Westport Library offers tech help for guests with hearing issues

The Westport Library's Trefz Forum. Taken July 10, 2019 in Westport, Conn.

The Westport Library's Trefz Forum. Taken July 10, 2019 in Westport, Conn.

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

WESTPORT — The Westport Library’s new service allows people with hearing difficulties to listen to live events or any other audio content being provided in the library’s Trefz Forum.

The service involves using a mobile phone app that streams live audio content via WiFi to any iOS or Android phone in the forum. Using a smartphone as a receiver allows the individual to connect to their listening device with an induction neck loop or over-ear headphones.

“We are delighted to provide this listening solution in the library’s forum,” said Executive Director Bill Harmer. “In addition to providing an improved experience for program attendees, whatever we have showing on the big LED screen — breaking news, sports events, and more — can now also be heard by an individual if they choose.”

The library has provided instructions on each table in the forum so patrons can connect to the audio app.

These kinds of systems have been installed in multiple colleges, sports venues and places of worship, but they aren’t commonly used in libraries, according to Travis Bell, recording studios manager for Verso Studios, which is Westport Library’s media resource and production hub.

Bell said the system can be integrated into nearly any existing public announcement system.

“The end user decides the practical application, whether that means easier listening for someone who is hard of hearing, or silent listening to media in a library next to a student without interruption,” he said. “This device and its base unit function just like a long range Bluetooth headset would. Except the (device) can work for hundreds of people simultaneously.”