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Wegmans Installs Hearing Loops in Stores

Wegmans Food Markets has begun installing induction hearing loop stations in its stores at pharmacy counters, customer service desks and designated checkout lanes to aid shoppers with hearing loss. So far, 16 of the grocery chain’s stores across its six-state footprint feature the hearing assistance systems, with plans to have them in all Wegmans stores by year end.

Induction hearing loops help people with a hearing aid or cochlear implant equipped with a telecoil (T-coil) hear speech more clearly. The hearing loop takes sound straight from the source and delivers it right into the listener’s ear. Already widely used in Europe, the systems are becoming more common in the United States, where about 70 percent of new hearing aids and all new cochlear implants have T-coils, noted Wegmans, citing figures from the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA).

“The beauty of induction loops is that they’re so unobtrusive,” said Matt Sawyer, who heads up the Wegmans IT team working on the installations. “They help those who can benefit, while others in the area are usually unaware of the hearing loop’s presence. Those with hearing loss don’t have to ask others to speak up, because the system helps them hear speech more clearly.”

Over the past year, Wegmans piloted the technology at several stores near its Rochester, N.Y., headquarters, collaborating with audiovisual specialist Joseph Barone to design and install the hearing loop stations.

“We began planning this project in earnest with the help of folks from the Rochester, N.Y., chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America,” explained Wegmans VP of Media Relations Jo Natale. “They helped us understand what a difference these systems can make to those with hearing loss. We set up a pilot project, and the HLAA members were our ‘test pilots.’ They gave us great feedback about what worked well and what didn’t. This year, our plan is to bring hearing loops to pharmacy counters, service desks, and one or more checkout lanes in every store.”

The standard sign indicating the presence of a hearing loop (seen above, at left) will appear in areas where loops are active.

“Very simply, we want to provide customers with hearing loss a better way to ask questions and get answers, comfortably and easily, when they’re in our stores,” added Natale.

Because each location requires a custom installation and employee training on how to use the system, the rollout is occurring incrementally. Stores that already have the hearing loops are as follows:

  • New York: Chili-Paul; Mt. Read; Fairport; Calkins Road; John Glenn,; Johnson City; Marketplace; Pittsford; and Sheridan Drive
  • New Jersey: Mt. Laurel
  • Virginia: Dulles
  • Maryland: Hunt Valley
  • Massachusetts: Westwood
  • Pennsylvania: Concordville; Downingtown; and Warrington

Family-owned Wegmans operates 88 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

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