Good News!  We now have the technology to assist those dancer who may have difficulty in hearing.  This will enable them to hear all the calls and cues while square or round dancing with complete freedom of movement and no background noise.

This subject and the equipment may be referred to using a variety of terms.  These include:
   • sound enhancement;
   • hearing enhancement; or
   • assistive listening/hearing devices (ALD's).

What is Sound Enhancement / Hearing Enhancement?
This is the use of existing technology to provide pure sound  from the caller/cuer's PA system to the dancer without any outside noise or distortion.  This can enable dancers to hear better than others in the hall.  One can dance at the back of the hall and hear as well as those directly in front of a speaker.  It is similar to wearing glasses, when it becomes hard to see!

Hearing is made difficult as a result of a number of factors:
   • large halls, major dances and conventions
   • hall acoustics
   • PA system settings (volume, tone settings)
   • speaker placement
   • distance between the speaker and the dancer
   • ambient background noises i.e. shuffling feet, clapping hands, talking, fans, etc.
   • dancers own hearing ability

The system consists of a transmitter and receivers.  The transmitter is connected to the caller/leader's turntable/amplifier and sends out a radio signal.  The second part is a small receiver (2"x3") that is worn by the dancer clipped on a belt or placed in a pocket.  Sound is routed from the receiver to the dancer's ear by a cord.  The sound is delivered to the ear through an earplug, personal earpiece, headphones, etc.  The receiver has its own  individual volume control that can be set to suit the dancer.  Dancers have complete freedom of movement and can "Wheel and Deal" without a hitch.  There are NO limits to the number of receivers that can be used to receive the sound signal from one transmitter.  The dancer wears the associated hearing equipment that enables them to listen to the pure sound.  This can be by using:
   • single ear bud (in good ear)
   • double ear bud (one in each ear)
   • headphone (walkman-like headphones, but for mono sound)
   • neckloop (used for those with hearing aids with a telephone or T-switch).

Why use it?
The system enables the dancer to hear the sound of the calls/cues and associated music directly, as if they were standing beside the caller/cuer and with no background noise.  Imagine, no more excuses for not hearing the call/cue!  Dancers having difficulty in performing movements may not be able to hear the instructions - they may benefit from the use of sound enhancement equipment.

Use of this equipment can enable people:
   • with hearing difficulties to dance longer;
   • to continue and not drop out when they are unable to hear the calls/cues;
   • who think they would be unable to hear to start to dance;
   • who are older and reluctant to return the activity; and
   • who do not attend large dance because they won't be able to hear in a crowd.

Hearing Aids may not be the solution
Hearing aids amplify all the background room sounds in addition to music and the voice of the caller/cuer.

Callers/leaders teaching seniors may find the acquisition and availability of this S.E. equipment an asset in attracting both new and former dancers.

Fact  -  Over 50 % of people over the age of 50 have a significant hearing loss.

Types of Equipment
Hearing enhancement equipment can use a variety of different types of equipment and use different signals:
   • Hard-wired  -  not applicable to our activity;
   • Audio induction loop - permanently installed wires around a room - not complimentary to our activity;
   • Infra red  - a line of sight signal and not applicable to our dancing activity; and
   • FM radio signal - excellent sound quality, not easily obstructed by walls, posts, sunlight, dancer
     movement or fluorescent lights and has a range of 300-400 feet.
               -  wideband  - the frequencies adopted for use in the square/round dance activity
               -  narrowband  - used for public hearing signal and not compatible with the square dance
                                            frequency    Manufacturers include Phonic Ear,

Sources and costs
There are several manufacturers of wideband sound/hearing enhancement equipment used by the square/round dance activity.  These include:  Williams Sound,   TelexGentnerMicrovox byPhonakSennheiser   and others.

Dancers are urged to obtain a trial use of the equipment and seek the input from other users of these systems.

Some receivers have a single channel and other have 4 or 6 channels.  Some single channel receivers can be tuned easily to other frequencies used by the activity as well as the public narrow band frequency (see below).  In addition, check to ensure the receivers will hold their frequencyand are readily serviced.

To assess your individual needs, obtain a copy of a listing of the facilities offering public hearing enhancement in your area.  You may be able to use this receiver at many other public facilities and locations.

Try out the sound enhancement equipment available in your area! Contact local suppliers.

Public frequency for hearing enhancement/assistive listening devices in Canada and the US is 75.675 MHz or Channel 26.  This is the frequency used in some public buildings, churches,theaters, movies, municipal buildings, etc.

Some receivers have the ability to be adjusted by dancers to receive the narrowband public sound enhancement frequency.  This ability may be a consideration by dancers in determining the receiver they may wish to acquire.

Square / Round Dance Frequencies
The Canadian and US governments have designated frequencies 72-76MHZ for use for Hearing Assistance Transmitters/ Receivers.

