Hearing Loss Sometimes Requires a Belt and Suspenders Approach

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.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

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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38 thoughts on “Hearing Loss Sometimes Requires a Belt and Suspenders Approach

  1. Shari,

    Brilliant approach on your part.

    For me, going to theater is just too frustrating.

    With the Gala pro app and the infrared device, it might work.

    But, that’s just too distracting for me..I choose to watch films and theater on NETFLIX, or Amazon Prime, or Youtube.

    But, I’m older and probably have more of an issue with Auditory Processing disorder/delays.

    My brain can’t keep up with my ears.


  2. In the past, I tried using those headsets from the theater that kind of go into either ear like a stethoscope. Are these the infrared you refer to? They didn’t work for me. The theater I’m scheduled to attend in September does not use GalaPro but said they have “headsets” and iCaption devices. I’m not with the iCaption and am nervous about how to fiddle with these right before a show.


  3. Great advice. We actually saw Ferryman last week from the front row. It is a terrific show, deserving all the accolades and awards it has received. I also used Gala Pro and an assistive listening device. I don’t remember whether the theater had the looped type of device. In any case, between the two, I had no problems. I also read the play in advance. It is true that Gala Pro had a few minor glitches, but overall it worked extremely well. By the way, instead of using my phone, I used an iPad type device provided by the theater, with somewhat larger screen area and fonts, and of course it did not consume my phone’s charge. The show is scheduled to close in a few weeks. I would not be surprised if they extend the run after winning the Tony, but if you love theater, I would recommend getting seats right away if they are still available.


  4. Hi Shari

    I live in the UK. Did you mean Northern Ireland? Rather than Northern Island?

    The Ferryman is set in County Armagh, a county in Northern Ireland, a province of the UK.

    It set at the time of what is known in Northern Ireland as “The Troubles” that occurred in the late 1960s and through the 1970s and 80s

    During that time there was a lot of sectarianism between Catholics and Protestants in which a lot of people lost their lives.

    “The Troubles” spilt over on to the mainland UK and many suffered through terrorist bombings and it wasn’t a happy time here in the UK.




  5. I love your blog! I had to use this approach recently. I was required to attend a Labour Relations Hearing and asked for a Computerized Note Taker. My request was refused. However, I was provided with a picture of equipment used in the Court House Hearing rooms that connected into the overhead recording system sound mixer . I was told to purchase an amplifier, headphones and a
    25 ft cord and I could connect to their sound mixer. The equipment cost over $100 and took over 45 minutes to try to make it work. But, it did not work. I was glad I had plan B – a small microphone, that I got from my Audiologist with my hearing aids, that could be paired through Bluetooth. It worked very well. Now I bring it to all my meetings for listening assistance. I’m so grateful I found a great Audiologist!


  6. Shari, how did you use the infrared device with your hearing aids? Thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve used the GalaPro app and liked it, but would like to use the head set, too, I just wasn’t sure how that worked with hearing aids. Did you use a streamer and plug into the receiver of the headset?


    • I wear deep in the canal aids that I can keep in when using the infrared device but you could also remove your aids to use the infrared device if that doesn’t work for you. Some devices do allow you to plug in your own headset or streamer as well. It really varies by device. Always best to call before going. Hope this helps!


  7. Hello Shari. I just found your blog and I am so excited! I have had hearing aids for 3 years now and have always felt awkward about them – especially in a theater setting. After struggling through a production of Romeo and Juliet (good thing I knew the story because I could hear but not understand a word) I discovered that theaters do have devices that I could use. Now I see that there are other options out there as well. I am intrigued about the galapro app and have already put it on my phone. I most definitely will be reading your blog to find more information about how I can make my hearing aids work better for me. Thank you! Kathy


  8. Hi Shari,

    Just read your piece in the California newsletter about Google Live Transcribe. Have you tried that in other situations where we normally use captioning, like your daughter’s high-school play or a movie theater? I’m looking at a couple of situations (described in my HLAA-CA piece) where something like this may be a possible solution.


      • What do you mean by intuitive. Are you talking about the actual set up? How about the actual captioning? Are you able to get that in English?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Download the app.

        Open the app.

        Use the app…using it is very easy.

        Just try. Intuitive = easy to infer how to use the functions.

        Whatever Spanish words appear, just copy and paste into Google translate.

        Never try/never know

        Liked by 1 person

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