This is a post from the “Sound Advice” series by Ruth Bernstein

I’ve been a volunteer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for ten wonderful years, working at their regularly scheduled hearing accessible gallery tours using an FM system with headphones and neck loops.

My partner and I give the docent the transmitter and mic and distribute the audio receivers with headphones to everyone participating in the tour, whether or not they have a hearing loss. Neck loops are given to people with t-switches in their hearng aids. We explain that amplifiation not only helps the listeners, it benefits the speakers because they don’t have to shout to be heard. Everyone can hear when museum and school groups walk through the galleries talking loudly. Wearing the FM receivers, they can also walk around the gallery or into an adjacent room and still hear the guide. In addition to enjoying and learning about the art, I often have the pleasure of seeing the smile on peoples’ faces when they discover they hear the guide clearly, something they’ve seldom been able to do before. That is one of the reasons I enjoy my job so much!

In addition to the docent guided gallery tours, the Met has audio tours available at the Audio Guide Desk in the Great Hall and at carts at the entrances to some of their special exhibitions. A friend recently told me she wasn’t able to get a neck loop for two exhibits from the carts. Through my contacts at the Met, I met and talked with the Client Services Manager of Antenna Audio International, the company that provides the equipment for the audio guides. We agreed to take these steps:

  • Neck loops and scripts will be added to the special exhibition audio carts;
  • The symbol for looped accessibility will be displayed at the Audio Guide Desk and audio carts (see image);
  • Staff will be trained to offer neck loops and/or scripts;
  • I promised I would share information about the availability of this equipment with people in the hearing loss community.

Now we have to do our part by asking for the hearing accessibility equipment we need at the Met and at other museums in the city and around the country.

It’s a good idea to find out about accessibility before your visit. Here is a list of some of the museums and other New York City venues offering hearing loops.

For information about museums in other areas, check their individual accessibility web sites. If you don’t see  what you are looking for, contact the museum directly.

I feel fortunate to live in New York, a city full of accessible visual and auditory pleasures. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Please share your questions and good/bad experiences by emailing me.

The Center for Hearing and Communication is an excellent resource for information about all types of assistive listening devices.

Ruth D. Bernstein
Consumer Advocate