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Tucsonans with hearing loss discuss audio problems at local venues

Tucsonans with hearing loss discuss audio problems at local venues
Posted at 6:26 PM, Dec 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-15 20:26:25-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — 'Wicked' is coming to Tucson’s Centennial Hall, but many people in the hard of hearing community say they're not able to enjoy the performances.

“It can be very frustrating, you’re looking forward to enjoying it, and you're not enjoying it,” said Sue Vardon, member of the Adult Loss of Hearing Association (ALOHA).

Vardon says ALOHA members have difficulty with the hearing aids at venues in Tucson, including Centennial Hall.

“They can’t consistently get it set up to work to where they know it's going to work, and that’s what the problem is,” Vardon said.

Centennial Hall’s system relies on the performers' sound boards to feed in audio of the performance. The problem is, these soundboards aren't usually in tune for the disabled community.

“There are a lot of microphones on stage so it would be putting the person talking versus the orchestra playing, the balance between those two," said Gary Lotze, Director of Operations at Centennial Hall. "If someone is hard of hearing, they might want to have those vocals a little higher, and be able to pull those out rather than having it mixed in with the music.”

ALOHA has pushed for a hearing aid that connects directly to the venue’s sound system. These would block out ambient noise and make it easier to hear the vocals of the performers. But this new system would require major changes.

“It's a big problem: cost is always an issue, but also the layout of the venue being very large has a lot of challenges to implementing a system into it,” Lotze said.

Despite these challenges Lotze says they’ll implement the system in the next renovation of the venue. But it sounds like that won’t be happening for a while.