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KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) — For years, Bill Waggoner watched a woman at his church slowly lose her hearing, until one day she could no longer hear the sermon at all.
"She was very frustrated," he told the Kokomo Tribune (http://bit.ly/1aduqBX ). "There were times she was so frustrated she'd just get up and walk out. She couldn't understand it."
Her church, Brookside Free Methodist in Kokomo, wanted to help. People there knew by helping this one woman, they could help the whole community, he said.
So last week the church installed a hearing loop in its sanctuary. It cost $7,000 for the system, but for optimal sound, the church will have to spend a little more to upgrade its sound system, said Waggoner, an administrative assistant at the church.
The hearing loop uses a part already installed in most hearing aids and cochlear implants to amplify and clarify sound for the hearing impaired.
A hearing aid simply magnifies all of the sound that goes through it, and often there is so much background noise that all you hear is garbled sounds, Waggoner said. But when you activate a part in the hearing aid called a T-coil and you're within the boundaries of a hearing loop, you hear only what is being amplified through a sound system, like music or a sermon.
The hearing aid basically acts as a wireless loudspeaker.
Before the church bought the system, Waggoner and the woman who inspired the project took a trip to Fort Wayne to experience another church's hearing loop.
"When they turned the system on and started talking, watching her face was like watching a kid in the candy store," Waggoner said. "Her eyes just got as big as saucers."
He said it delivered customized sound directly to her ears. It's like having the speaker sitting right on your shoulder.
"That's how it's been described to me," he said.
People in Fort Wayne are working to make the city the first in the United States to have a hearing loop in all of its public buildings, Waggoner said. Right now, though, these systems aren't in many places.
He said there are about 17 in the state by his estimation.
Brookside's is the first loop in Kokomo that he's aware of. But Waggoner said he would encourage others to consider it. It can make a big difference for those who suffer from hearing loss.
To the people at Brookside, the $7,000 was well spent.
"We think it's very important," he said. "It's just another outreach. The hearing impaired deserve to hear the Gospel, too."
Information from: Kokomo Tribune, http://www.ktonline.com