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Art museum leads way for hearing impaired | LETTER TO THE EDITOR
To the editor:
When I moved to Bainbridge Island in 2010 I was stunned to discover that so few public places were accessible to me as a hearing impaired resident.
I struggled to find my place in a town that is quickly becoming my hometown of choice but was not able to participate in performing arts, library lectures, or events in what used to be called the Commons in Waterfront Park because of a lack of hearing assistive systems.
I was delighted to discover that our beautiful new museum of art has equipped its auditorium with a hearing assistive system. The museum staff has been very helpful in getting their system set up for patrons. If they have not yet posted a sign notifying patrons that assistive devices are available, you can ask for an assistive device when you arrive at the auditorium door. I can now take my personal loop and plug into their system or wear their headphones and hear every word. At last I was becoming a participant instead of a frustrated observer! I regularly drag friends and visitors to the museum for any event I can manage to attend.
The Bainbridge Island library has been working with board members from the Hearing Loss Association of America-Washington to write a grant to install an assistive system in their lecture room. Hopefully other local venues will follow as well.
Senior citizens make up about 60 percent of Bainbridge Island population. According to the National Institute on Aging, 18 percent of American adults 45-64 years old; 30 percent of adults 65-74 years old; and 47 percent of adults 75 years old, or older, have a hearing impairment — with the majority of those male.
However, hearing loss is increasing in the younger population at a high rate due to military service, ear buds and environment noise. A new national study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston has found that one in five adolescents now suffers some sort of hearing impairment. By increasing awareness and providing assistive listening systems, Bainbridge Island theaters, auditoriums, and public meeting places can enrich the lives of more of its citizens and can better utilize the resources that are lost when people with hearing loss are not involved in community events.
If you see a gray-haired woman with a big grin on her face in the BIMA auditorium, introduce yourself because I’m your neighbor!