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June-July 2021

Everyday Heroes


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Can You Hear Me Now?

By Judy Combs Puckett

Imagine you are attending a worship service at your local church. You arrive in the parking lot, proceed toward the entrance, and enter a world virtually closed to you because you cannot hear well. You are greeted by ushers, but you don’t hear that greeting. You see their smiles, but all you hear is the clamor of voices surrounding you. You don’t ask a question because you cannot understand the answer unless you are well practiced at lip reading.

The familiar cell phone ad from a decade ago asking: “Can you hear me now?” illustrates the necessity of hearing well for effective communication. In this information age, with its advanced technology, it seems strange a large number of the adult population will miss out on critical information and pleasant experiences because they are losing their ability to hear. It’s not that they can’t hear—the sound is still there— but they cannot understand what is being said. This is the new normal for many senior adults.

Hearing loss and impairment isn’t limited to the elderly, but it has become a major problem for an aging population of Baby Boomers. Nearly all seniors experience hearing loss to some extent because we are living longer than our parents did.

Hearing aids may seem a perfect solution, but they have their limitations. Wearing hearing aids can carry a social stigma and often become a roadblock for those who need to seek or accept medical help. Others lose their hearing gradually and do not realize what has caused them to withdraw from social situations or life in general. Hearing aids are also very expensive.

Hearing challenges pose a difficult situation for churches as well. Pastors and church leaders may be unaware of the profound impact hearing loss has on members of their congregations. It minimizes the worship experience to such a degree some drop out of church altogether. When unable to hear and respond appropriately, many people find it easier just to stay home and read the captions on television. It is unfair to overlook the needs of a growing segment of your church population simply because there are no easy solutions. Church leaders should consider meeting with senior members struggling with this problem to discuss their issues and find solutions. Use these key questions to find answers and help the hearing impaired enjoy being in church again.


Can You Hear the Music?

This may seem like a silly question because music is loud in most churches today, but volume isn’t the point. Ironically, the louder the accompaniment, the less understandable the words for the hearing impaired. While wearing a hearing aid increases volume and should help distinguish sounds, that is often not what happens with music. Instrumental music (especially electronic instruments) easily overpowers voices and competes with other instruments for clarity. To the hearing impaired, this may result in irritating noise rather than soothing, enjoyable music. Music sounds very different when you lose the ability to hear certain tones in the upper or lower registers. It can be difficult to determine the key being sung or played, so people often stop singing altogether.

To resolve these issues, make sure the music leader has a good microphone, loud enough to be heard over the instruments. The worship leader also should place or hold the mic low enough to allow for lip reading. Instruments may not need amplification in an average size church building, but if they do, the person in charge of the sound system should make sure the mics are balanced for the increased volume.


Lyrics on an overhead screen help tremendously, and it’s important the lyrics appear ahead of the moment they are to be sung. Encourage your projectionist to stay ahead of the lyrics rather than playing catch up. It also helps if the text lines do not continue when the music pauses. Lines of text should stop as the phrasing stops. These simple tips are helpful for everyone singing, not only the hearing impaired.

If your church uses hymnals, the music leader should announce the song numbers loudly and clearly and repeat it for those who may have missed it. Searching the index or pestering a neighbor wastes time that could be spent singing.

Singing at least one song acapella allows the hearing impaired to hear better and participate more freely. Familiar hymns make good acapella selections because most people know these songs by memory.

Lighting also plays a part in effective worship. Those with hearing loss compensate by depending heavily on their sight. Make sure the lighting is adequate for reading Bibles and lyrics in the hymnals.


Can You Hear Announcements?

People with impaired hearing often miss announcements about fellow church members who are ill or grieving. They miss learning about special programs and events because they cannot understand the announcements. When they are left “out of the loop,” it affects their service opportunities, relationships, social life, and may leave them feeling as though they don’t matter.

Displaying announcements onscreen or printed in the church bulletin is a simple way to ensure everyone sees them. It is helpful to show announcements both before and after services. Also, make sure the information stays onscreen long enough to read dates and times.

When announcements are made verbally, the speaker should use a microphone and speak slowly, so each word is pronounced. Choose a person whose voice projects well.


Can You Enjoy Socializing?

A person with hearing loss is limited when it comes to socializing with other church members. They often cannot hear the names of visitors, so they simply greet them
and wish them well. Providing the names and a photo
of new members on screen encourages the hearing impaired to interact.

Having members speak from their seats is problematic for the hearing impaired. Those praying public prayers should use a microphone, so everyone is able to hear. When prayer requests are solicited, the leader should repeat each request into the mic. Those giving testimonies should use a microphone. Similarly, in business meetings, all motions and items of business should be clearly restated by the moderator.

During social events, the noise level rises (as it should) as people enjoy talking and visiting together. This atmosphere makes it difficult for the hearing impaired to participate in conversation, and prolonged noise becomes irritating. Just being aware of this challenge helps us understand why some people do not participate in these events, or why they may leave early. Consider providing a table in a smaller or quieter setting to give those with hearing loss an option for visiting separately.


Can You Hear the Message?

Nothing is more important than hearing the message from God’s Word. That is why most of us come to church. If your church is able to afford hearing devices for the impaired, invest in good, quality pieces. If you are unable to afford them, some members may volunteer to pay for their own device. (Make sure the devices work with your sound system before purchasing them.)

Much of what we get from the message depends upon the speaker. Pastors and preachers may spend countless hours preparing the message God lays on their heart, but if the congregation cannot hear or understand, everyone’s time is wasted. Diction and projection are both critical for hearers to receive the message. You must speak slowly and pronounce your words clearly if you expect your message to be received.

As the message begins, state the Scripture reference clearly, repeat it, and provide enough time for everyone to find the passage and follow along. This gives hearers—even impaired hearers—the context of your message.

Consider giving the congregation notes to follow along, possibly adding blanks to be completed as you preach. Again, a projection screen is ideal, but if you don’t have one, simply insert a paper into your church bulletin. The message stays with hearers longer when they hear and see it. Even those who cannot hear at all can follow a message when they see the main points written out.

When someone is straining to listen and follow, it takes a toll mentally, so keep your message to a reasonable length. Today, most people are programmed to listen for about a half hour. After that, most listeners (not just seniors) subconsciously begin to tune out. People may sit politely and appear to be listening but speaking too long can negate the effects of a wonderful message.


Can You Hear Me Now?

If you fail to see the importance of this article, try this experiment: come to church next Sunday with ear plugs and see what a difference it makes in your ability to worship. Put yourself in the place of the hearing-impaired members who come seeking a worship experience. Consider how your service ministers to those individuals. It will change your perspective and give you more empathy with those struggling to hear.

About the Writer: Judith Puckett is a happily married freelance writer with kids and grandkids. She loves writing, surfing the Web, reading, photography, antiques, genealogy, and spending time with friends. Find her book Living by Faith on Amazon.


©2021 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists