Foxes have excellent hearing and can detect when a rodent is scurrying underground or beneath several feet of snow.
So it’s perhaps fitting that the stop-motion animation film "Fantastic Mr. Fox" will be the first movie in Utah screened with sound-enhancing "looping" technology.
Front row seat
Utahns with hearing loss are invited hear “Fantastic Mr. Fox” in all its “wild animal craziness” on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Tower Theatre, 876 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City. The theater is the first in Utah to install an assisted listening device known as a loop.
Hearing loops wirelessly (electromagnetically) pipe sound into a hearing aid or cochlear implant, cutting out the peripheral noise that can make it hard for people with hearing loss to enjoy movies or concerts.
Though popular in Europe, looping has been slow to catch on in the U.S., where demand is high for smaller, cosmetically appealing hearing aids that often don’t work with the technology, said Marilyn Call, director of Utah’s Division of Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City is the first movie house in Utah to get "looped" with a donation from Loop Utah, an organization Call started to encourage adoption of the technology by public schools and libraries, courthouses, concert halls, places of worship –– even banks, grocery stores and taxicabs.
The Tower will test-drive its system at a free screening of "Fantastic Mr. Fox" Wednesday at 7 p.m.; those interested in attending are asked to RSVP to Jenefer Reudter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s a chance for hearing aid wearers to experience all their telecoil, or "T-Coil" has to offer, said Call.
A telecoil is a type of sensor that exists in cochlear implants and some of the larger hearing aids, said Call.
Looping systems take a signal from a sound source, such as a microphone or movie sound system, and pipe it through a copper wire that loops the audience (usually installed in the floor of a room) directly to the telecoil in a person’s hearing aid. Sound is delivered directly into the inner ear without all the background noise.
The technology has existed for decades but has become more available in recent years, Call said. Depending on the size of the room, installing it can range in cost from $300 to tens of thousands of dollars, she said.
Alternative technologies exist, but require people to check out special devices.
"Looping is just amazing. We installed a system at the Sanderson Community Center [in Taylorsville] and there was a girl with a cochlear implant on one side and a hearing aid on the other who realized through the loop that she could hear speech again," said Call. "You can actually hear better through the loop."
About 17 percent of Americans, or 36 million people, have some degree of hearing loss, according to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Recent changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act require installation of assisted listening systems in all newly constructed or updated facilities with "assembly areas."
Loop Utah is considering seeking a legislative resolution encouraging audiologists and doctors to talk to consumers about telecoils and looping.
"A lot of them want to sell the most expensive hearing aid, which don’t always work" with looping systems, said Call.
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