Many of us take for granted being able to clearly hear the sermon during worship. There are likely to be individuals in your congregation who have mild to severe hearing loss. It can be quite difficult for them to hear the sermon, the music, and the voices of those around them. Hearing loss doesn’t just affect the elderly. People of all ages experience it.
Loss of hearing can quickly isolate individuals in your congregation. Unable to hear, they stop participating in conversations around them. They may stop coming altogether, preferring to listen to worship services on television where the volume can be turned up loudly.
Here are a few steps to take as you consider hearing accommodations for your church:
Observe your congregation. Individuals with hearing loss may find it easier to hear the sermon from the foyer or an adjacent room where acoustics are better. Notice anyone who slips out when the sermon begins or who has difficulty participating in conversations. Consider who has recently stopped coming.
Consider printing the sermons. Some churches may not have available funds to change their microphone systems. Consider approaching your pastor about possibly printing his sermon for congregants with hearing loss. The sermon text, perhaps in large print, could greatly buoy someone’s ability to worship.
Look at room lighting. Many people with hearing loss develop the skill of reading lips. Lipreading is much more challenging with a pastor behind a pulpit, but it can be nearly impossible in bad lighting. If lights are dim or the pastor stands in a shadow, consider adding a light that illuminates his face.
Consider floor and ceiling. Hardwood floors and high ceilings make for acoustical difficulties. For churches preparing to build or remodel, these are crucial considerations. Without compromising beauty, there are ways to strategically improve sound transmission via floor and ceiling choices.
Try smaller rooms for mid-week services. While it is impossible to move Sunday morning and evening worship from the sanctuary, it is often possible to hold mid-week services in a smaller room with better acoustics.
Utilize hearing assistive technology (HAT). Typical hearing aids amplify almost all sounds and cannot separate sound you want to hear from background noise. HAT overcomes challenging acoustics by transmitting sound signals to a person’s own hearing aid, headphones, or other devices. Hearing loop systems are the most common solutions among churches. The Hearing Loss Association of America has some excellent resources on available HAT options.
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