manufactured to include a telecoil or “t-coil.”  Once this technology is turned on with a hearing loop system, it is designed to send the speaker’s voice directly into the recipient’s hearing aids, providing outstanding clarity to those with hearing loss.

Recently, the Lexington Sertoma Club of Lexington, South Carolina, recognized a growing need of improved public communication, and decided to take action by donating $3,000 to the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center.

This generous donation was able to fund half the cost and installation of a brand new hearing loop, which was installed by the American Hearing Loop of Greenville, South Carolina, in the large Agape Community Room in the Chamber offices. The community room is around 1,800 square feet, and fits around 250 people. It can be rented by the public and is most frequently used for: trainings, receptions, award ceremonies, baby showers, wedding receptions, church group meetings and seminars.

Melanie Sandor, the financial and operations manager at the Chamber of Commerce said she is extremely excited about the incorporation of this new technology.

“We did not having any hearing related assistance before,” Sandors said. “I know it will help a lot of people. I’m also hoping that we will inspire other public venues to incorporate hearing looping systems as well.”

Peter Balsamo, the vice president for hearing health of the Lexington Sertoma Club, is also hopeful that this donation will positively influence individuals and inspire other public venues to take initiative and promote hearing health in their community.

“I hope people will use the hearing loop system,” Balsamo said. “It’s also the perfect place to educate people about what the hearing loop system is for individuals who have hearing aids and cochlear implants, including their families and co-workers. We are very pleased.”

Incorporating hearing looping systems into public facilities helps make life and social events more enjoyable for individuals that have hearing loss, according to David Bitters, an active member of the community and advocate of hearing health.

“Older age folks are becoming isolated, because they are not able to hear anything in public places,” Bitters said. “People get discouraged. I can relate. We need to implement the hearing loop system technology that is out there, and we need people with hearing loss to request it.”

Bitters has been a hearing aid user for 35 years, and has also had multiple implants to improve his hearing. He was present during the construction process of the new hearing loop system, and was one of the first individuals to test it personally. He said the system did not sound good, or even great, but that the sound was perfect!

A plaque will be hung in the front of the Chamber office to honor the Sertoma members and their donation to the facility. Thanks to the help of Sertoma members, individuals of the Lexington community will now have a public venue with an open source of clear communication for individuals with hearing loss.

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