As a lifelong professional broadcaster, Mike Langner truly values the ability to hear and the quality of sound. That’s why this OASIS participant and instructor recently donated and installed technology that makes it possible for hearing-aid users to experience crystal clear sound in their OASIS classes.
Langner donated the equipment and installation of a Hearing Loop in the Albuquerque OASIS classroom at Macy’s in the Coronado Center. The Hearing Loop is an assistive listening system for hearing-aid users that utilizes a coil inside the hearing aid. The coil wirelessly receives the sound from the classroom instructor or audio presentation directly into their hearing device, eliminating background sound and other distractions.
“I joined the ‘hard-of-hearing community’ myself kicking and screaming,” says Langer, 69, who began to experience age-related hearing loss in his 50s. “Since I spent my entire life in broadcasting, I began investigating how I could hear better, which led me to look into how others could hear better, too.”
Langner has been an OASIS participant in Albuquerque for many years and has taught several classes, including one on the history of radio broadcasting. He says he knows from experience in the classroom that many hearing-aid users struggle to hear the instructors, missing words when an instructor drops his/her voice or turns away or mumbles.
Michael Nutkiewicz, OASIS-Albuquerque Executive Director, said that the organization was aware of the difficulty many students had with hearing in the classroom, but there wasn’t really a good solution.
“We’d try to crank up the sound, but then that was uncomfortable for other participants,” he says. “Then out of the blue, Mike offered to donate this technology that is very non-intrusive and it works wonders for our hearing-aid wearers.”
Barb Katz, a regular OASIS participant and hearing-aid wearer, served as the “guinea pig” for the new system and said she can’t believe the difference. “It’s the best I’ve ever heard,” she says. “Sometimes, my husband would come to class with me and I’d lean over and ask him, ‘what did he say?’ Now, I can hear perfectly because the sound goes directly to my hearing aid. I’m trying to find other places in Albuquerque that have this technology.”
Langner says the Hearing Loop technology is very popular in Europe and is starting to gain popularity in the United States, but mostly on the coasts. The system is simple and involves running a wire around the room, often out of sight behind molding, and then connecting that wire to an amplifier. People wearing more modern hearing aids have t-coils inside their devices, and they can simply flip a switch to hear the sound being transmitted to the coil.
Many museums and art galleries use similar technology for self-guided tours, according to Langner. And he has donated similar systems to local churches and theatres, and even done presentations on the system to the Hearing Loss Association of America at its national convention in Washington, D.C.
“A lot of people don’t even know they are wearing hearing aids with this capability because their audiologist never told them,” he says.
Nutkiewicz says OASIS is very appreciative of Langner’s contributions, both in the classroom and by way of this technology. “He is a very talented, giving and accommodating individual and we’re lucky to have volunteers like him.”