Having hearing loss shouldn’t stop you from going to the theatre. Most theatres have either a hearing loop or an infrared listening system. There are also captioned and BSL interpreted performances.
Assistive technology varies at different theatres and for different performances. Before booking tickets, it’s a good idea to contact the theatre or check its website to see what it provides.
A hearing loop lets you hear the performance more clearly through your hearing aid or cochlear implant (CI). You’ll need to switch your hearing aid or CI to the hearing loop setting (also known as the ‘T’ setting or program).
The signal from the hearing loop should cover all seating areas. There may be areas in a theatre where the signal is weaker and your hearing aid may not pick it up properly. Ask for the best places to sit for the hearing loop when you book your tickets.
Infrared systems send a signal to receivers. You’ll need your own individual receiver, which will usually be available on request at the customer service kiosk or by asking a member of staff. At some theatres, you need to book the receiver in advance.
You wear the receiver like a lanyard. It will have an on/off control and volume adjustment. Some receivers are specifically designed for hearing aids and cochlear implants. It will be necessary to switch your hearing aid or CI to the hearing loop setting.
The receiver creates a magnetic field around the top half of the body. Because of this, there’s a small chance it will interfere with a pacemaker. If you use a pacemaker, you should seek medical advice before you use an infrared receiver.
It’s possible to use headphones with some receivers. This can improve the listening experience for people who have hearing loss but don’t use hearing aids.
The receiver has to be in line of sight of the infrared transmitter. Solid objects, such as an internal pillar, will block the signal. Ask for the best place to sit for the infrared system when you book your tickets.
Stagetext, a registered charity, provides captioning and live subtitling to theatres and other venues.
A large screen either on, above, below or to the side of the stage shows the captions. There’s no special equipment to collect before the start of the performance.
To view a list of upcoming captioned talks, opera and theatre performances, visit the Stagetext website.
Some theatres provide a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter. The interpreter stands where they are easy to see. They interpret speech, singing and other audible parts of the performance, such as sound effects.
Theatre Sign provides BSL signers. Its website lists upcoming BSL signed performances in London and across the UK. Find out more on the TheatreSign website.