The Sound of Musicals Children who have never been able to attend live performances recently heard Ariel sing her heart out, thanks to two civic-minded audiologists. In the Limelight
Free
In the Limelight  |   March 01, 2015
Dallas-area students attend their first live performance of a musical.
The Sound of Musicals
Author Notes
  • Shelley D. Hutchins is content producer/editor for The ASHA Leader. shutchins@asha.org
    Shelley D. Hutchins is content producer/editor for The ASHA Leader. shutchins@asha.org×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosody / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   March 01, 2015
The Sound of Musicals
The ASHA Leader, March 2015, Vol. 20, 22-23. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.20032015.22
The ASHA Leader, March 2015, Vol. 20, 22-23. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.20032015.22
Name: Carol Cokely, PhD, CCC–A
Title: Clinical associate professor and coordinator of clinical teaching in audiology, Callier Center for Communication Disorders, University of Texas at Dallas
Name: Linda Thibodeau, PhD, CCC–A
Title: Professor in hearing sciences, Callier Center for Communication Disorders, University of Texas at Dallas
One Saturday last March, the lights dimmed in the theater, and nearly 40 school-aged children waited excitedly to hear the opening strains of their first live musical. As Ariel and Sebastian serenaded them, the students’ faces lit up with wonder at the new sounds brought to them by FM receivers.
Teachers, parents, school audiologists and a group of audiology graduate students led by Carol Cokely and Linda Thibodeau watched those rapt faces more than they did the musical—because they’d worked hard to bring these children live sound.
It all began when Dallas Summer Musicals board member and engineer Barry Epstein sought to bring students with severe hearing loss to “The Little Mermaid.” He consulted audiology professors Cokely and Thibodeau, who advised using the FM transmitting system with classroom receivers. It turned out that borrowing school receivers wasn’t enough. Cokely and Thibodeau also had to lend the theater a wide-area FM transmitter and a wall pilot, which automatically tunes any receiver within four feet onto the correct frequency.
“We started with how could we get these kids there and how could they take advantage of listening technology,” Thibodeau explains. “Once we got that overall goal, then we talked about ways to make [live theater] more enjoyable and accessible to every patron.”
When Epstein saw this system effectively bring musical theater to the students’ ears, he pushed the team to figure out a system that could serve concert-goers regularly. Cokely and Thibodeau were up for the challenge. Their formerly rigged system is now formally trademarked as Hear Us Now. “It’s a whole program now,” Thibodeau says, “with many different aspects, including special equipment, training for people using and handing out the equipment, acoustic modifications and patron education.”

“It’s a whole program now with many different aspects, including special equipment, training for people using and handing out the equipment, acoustic modifications and patron education.”

“To effect a change you have to involve all of the stakeholders—patrons included,” Cokely adds. And they did. Supported by Epstein and his myriad contacts, they reached out to colleagues, theater administrators, teachers, parents, adult patrons and area audiologists.
“Everyone felt a commitment to provide wider access,” Cokely continues. “And this kind of enjoyment was slipping away from thousands of people.” Epstein was frustrated by knowing friends and colleagues who had enjoyed theater their entire lives, but were losing the ability to attend performances. He hopes to spread this new system to theaters around the globe.
Cokely and Thibodeau are on board with Epstein’s lofty goals. The professors got their graduate students involved to help. They figured out logistics for the field trip, wrote up informational brochures, set up tests and helped solve issues like how to make the transmitted sound sync perfectly with the live sound. “Allowing grad students to have this hands-on work with community engagement and be advocates for the patients is extremely valuable,” Cokely says. “It’s more than you can ever get from a classroom.”
The team effort paid off. Hear Us Now was recently recognized with an award from The Broadway League. Attendees needing hearing assistance can choose from a variety of delivery methods, including high-quality headsets, t-coil loops, FM receivers, an open classroom-compatible seating area, and one of the newest hearing aid technologies: digital streaming. Besides improving access for patrons, Dallas Summer Musicals board also approved physical alterations to the hall, adding well-placed reverb panels and upgrading the speaker system.
Based on the resounding success of the school performance, Cokely and Thibodeau, along with their grad students, set up another event—this one for area audiologists—to help spread the word about Hear Us Now. Around 50 audiologists experimented with and experienced the listening options offered by the new system.
“We set up different stations in the theater so the audiologists could hear the various technologies,” Cokely says. “It’s important for audiologists to be able to explain or advise patients on which technology best fits their hearing aids or even what type of hearing aids they should select.”
Cokely and Thibodeau agree that community service projects like this one are worth the effort, for audiology students and for people with hearing loss.
“Hear Us Now was time-consuming,” Cokely admits, “but it reminds me of what is really important to our patients. Technology is important, but it’s a means to an end, and the end is to have a good quality of life.”
0 Comments
Submit a Comment
Submit A Comment
Name
Comment Title
Comment


This feature is available to Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account ×
FROM THIS ISSUE
March 2015
Volume 20, Issue 3