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St. Albert grocery store first in 'the loop'

Pearson’s Your Independent Grocer at 925 St. Albert Tr. first in all of western Canada to install technology for shoppers with hearing impairments.
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Cindy Gordon of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association is all smiles upon the installation of the new hearing loops at Pearson's Your Independent Grocer. SCOTT HAYES/Photo

Did you hear how one of St. Albert’s newest grocery stores is now at the forefront of assistance technologies? It’s true … hearing loops are now at Pearson’s Your Independent Grocer at 925 St. Albert Tr., making the location the first in all of western Canada to make life easier for those with hearing impairments.

This is such good news that it’s worth perking everyone’s ears up about.

“It was definitely an easy decision,” explained store owner Travis Pearson, offering the no-brainer response to the disability that is considered to be the “fastest growing, and one of the most prevalent, chronic conditions facing Canadians today,” according to the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA).

It is estimated there are 100,000 people in Edmonton alone with some degree of hearing loss, said Lee Ramsdell, president of the Edmonton branch of the CHHA, adding that one in five youths between the ages of 12 to 19 years have some degree of hearing loss, and measured hearing loss rises steeply after age 40 to affect 65 per cent of seniors aged 70 to 79.

To not do anything to help so many people would be an act of leaving the multitudes in silence, Pearson offered.

“I am blessed to have good hearing, but even I have noticed with masks that it's been harder to hear people clearly. When Lee approached me with what people with hearing impairment are going through, it was no question that we would participate. We are always looking for ways to better serve our customers and if something so simple to us could make such a significant difference to them, how could we not jump on board?”

The hearing loop — sometimes called an audio induction loop — is an electronic device that works in conjunction with a user’s own hearing aids. Also known as an Induction or Audio Loop, the hearing loop provides a magnetic wireless signal that is picked up by the hearing aid when it is set to its T-Coil (also known as Telecoil) setting, according to the CHHA’s website.

The loop system consists of a microphone to pick up the spoken word while an amplifier processes the signal, which is then transmitted. The induction loop is “a wire placed around the perimeter of a room or sanctuary to act as an antenna that radiates the magnetic signal to the hearing aid or cochlear implant.” Since the signal is being delivered directly to the user’s hearing aid or cochlear implant, the sound is customized to each individual’s hearing loss.

“The way the hearing loop works is it transmits a magnetic signal with the audio superimposed on it. Most hearing aids have a tiny little coil of wire. When a coil of wire is put into a magnetic field, it'll generate a current proportional to the strength of that magnetic field.”

The end result is sound generation without a lot of the background noise that would otherwise be picked up by hearing aids. The user needs to be in certain locations throughout Pearson’s Independent — the customer service desk, checkouts, and the deli, meat, and bakery counters — to access the service. The cost of the unit to the store was less than $1,000.

Ramsdell, who lives in St. Albert, approached the store with Cindy Gordon, the executive director of the CHHA’s Edmonton branch, about participating in the pilot project. She, like Ramsdell, was especially pleased not only with how receptive the store’s owner was to the idea, but also to the day finally coming when those with hearing loss can shop just like everyone else.

“We need this out in the public everywhere that we have to go,” she said. “It's really a shame that it's not everywhere. Particularly, we need it in places like hospitals where crucial information is coming to us … and pharmacies. This is just a touchstone that we're trying to get people to see how it can be in a public setting, but really, we're hoping that the hospital system will embrace this.”

Other grocery stores have also been approached with the idea and will likely come on board in short order, she added.

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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