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New system makes sermons loud and clear

The members of Rosemount’s First Baptist Church have one less excuse for not paying attention during services.

The church recently completed installation of a hearing loop system, a sort of super-localized broadcast service that will send sound directly from the church’s sound system to the hearing aids of church members, or to special receivers members can buy or borrow.

The system consists of a wire loop around the floor of the church’s auditorium. Inside that loop, a signal is sent to the telecoil inside specially-equipped hearing aids. Outside the loop, there’s nothing.

“Basically, it’s like having a set of headphones on,” said Stephen Helder, the church’s facilities manager. “It’s like having your head in the speaker, but even closer than that.”

A growing number of hearing aids are equipped with telecoils, though some might not be turned on. For people who don’t have the appropriate hearing aid the church will have a handful of iPod-sized receivers available to borrow.

Some of First Baptist’s older members suggested the system because they’ve had trouble hearing during services. Some had stopped attending, or had started staying home to watch the Internet stream of the service so they could turn up the volume on their computer.

“People won’t come to church if they can’t hear,” Helder said.

More than half of the system’s $10,000-plus cost was paid for by donations from church members.

Helder expects the new system to benefit 10 to 20 people at every service, at least at the beginning. He hopes that as word spreads more people who have trouble hearing in church will come to take advantage.

The system was up and running for the church’s Wednesday service last week. So far, reviews have been good.

“We have gotten nothing but positive feedback,” Helder said. “They’re now hearing things that they haven’t heard in our church services for years…. Even with hearing aids, you’re still missing certain tones and qualities they couldn’t pick up.”

That creates some new challenges for Helder, who is also the church’s choir director.

“I told the choir yesterday, you’ve got to really sound good now because there’s about 20 people out here who haven’t heard you sing,” he said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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