LEWISTON — Newly hidden coils and wires beneath the performance hall at the Franco-American Heritage Center may soon give crystal clear sound to patrons with hearing problems.
On Friday, workers from a Lowell, Mass., company completed installing a kind of wireless hot spot that can transmit an audio signal to people with high-end hearing aids.
The change will affect people whose aids include a telecoil or “T-coil,” a copper coil inside the device that picks up the audio signal. By pushing a button or flipping a switch on the device, the audience member shuts off the part of the aid that amplifies nearby sounds and turns on the tiny speaker.
The first use of the technology will be Saturday at a concert by the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra, said Louis Morin, the center’s executive director.
In hearing aides, the technology is surprisingly widespread, said technician Edy DeSilva of Shanahan Intelligent Sound and Video Integration of Lowell. However, it is slowly being introduced around the region.
The Lowell company installed a similar “hearing loop” systems 17 times last year, outfitting several rooms in the Massachusetts State House, in a performance space at the Peterborough Playhouse in New Hampshire and in a function hall at Bowdoin College in Brunswick.
The Franco Center installation, which cost about $11,000, was paid for with a donation by the Central Maine Hearing Center at Central Maine Medical Center.
The installation took about two days. Copper strips and coils buried beneath the carpet and under the floor create a loop around the lower half of the performance hall.
Only people seated within that circle will be able to use the service. Columns in the hall prevented the technicians from extending the loop around the whole seating area.
On Friday morning, Morin tested the sound system with a handset and headphones that can tap into the signal. Several sets will be available to patrons to use during performances.
Morin can’t wait to see the effect on patrons when they turn on the signal for the first time, he said.
“I can’t wait for the aha moment,” he said.