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January 7, 2004

Sound system helps service come alive

From: Cleveland Plain Dealer, OH - Jan 7, 2004

Ryan E. Smith
Toledo Blade

Toledo- The woman at the church lectern started speaking slowly.

"Bryant, can you hear me?"

The young boy, standing just a few feet away, said it sounded faint. The woman continued and others murmured in the background as they fiddled with some equipment.

Then it clicked.

After years of sitting in the front pew and struggling to hear in church - even with the help of a cochlear implant to counteract his profound hearing loss - 9-year-old Bryant Byrd finally could sit back and listen, thanks to help from a University of Toledo faculty member and her students.

"It sounds goofy, but it brings tears to your eyes," said Bryant's mother, Mary Beth Byrd. "You can tell when he can hear better."

In need of technical know-how to help her son, Byrd found it in Lori Pakulski, a Toledo associate professor of audiology, and three students who are part of the university chapter of the National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association.

In the end, it was pretty simple. The group provided Bryant, a quiet third-grader at Woodland Elementary School in Perrysburg, with a special FM system that allows him to tap directly into the sound system at St. Rose Catholic Church.

The technology is nothing new; musicians use a similar device to listen to themselves play during a concert.

In Bryant's case, his device was connected with the church's sound system.

The system can cost between $1,500 and $4,000.

It sends sound directly from the speaker's lips to the subject, eliminating problems with background noise and distance, Pakulski said.

At St. Rose, Byrd said there still are some quirks to work out, but things are much improved.

© 2004 The Plain Dealer.