Iron River Library installs communication system for hard of hearing

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Libraries do a lot more than check out books.

The Iron River Library is now offering a communication system for people who are hard of hearing. It connects wirelessly to the telecoil, a part in someone’s hearing aid or cochlear implant.

When someone talks into a small microphone, the sound is piped directly into the hearing device.

"Our patrons can use it … at the desk, so they can hear what’s going on. Because I have to admit that this is one of the noisier libraries, which is a happy noise," Library Board President Cassie Fleming said. "We love that."

The system is also available in the library’s conference room, and it can connect to Zoom if a meeting has a virtual element.

Librarian Jacquie Pooler wears hearing aids herself and says this system will allow more people to participate.

"When you’re hard of hearing, you don’t want to constantly be saying, ‘What was that? Could you repeat that?’ And you have a tendency to just kind of step back and just hope you hear most of it so you can get the message across," Pooler said, "where this allows the message to come through very clearly and you can be a part of the meeting and really express yourself and really get the full ideas of what’s going on."

Bayfield County’s Building Stronger Libraries grant program paid for the installation. It’s free for library guests to use, and the meeting space can be booked even after the library is closed.

Earlier in May, state Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) and members of the Wisconsin chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America visited to see the system and learn more about improving hearing accommodations in public buildings.

According to the HLAA, approximately 48 million Americans experience some hearing loss.