Rodef Shalom Congregation has made two updates to its synagogue building this month. An audio induction loop, also known as a hearing aid loop, was installed in the main sanctuary and two additional automatic door openers were added upstairs.
The loop is a hidden cable around the sanctuary that generates a magnetic field picked up by a hearing aid and allows sound to be transmitted to the hearing-impaired listener clearly and free of other distracting noise in the environment.
“People with hearing aids have difficulty hearing through a normally amplified loudspeaker,” said Bob Rosenthal, chairman of the building committee. “Some of them brought to our attention a device called the hearing loop, which … produces a much clearer sound.”
The system, which has been used in Europe for years, was recently installed at Temple Emanu-El in New York.
The system works with hearing aids that have a telecoil — or T-coil — a tiny coil of wire that induces an electric current when near a changing magnetic field. The T-coil enables users to experience a significant improvement in the clarity of sounds.
But older hearing aids don’t have T-coils, Rosenthal said. And those units that do don’t always have them activated. Rosenthal suggested users consult their audiologists.
For now, the audio loop is installed in the main sanctuary only, though Rodef Shalom spokeswoman Lauren Wolcott said its inclusion committee could consider expanding the system to other parts of the building at a later date.
“The acoustics in most of the building are much better,” Wolcott said, “but because the sanctuary is a historic landmark — it’s over 100 years old — that’s where the most challenging acoustics are.”
Rodef Shalom’s older infrared system for the hard of hearing will continue to be in use.
The automatic doors were installed on the second floor, near the rabbis’ offices, Wolcott said. Automatic doors are already at the main entrances.
Rodef Shalom has been steadily upgrading its accessibility for some time.
In 2011, it completed a new handicapped-accessible bima in the main sanctuary that slopes into the seating area and removes impediments of the old pulpit.
And its 2003 building renovation project was completed, including modernizing the preschool and religious school, classrooms, improving handicapped access throughout the building.
In addition to the building committee, Rosenthal credited the technology committee, chaired by Peter Rosenfeld, for bringing the hearing aid loop project to fruition.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)