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Wegmans Food Markets has begun installing induction hearing loop stations in its stores at pharmacy counters, customer service desks and designated checkout lanes to aid shoppers with hearing loss. So far, 16 of the grocery chain’s stores across its six-state footprint feature the hearing assistance systems, with plans to have them in all Wegmans stores by year end.
Induction hearing loops help people with a hearing aid or cochlear implant equipped with a telecoil (T-coil) hear speech more clearly. The hearing loop takes sound straight from the source and delivers it right into the listener’s ear. Already widely used in Europe, the systems are becoming more common in the United States, where about 70 percent of new hearing aids and all new cochlear implants have T-coils, noted Wegmans, citing figures from the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA).
“The beauty of induction loops is that they’re so unobtrusive,” said Matt Sawyer, who heads up the Wegmans IT team working on the installations. “They help those who can benefit, while others in the area are usually unaware of the hearing loop’s presence. Those with hearing loss don’t have to ask others to speak up, because the system helps them hear speech more clearly.”
Over the past year, Wegmans piloted the technology at several stores near its Rochester, N.Y., headquarters, collaborating with audiovisual specialist Joseph Barone to design and install the hearing loop stations.