Callerlab, The International Association of Square Dance Callers has designated the following wideband frequencies for use as part of the square dance activity.  These have been readilyaccepted and used in Canada.
 • primary frequency   - 72.9 MHz; and
• secondary frequency  - 72.1 MHz.

Watch for the symbol/sign identifying the availability of the sound enhancement equipment at dances. 

Check dance flyers for those that will have a sound enhancement transmitter available.

Normally the frequency to be used is posted on a flyer and at an event.  See how this has been done flyers.

Connections to the Caller/Leader turntable/amplifier
There are several different connections that can be made the PA system.  This can include connection to obtain  both voice and music or just the voice.  See attached sheet for the various connection directions.

How can we afford to purchase a transmitter as well as a receiver?
Clubs and/or Callers/Leader sponsored fundraisers i.e. 50:50 draws designated for the purchase of the equipment, and proceeds from special dances  (trail-in and trail out convention dances) are excellent ways to raise funds  to purchase a transmitter.  Dancers will respond to fundraisers when they are aware of the cause, especially one that will benefit the activity and its participants.

Purchase of a system with a transmitter and several receivers is cheaper than purchasing the various units separately.  This is understandable.  Some manufacturers have systems available with 1 transmitter and 4-6 receivers, complete with the associated listening equipment ready to set up and use.

Clubs and Associations can consider the joint purchase of a transmitter to be shared by several clubs and the association and its members.  It is possible and in fact logical for one transmitter to be used several nights each week by sharing the equipment.  Why not do this, at least initially,rather than have everyone wait to purchase their own  transmitter.  This enables many more dancers to benefit immediately.

Will the connection of the transmitter to the caller/leader's turntable/amplifier cause
damage to the caller's system?        NO it will not.

Callers/Leaders and Clubs strive to provide the best sound system (amplifier, microphone and speakers) they can for their dancers.  Don't stop there.  Take the next step and provide sound enhancement equipment for dancers.  At least a transmitter.  Those callers/leaders who do use hearing enhancement equipment will have to recognize that they will have to reduce the variation in the sound level they use during their calling/cuing.  If this is not done it can be very annoyingfor the wearer of receivers - although they can adjust the volume level on their receiver, but it is annoying to have to do this on a continual basis.

If I purchase a receiver can I use it in other places?
Some of the receivers are constructed to enable people to adjust the frequency received.  It is possible with some makes to easily adjust the receiver to hear the narrow band public sound enhancement frequency (76.675 MHz).   This is the frequency used in many public places.  Ask suppliers about the availability of this feature.

Choosing a Sound Enhancement Receiver
This is like purchasing any other piece of sound equipment.  Determine where and how you want to use the receiver and the frequencies you would use.  This will assist in determining the receiver to suit your needs.  How important is sound quality?  Compatibility with your activities and needsin public places, churches, etc.?

Consult your audiologist to discuss your hearing problems and obtain an opinion on the possible use of sound enhancement equipment.

"Since our caller purchased a transmitter, I purchased my own receiver.  I have the great pleasure to report that the improvement in hearing makes dancing so much more pleasurable now that I don't have to concentrate so hard on the words of the caller."

Dancers comment to a caller, "It is wonderful how the calling has improved since I got the hearing enhancement."

Ask your caller/leader or Club about such a system if you are having difficulty hearing the calls/cues!

John & Marilyn Sellers, Society Director, Ontario
29 Julian Street, Carleton Place, ON K7C 3W7

Sound Enhancement Equipment Sources:

Williams Sound - Canadian Distributors:
Please contact our Sales Office:
 Wilf Langevin,  Thorvin Electronics
 2861 Sherwood Hgts Dr.,  Units 36-37
 Oakville, ON L6J-7K1 Canada
 Phone: 905-829-3040    Phone: 800-323-6634
 Fax: 905-829-4196       e-mail:

Telex - Canadian distributor
White Radio Ltd.
940 Gateway Dr..
Burlington, ON   L7L 5K7
Phone 905-632-684   FAX 905-632-6981

My Experiences with a Sound Enhancement System
By Al Schaffer, Baltimore,  MD
[Reprinted from the March 2002 issue of Zip Coder]

