Three years ago Richard Einhorn, an orchestra composer who reveled in the symphony and Broadway performances, went deaf – overnight.
“It was horrifying,” said Einhorn, 61, who lives in New York City and had sensory neural hearing loss caused by a virus. “One day, I felt like I had allergies, and my head was stuffed up and I couldn’t hear well and was dizzy,” he said. “The next morning my head was spinning with total vertigo and raging tinnitus. I knew immediately I was deaf in my right ear.”
Einhorn jumped out of bed and instantly fell to the floor. By the time he got to the hospital, it was too late – the damage to his inner ear had been done. Today, he has lost 70 percent of his hearing in one ear. Einhorn said he can still use his training and “imagination” to compose, but hearing in theaters and other public places is next to impossible – even with a hearing aid — because of the background noise. “To be blunt, it sucks,” said Einhorn. “I go to a noisy restaurant and I literally can’t hear. It’s totally wiped out by the sound of all the noise around you.”
But all that changed, when he saw a special production of “Wicked” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where hearing loops were installed.
“I was so overwhelmed, because for the first time, I was able to hear live music,” said Einhorn. “The sound quality was so good.”
So Einhorn turned into an advocate for a not-so-new, but remarkable technology that magnetically transfers the microphone or TV sound signal to hearing aids and cochlear implants that are equipped with a special magnetic receptor called a telecoil or t-coil.
As a result of his activism and that of others in the hard of hearing community, Broadway has now invested in hearing loops. The global Nederlander organization, which operates nine theaters in New York City, has already looped the Richard Rodgers Theater (“Romeo and Juliet”) and soon the Gershwin Theater will add the technology this month to mark the 10th anniversary of “Wicked.”
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