Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer. Dan MacQuarrie, who does not want hearing loss to isolate people, puts his finger to the button that connects his hearing aid to his cell phone.

The fight to hear

Workshop to look at making public spaces more accessible to the hard of hearing.

Dan MacQuarrie was at an event about a year-and-a-half ago where one person was interviewing another in a theatre setting.

At a punchline in the exchange, the crowd burst out in laughter. But not MacQuarrie. He had no idea what had just been said.

“This is the problem. It sneaks up on you,” he says. “You keep denying you have a hearing problem. You can hear certain things, so it’s not that you’re deaf.”

He says the stigma attached to being hard of hearing is considerable.

“People know that once you can’t hear, you can’t exist.”

MacQuarrie sees it as a justice issue.

“It’s a disability, we have a disability act for the province and for the country, and there is no place in there yet for loss of hearing as a disability. On top of that, in Britain they have had it in their health-care system for many, many years.”

The number of innovations that can assist people who are hard of hearing is increasing, he says.

Last October MacQuarrie made a presentation to Salmon Arm council, asking if they would consider installing an Auris Loop in city hall.

Auris Hearing Loops work in conjunction with hearing aids fitted with telecoils, which most are. The t-coil receives the signal via wireless from the hearing loop, eliminating problems such as background noise or low volume.

“It washes the sound clean and puts it in my ear. Now I can hear every syllable. All you have to do is go to your audiologist and make sure the t-coil is turned on.”

MacQuarrie points out that the city has installed the loop, some of the churches have, the theatre has and “now it needs to go other places.”

He says to put the Auris Loop in the two large buildings at the United Church in Salmon Arm cost $2,600 total.

“It’s not like you need to spend thousands of dollars and do all that work – that’s what we’re missing.”

He also points to the issue of privacy in a waiting room, for instance. Everyone talks loudly to the person who is hard of hearing, often disclosing private information.

And for businesses, demonstrating that they understand and will accommodate the needs of people who are hard of hearing can only benefit them.

To help raise awareness of the ways to make public spaces more accessible to people who are hard of hearing, and to explore the technology available, the MacQuarrie Institute is helping to organize and sponsor a workshop on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 9 a.m. to noon at the First United Church hall, 450 Okanagan Ave. Participants are asked to register by Oct. 18 at or by phone at 250-804-2726. It’s free admission and space is limited.

MacQuarrie says the person who has the difficulty has to do their share, as does society, for the technology to work.

“It’s a two-way street, people have to help each other.”

MacQuarrie has a type of electronic button he wears on his chest. It’s attached to his hearing aid by wifi, which connects his hearing aid to his iPhone. He just has to ask it to connect him to his daughter, or to 9-1-1, if necessary. Voila, he hears his daughter’s voice in his ear.

Withdrawal from the world is how losing hearing often affects people, he points out.

“If someone has a hearing disability, they shouldn’t be shunned and kept out of the loop. We still want to be part of society,” he says, noting the philosophy of a lot of places is to put the old horse out to pasture and then feed it and entertain it. “What we want to do is continue to be part of society, continue to participate.”


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