Yesterday was a belt and suspenders type of day with my hearing loss. I was headed to the critically acclaimed production of The Ferryman on Broadway. I love theater and often attend open captioned performances sponsored by TDF, but sometimes no such performances are available. Lucky for me other accessibility options are increasingly common on Broadway, including infrared headsets, the GalaPro closed captioning app, and sometimes even a hearing loop.
For those not familiar with the term, belt and suspenders is an adjective defined by Merriam-Webster as “involving or employing multiple methods or procedures to achieve a desired result especially out of caution or fear of failure.” In other words, it means having more than one method to make sure your pants stay up, or in my case, more than one method of hearing technology.
I certainly needed a belt and suspender approach to The Ferryman. It is performed over 3 hours and 15 minutes including one intermission and a brief 3 minute pause to reset the stage. The play takes place in Northern Ireland and all the performers speak with a thick accent. The combination of the show’s length — a high risk for hearing loss exhaustion — and the challenging inflection meant I would need significant hearing assistance.
I chose to use an infrared listening headset in combination with the GalaPro captioning app, hoping the two together would suffice. Given the longer than typical lines to return hearing devices at the end of the show, I think others may have had the same idea.
The strategy worked well. Whenever I missed dialogue, I glanced down at my smart phone to utilize the captioning. GalaPro’s synchronicity is not always perfect, but using it in addition to another hearing enhancement device worked pretty well. I noticed my hearing husband glancing at the captions regularly — I think almost everyone struggles with thick Irish accents. Thank goodness my phone’s battery was well-charged, since the 3 hours of GalaPro used nearly 30% of the battery’s life.
Since I planned to have my phone out during the performance, I made a point to explain to those seated next to and behind me that I would be using the device for captioning during the show — not texting or other pursuits. People were fascinated by the technology. I got a lot of questions about how it worked and the ways Broadway is becoming more accessible for people with hearing loss. It was a great way to sneak in some hearing loss advocacy ahead of the show.
Readers, do you ever use a belt and suspenders approach with your hearing loss?
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