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Shedd Aquarium Install Hearing Loop to Expand Access to People with Hearing Loss

August 04, 2020

Ticketing counter at Shedd Aquarium with plexiglass barrier. Guest and staff member wear a face covering or mask. Hearing loop is prominently featured.

When Shedd Aquarium reopened its doors to the public with new safety precautions in place, it also installed a new hearing loop at the membership desk and ticketing counter in the Accessible Entrance, to expand access to guests with hearing loss. A hearing loop is a sound system that provides a wireless signal picked up when any hearing device is set to ‘T’ Telecoil setting. With new plexiglass barriers for interactions like ticket purchasing, where social distancing might not be possible and a face covering requirement, the hearing loop is especially valuable to ensure guests with hearing aids or cochlear implants can seamlessly interact with Shedd’s staff.

Improving clarity and understanding by bringing sound directly to a listener’s hearing aid, the hearing loop is compatible and universal. Further, it can help cut out unwanted background noise that even a reduced crowd size can sometimes create at the aquarium.

“As one of the most popular paid cultural organizations in Chicago, it’s incredibly important to us that we continue to find ways to make our experiences more widely accessible and inclusive, and this new offering will help guests who have hearing loss at a very early point in their visit,” said Sarah Hezel, Vice President of Design and Exhibits at Shedd Aquarium.

In addition to the hearing loops, Shedd offers closed captioning for its 4-D Experience in the Phelps Auditorium and arranges American Sign Language interpreters with two weeks’ notice for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing.

BACKGROUND: This offering is part of Shedd Aquarium’s suite of growing and evolving accessibility initiatives. To learn more about accessibility resources, visit sheddaquarium.org/accessibility.

VISUALS: High resolution photos of the hearing loop at the aquarium and President of the Chicago Lincoln Park Chapter of Hearing Loss Association of America, Deirdre Keane, testing the hearing loop at Shedd are available for download: https://personal.filesanywhere.com/fs/v.aspx?v=8e6a698a5b636eb6aba2.

Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez