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Assistive Listening…Have You Heard the Latest?

Most of us take hearing for granted these days. However, a large portion of the population in the U.S. (about 38% of those aged 12 or older) have some form of hearing loss. This equates to 1 in 8 people with some form of hearing loss. As a sound engineer who has relied on my ears for 30+ years working in the AV industry, I feel we need to take every step possible to assure those around us can hear as clearly as possible. There are more effective assistive listening technologies than ever before available today.

graph assistive listening

In the AV industry, we are in a unique position to promote products that can provide the hearing assistance needed by so many people. The choices range from loop systems to FM, IR, Bluetooth, digital, and Wi-Fi based systems, with the Wi-Fi systems gaining popularity as they allow the user to incorporate their own personal phone without need of an additional device. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) also requires public spaces to provide ALS (Assistive Listening System) to accommodate those who require it.

Not only do we provide audio systems that can amplify all content to an audience, but we also have tools to help those with more acute hearing loss. Intelligibility is one of the leading issues that ALS can help to overcome. Sound systems provide overall sound level increases but to those with hearing loss, the intelligibility of the human voice can still be a problem.

ALS systems can also have other uses. Tour guide systems and Interpretation Systems also use this technology very effectively. Let’s explore the latest technology available and how it can be both a vital addition to any audio system, as well as profit center for the integrator. The most recent addition to ALS is the BYOD solution, such as ListenEVERYWHERE® by Listen Technologies. This system utilizes Wi-Fi technology for use with any user’s personal smart device or a proprietary smart device provided, should a user require it. By using their own device, the ALS can be seamless, flexible, and invisible. This is much more desirable than a solution that forces them to use a receiver for a proprietary system.

According to Sam Nord, VP of Global Channel Sales for Listen Technologies, “Listen Everywhere has broadened the ability of venues to offer assistive listening because it allows users to choose the method in which they want to be accommodated. For example, we’ve seen a huge interest in Wi-Fi based assistive listening technology in the education sector, where so many of the students are already smartphone users, so accessing assistive listening via their Smart device is often a preferred method compared to having to ask for a hardware device and the logistics that sometimes go along with that. Similarly, in the House of Worship market, Wi-Fi based assistive listening allows venues to offer assistive listening to a much larger portion of their congregations than a hardware based system since anyone with a smart device now has access to the system. That said, the availability of Wi-Fi receivers allows those patrons who prefer to use a separate device for assistive listening to be accommodated as well.”

This has addressed some of the hurdles that remain, regarding where ALS systems are required. There is still some confusion about this. The ADA requirements vary from state to state and for different venues as well. Education, performing arts, government, and most public spaces base their system requirements on the number of attendees or a ratio of the total seating capacities. Churches, in many cases, also provide ALS systems as a part of their ministry, even if they are not required. With the more conventional systems, the facility was required to purchase a system with a percentage of receivers that are made available to those who need them. This tends to draw attention to users, and in many cases, causes some to avoid getting the hearing assistance they really need.

“The more the AV industry understands about this technology and provides for their customers rather than just checking a box of being ADA compliant, the more widely ALS will be used,” Nord continues. “With assistive listening, to make sure we are accommodating those who need this important technology, the one thing I always evangelize is being proactive in pushing assistive listening rather than being reactive. If you are specifying speakers, microphones, or other audio technology into a project, there is a high probability that there are folks who will be utilizing that system who would benefit from an assistive listening system, so ensuring there is a system available is the best thing you can do to encourage inclusion.”

The main point here is that ALS should be considered a part of any audio system in a venue when the system is in the design phase, just like loudspeakers, amplifiers, or any other components. As the AV industry fully understands the benefit of the assistive listening systems, this will encourage inclusion for all who attend an event, go to church, and learn in a classroom.

church audio solutions

The next step is easyContact Exertis Almo and we can assist with any Assistive Listening Technology you may need for your project or facility. We can provide complete design support and connect you with companies like Listen Technologies to assure you have the best solution for any application. There are many new products on the horizon and 2023 will include some compelling upgrades to offer even further capability for this vital technology.

References:
American Journal of Public Health
Sam Nord, VP of Global Channel Sales for Listen Technologies
John Fuqua

About the Author

John Fuqua | CTS, Dante

Business Development Manager

Supported Manufacturers: Audio Applications, Amplivox, Audix, Bose, Denon, Marantz, Rane, Shure, Sennheiser, Yamaha UC

Audio Product Diversity…Are You Prepared?

