Tibbits Opera House now offers the newest technology in hearing assistance thanks to the generous support of the F. Harold & Lillian Creal Endowment Fund of the Branch County Community Foundation.
American Loop Services of Shelby, Michigan has installed an induction loop throughout the theatre auditorium to enhance the sound for patrons with an activated telecoil or T-coil in their hearing aids or cochlear devices. The induction loop is part one of a two-step process to improve the listening experience at the historic theatre.
According to Scott Peyton of American Loop Services, “Anyone with a telecoil-compatible hearing aid can use the system at Tibbits without additional equipment. They simply switch their existing hearing aid to the ‘telecoil’ position and they are wired directly into the sound system.” Peyton adds, “Intelligibility is greatly increased because the distance between the speaker and the listener is bridged and background or environmental noise is almost eliminated; there is no echo or distortion produced by the room and sound system.” Most hearing devices are equipped with the technology though some users may need to have their audiologist activate the program.
Listening devices utilizing the same technology are available for those without hearing aids who would like to enhance the sound. Through the Creal grant additional devices were purchased. Patrons have the choice of an over the ear speaker, a clip on device, or they may bring their own ear buds or headphones to plug into the small rectangular transmitter box.
Tibbits Opera House, built in 1882, reflects a rare vintage theatre with excellent natural acoustics. Within its preservation efforts the theatre strives to maintain the unique experience of the building as it was originally intended while overcoming the challenges of time. White noise in the building from heating and cooling systems, air handlers, and the ever-present motor vehicle traffic outside add white noise in the theatre. While easily ignored, the noise actually interferes with the building’s natural acoustics. Through the addition of the induction loop, those most affected by background noise will now be able to have it filtered.
Additional improvements through the coming weeks include the addition of reflective surfaces in the orchestra pit and other locations in the auditorium. These modifications, none of which affect the historic character of the building, will provide specific improvement for voices in musicals presented with live music in the orchestra pit. The theatre’s pit was designed for the style of theatre prevalent in the 1800s. Modern instruments are louder, however, and the instrumentation for today’s musical theatre requires more instruments and a fuller sound. The modifications are intended to reflect the orchestra sound away from the audience and back to the performers while helping the performer’s voices reach the audience.
Tibbits has been working with Carl Giegold of Threshold Acoustics from Chicago on the modifications. Giegold will be attending performances this summer to take sound measurements to evaluate and adjust the modifications.
According to Tibbits Executive Director Christine Delaney, “Improving the sound experience in the theatre is not about making anything louder. It’s about improving clarity so we can experience what’s truly special about this building.” She adds, “Turning up the volume can actually create more problems as the theatre already has a resonance. For example with live music concerts we struggle to turn the amplified volume down so the sound isn’t distorted.”
The first opportunity to experience the new induction loop happens this week as Tibbits Summer Theatre opens “Driving Miss Daisy.” For more information on Tibbits sound enhancements, the upcoming shows, or to purchase tickets call 517-278-6029 or visit Tibbits.org. Tibbits Opera House is located at 14 South Hanchett Street, Coldwater.
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