BUCKSPORT — Northeast Historic Film, which operates the Alamo Theatre in Bucksport, is installing a hearing loop in the theatre thanks to a $6,000 grant from the Hancock County Fund of the Maine Community Foundation.
The grant will match a $12,000 gift from an anonymous donor, which combined provides enough funding to install the hearing loop. Hearing loops bring sound directly and discreetly into a listener’s telecoil-enabled hearing aid or cochlear implant, improving clarity and understanding. No headset or other equipment is required.
“We want the Alamo Theatre to be a community center that works for all residents and visitors. We are proud to be handicapped-accessible and do our best to provide a safe and welcoming atmosphere for everyone,” said Theatre Manager Jane Donnell.
Although the Alamo has an infrared system to provide sound to headsets that is free and available to patrons, the headsets have serious shortcomings for many people with hearing impairments. For example, they only amplify the sound without providing any EQ adjustments and because of the amplification they do not work with hearing aids that also amplify sound, which is ironic and frustrating. Donnell explains, “If one is hard of hearing, but does not have hearing aids, the infrared system and headsets are very helpful and because of that we will continue to make the option available.” For those who do have hearing aids, the loop system is a “major positive step,” Donnell said.
“As a community gathering place, we feel it is important to be as inclusive as possible,” said Northeast Historic Film Executive Director David Weiss. “People with hearing impairments, particularly the elderly, may withdraw if they have difficulty understanding a movie or following a discussion. Disengagement raises the risk of their becoming socially isolated and we all lose the benefit of their participation.”
Although the Alamo is currently closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the funding in hand, the work is being scheduled.
“It is sad to have the theatre closed, but the installation would have forced us to close for two weeks in normal times, so I suppose it’s a bit of a silver lining,” Donnell said.