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Movie Theaters to Provide Neck Loops for People with Hearing Loss

Movie Theaters to Provide Neck Loops for People with Hearing Loss

By John Waldo

August 2012

As many of you know, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the Arizona Center for Disability Law recently entered into a settlement with Cinemark movie theaters under which Cinemark agreed to provide assistive listening neck loops that are compatible with the telecoils in hearing aids and cochlear implants. Cinemark did so even though it is already providing caption-viewing equipment at its Arizona theaters.

In the wake of that agreement, I inquired as to whether Cinemark was going to provide those loops on a nationwide basis, and also asked whether AMC and Regal intend to do likewise. I am pleased to report that all three of those chains will deploy those devices nationwide as they roll out their conversion to digital projection. Those devices will be deployed in addition to the closed captioning that the three chains have agreed to install on a nationwide basis.

That commitment to install t-coil compatible neck loops will provide a valuable supplement to captioning. First, not all movies and none of the previews come to the theaters with captions provided by the studios. For those of us with t-coils in our hearing aids and/or CIs, the neck loops will dramatically improve our ability to access the non-captioned offerings at movie theaters.

Second, the CaptiView viewing devices that Cinemark has deployed and AMC is planning to install required viewers to glance down at the captions and then back to the screen. Those viewing devices have been well received by hard-of-hearing individuals who can understand some of the dialog and only need to glance down at the captions to see what they may have missed. But those devices have been poorly received by individuals with more significant losses, who need to rely on the captions to a greater degree, and who experience eye-strain from needing to glance back and forth and adjust their focal length. Using the neck loops in conjunction with the CaptiView devices may make those devices workable for more of us than is presently the case.

Regal is rolling out its Sony viewing glasses that project the captions onto special glasses that fit over ordinary eyeglasses. I am told that the Sony system also can support neck loops, and Regal is providing those loops as it deploys the Sony system. What is unclear to me is whether the neck loop can plug into the very same receiver that drives the glasses, or whether we would need an additional receiver to use both the glasses and the loops. If the latter is the case, I suspect we may find it a bit cumbersome to use both the glasses and the loops at the same time. Should that prove to be the case, our choices then might be between the Regal/Sony glasses and the CaptiView/neck loop tandem available at Cinemark and soon the be available at AMC.

The theaters may not yet have found the perfect solution to access for people with hearing loss, but they are doing considerably better now than they have in the past. I would hope that these advances encourage more of us to get us back into the movie theaters.

John Waldo