   About one year ago, John Marshall initiated a conversation with me concerning my difficulties in hearing the square dance calls.  John told me he was aware that square dancers were generally getting to be an older representative group and that hearing problems would impact more and more dancers.  John had already seen several enthusiastic dancers decrease their activities or simply stop dancing because of their hearing problems.
   My personal hearing problems started in my early 30’s (I will be 69 on my next birthday).  I had a stapes mobilization operation on one ear in 1965, which resulted in some improvement of my hearing.  I eventually purchased a hearing aid for my worst ear, then hearing aids for both ears, then better designed aids for both ears and finally much better designed hearing aids in both ears.
   Although all of the above gave me better hearing, nothing solved my biggest problem; that of filtering out most extraneous sounds so that I could concentrate on important sounds.  In square dancing that means hearing the exact words of the caller.  For example, circulate, coordinate, motivate, percolate, etc., often sounded for some unknown reason like something I ate.  I had a very hard time distinguishing the difference.
   As people with hearing difficulties know, trying to solve these problems can be an exasperating and costly matter.  John Marshall’s approach to helping solve hearing problems for dancers was to invest in a sound enhancement system that he could incorporate into his existing Hilton Sound System.  His choice was the Williams Sound System, a wide-band FM Listening System that operates in 72-76 MHZ frequency band.  This system is designed for hearing assistance in places of public access to help overcome background noise, reverberation or distance from the sound source.
   His investment in the Williams System included a T17 transmitter, several R7 receivers and three types of earphone pieces.  His club members, who showed an interest in trying the system, were encouraged to borrow a R7 receiver and put it in a pocket or belt clip, plug in an earphone, adjust the volume and dance.  I tried all three types of earphone pieces at John’s dances. 
   I decided to purchase a neckloop telecoil coupler that is designed for use with a telecoil equipped hearing aid.  Using a neck loop in coordination with a telecoil equipped hearing aid eliminates the need for a wire or a device going into or onto the ear. The neck loop, which looks like a bolo, uses magnetic energy to transfer the electric signal from a sound source directly to the telecoil equipped hearing aid.  Years ago, when I equipped my hearing aid with a telecoil to assist me when talking on the telephone, I did not realize that its greatest value to me would be to help me during square dancing. 
   This system is not only for those wearing hearing aids.  Square dancers, with or without hearing aids, who choose the more conventional Williams earpiece, also get improvement in their hearing.
    My favorite aspect of using this system is that since many Hilton turntable/amplifiers are equipped with a voice-only jack, I can receive in one or both ears only the caller’s voice and eliminate extraneous sounds.  Music will automatically filter in loud enough for me to be aware of it but not enough to drown out the voice.  Additionally, some Hilton turntable/amplifiers have a backup independent amplifier with separate controls.  This feature allows the voice-only jack’s volume to be adjusted to suit the dancers using this system.  There is no negative impact on all other dancers; only the system users are aware of the adjusted volume.
   The transmitter and receiver work on FM radio signals up to 500 feet, therefore, your location in the dance hall from the caller becomes unimportant.  Many square dance weekends use multiple halls in close proximity.  The receiver and transmitter can be purchased with up to six FM channels.  This allows up to six halls to operate with its own frequency, thereby preventing cross interference.
   My original investment of a R7 receiver, belt clip and neck loop was less than $200.00.  The R7 receiver and some kind of ear system would be the minimum items one would have to purchase, if the caller has a transmitter.  Since I have not found a club or caller on the east coast with sound enhancement equipment, with the exception of John Marshall, I added a T17 transmitter to my equipment.  My cost for the complete system was less than $900.00 and includes a spare earphone piece in case my hearing aids malfunction.
   Dancing with the Williams Sound System has me spoiled.  Now, since I have my own transmitter, wherever I dance I am self-contained.  All callers seem to have Hilton equipment and connecting my transmitter to a Hilton Sound System is as simple as putting a jack into the proper input.  I have found that all callers know the proper input jack for me to use with their particular equipment.
   Ask your club or club caller to look into trying out a sound enhancement system such as the Williams Sound System.  Consider getting a group of dancers, who might benefit from its use, to volunteer helping defray some of the cost.  Check to see if your club could have a trial period as John Marshall did.  Most clubs, club members and callers will derive a benefit from an investment in a sound enhancement system.  The dancers who need help in hearing the calls will hear better and the squares they are in should dance better.  Clubs and callers will be the beneficiaries of happier members and a stabilized membership.
   I cannot end this article without mentioning that I have found a downside using this system.  Less often can I get away with ‘I missed that call because I did not hear it!”.

The following paragraph offers additional information about sound systems. *********************************************** 
It would be most helpful if staff callers for weekend consider purchasing the small battery operated (two AA’s) Williams Sound Transmitter #PFM-T30.  This unit has ten selectable frequencies, size:  3 5/8”LX2 3/8”WX7/8”H and weighs only 4.4 oz.  This unit would be more suitable for those traveling by air than the more deluxe ac powered T-17 Transmitter, because of the small size and weight.  The price of this unit is in the $320.00 range.  Williams Sound indicates that this transmitter can be used with a microphone or connected to the tape/voice output jack of the amplifier unit through a very inexpensive Radio Shack 40db Attenuator.

 John Maines
 Local Square Dancer & user of the Sound System 

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