Update on Acoustics by Aaron Doll

Church Acoustic Update:

I had Sylvia out with me on Market Street last weekend and we grabbed lunch at McDonalds (rare treat!).  While she was playing on the indoor jungle gym, I looked up at the high metal roof and noticed these thick fibrous white panels attached to the ceiling in rows.  

A photograph of sound absorbing panels on a metal ceiling.
A photograph of sound absorbing panels on a metal ceiling.

This seemed to make this otherwise very hard-surfaced space not as “live” as it otherwise would be with handfuls of noisy children at play.  I also took note of the Roland Grise Auditorium recently.  The walls, floor and ceiling are at odd angles to each other (not parallel), like in a sound studio.  The floor slopes down and the walls and ceiling are broken up in undulating sections.  Even the front walls on either side of the stage are broken up by a bas-relief diamond-shaped pattern.  Sound produced in the hall cannot reverberate back and forth upon itself.  It is redirected and spread out around the room until it fades.  Our Chadbourn Hall, on the other hand is especially full of right angles and hard surfaces.  The flocked ceiling probably helps contain sound a little bit, but it is still a very “live” space.  I am in contact with one source who we might consult with professionally about options for modification in our larger gathering spaces.   Do you have any additional contacts?  

I have been investigating electronic hearing assistance technologies for large spaces too.  I was able to converse a bit with a local Audiologist who has consulted on church acoustic problems.  She indicates there are a handful of technologies.  Induction Loops are often available in performance halls and other public spaces.  They make use of the T-coil in many hearing aids to receive the sound signal directly into the device.  Not all devices today have this T-coil, and for those that do, the T-coil may not be activated.  It’s purpose was to help people hear on a wireless telephone (“T-coil” = “telecoil”).    If you use a hearing aid, do some research on your device.  Does it contain a “T-coil”?  Can you find out how to turn it on and off?  Ask your specialist or find the instructions that came with the device.  If we can determine that enough people have this technology, or are willing to get it, then it might be worthwhile for us to install an induction loop.  FM and InfraRed transmitters require a user to wear a headset, whereas, the Induction loop uses the technology potentially already in your ear.  

Bluetooth is an up-and-coming option too.  It has some limitations yet, but also some interesting opportunities.  Bluetooth “streamer” devices or wireless “smart-technology” can be used to connect with various personal electronic devices to be able to hear them directly (music player, phone, tablet, TV).  They can often be fine-tuned with a cell phone app.  A Bluetooth accessory can also help you connect with an induction loop or FM signal in an auditorium.  

It is apparent that no solution will be a fix-all.  My hope is that with enough research we can help people with personal solutions that make sense for them.  I also think we can identify some logical facility enhancements that will improve the experience for many.    If hearing is a problem for you, speak up!  Let’s talk about solutions like these and make the Gospel ever more available and clear.


Photo of the Reverend Aaron Doll
Rev. Aaron Doll

Pastor Aaron Doll

Parish Associate