History of supply chain issues

As most who work in the current Professional and Commercial AV industry know, maintaining an inventory of audio products has become a daily exercise. The supply chain and chip issues continue to shape what products we have access to and how audio systems are implemented in many cases. Most manufacturers of products, such as wireless microphones, digital signal processors (DSP), and amplifiers are still experiencing lengthy product delays.

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To understand more, we must look back to some of the factors which led to this shortage. Covid-19 severely slowed production of either components or finished goods from Asia, and especially China, starting in 2019. This was exacerbated by a devastating fire at the AKM chip factory in Japan in 2020. This plant produced a large amount of the computer chips and DACs (digital audio converters) used in professional audio equipment. This slowed the production of audio components to a crawl. Another aspect was the “just in time” strategy that was employed over several years to provide products as they were needed, but no large inventory was stockpiled. This worked well if there were no delays in the supply chain, but when all these issues were coupled with shipping delays due to Covid throughout the world, the perfect storm was created in the global supply chain.

Demand has outpaced supply, and at this point, we will continue to see constraints of these products through 2023, according to the AV market watchers. Asia Pacific and the United States are the largest regions of growth, and the demand for wireless audio devices has continued to advance. With a large majority of the work force now working from home, either fully or partially, we are all using mobile devices, laptops, and other technology more than ever.

direct view LED panels

Many audio systems also use Dante network technology, developed by Audinate, to provide network interfaces that allow remote control and programming, as well as the transfer of audio signals. Most professional audio manufacturers have Dante capability embedded in their products for audio network compatibility. When you think of the growth of conference products, video bars, wireless microphone technology, and mobile devices, all of these use computer chips and require this technology to operate.

Understanding the importance of supply chain diversity

Today, one of the most critical aspects of commercial and professional audio equipment distribution is diversification. As a distributor, Exertis Almo is on the front lines of this ongoing battle to provide our customers with these products while the industry rebounds from the storm. Our team of Product Managers, Buyers, and Business Development Managers constantly monitor the supply chain of our vendors to assure we can supply the products that are needed for business today.

This is where product diversity plays a major role in the value-added proposition that we, as a distributor, provide to the integrator or dealer. As we close out 2022 and move into 2023, distributors work closely with audio manufacturers so we can provide products for all the applications our sales team’s customers engage in. Some manufacturers have avoided this by changing their technology and delivering products as soon as they become available. In many cases, project completion schedules dictate alternative products being procured to meet a deadline.

This is very evident with products such as wireless microphones, amplifiers, signal processing, and control systems. Exertis Almo continuously monitors our vendors supply chain, inventory, and delivery schedules to assure we have solutions for those instances when the specific audio product may not be available for a significant time. By working hand-in-hand with our customers, manufacturers, and our product management team, we can pivot quickly to find a solution for most applications.
This approach is proving invaluable to our customers. The diversity of audio products runs throughout our organization, from simple product orders to our services division. When an integrator calls on us to provide design and installation for a given project, we take the same approach of finding the best available solutions while understanding the time sensitivity involved.

What can Integrators do to help offset this problem?

Order equipment as early as possible for a given project

Be flexible in your design as you may have to pivot should a particular component have extended delays beyond the completion date of the project

Work hand-in-hand with your supplier or distributor to assure products are allocated and available in your completion time-frame

Remember that product diversity is critical when completing projects

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As the AV industry continues to navigate through this “storm,” all aspects of supply chain, manufacturing, and product diversity are being analyzed. From the diversity of chip manufacturers building new factories to launching new technologies, the future of the industry looks bright. The distribution of Commercial and Professional audio products will continue to be based on our relationships with manufacturers, our customers, and maintaining diversity both in our practices, as well as the products we provide, to assure the best results for every application.

So, when we say, “that product is constrained, but we will see what is available,” know that our team is making every effort to fulfill the customer’s needs and see that projects are completed and function with the highest degree of integrity. Product diversity is driving the AV market and will continue to be a common concern as we move through the medium to long-term future. While there are no silver bullets, the issues detailed here are front-of-mind and being addressed seriously, country by country. This is not a sprint, but a marathon that will make us stronger in the end. Let Exertis Almo be the resource you can depend on for your AV product needs!

John Fuqua

About the Author

John Fuqua | CTS, Dante

Business Development Manager

Supported Manufacturers: Audio Applications, Amplivox, Audix, Bose, Denon, Marantz, Rane, Shure, Sennheiser, Yamaha UC

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