In 2014, when Yasa Yoga on West Mission Street remodeled its studio, yoga enthusiast Thomas Kaufmann convinced the owners to let him install the wiring for a hearing loop, which is technology made by his company OTOjOY to help those with hearing loss. Since the technology was still new and not yet widely used, the wiring sat dormant for two years. But it was turned on in July, making Yasa Yoga the only yoga studio on the West Coast to conduct classes with an accessible hearing loop system for its customers.
“It’s difficult even for people without hearing loss to hear in yoga studios,” said Kaufmann. “From a physics standpoint, it’s a great resonance room with all the bouncing sound, but it leads to unintelligibility. Nobody in the class hears the amplified sound from the hearing loop except those already tapped into it through their hearing devices.”
The hearing loop takes sound from an instructor’s microphone, sends it into an amplifier that surrounds the room under the floor, and then generates a magnetic field from the loop that is fed into hearing aids and cochlear implants. OTOjOY has installed this same technology at a number of venues around town, from auditoriums to churches.
“About 20 percent of the population is affected by hearing loss and would benefit from a hearing aid device,” said Kaufmann, whose goal is to create a more inclusive world for those with hearing loss. “Most people aren’t aware of that, and most people with hearing loss don’t speak up about it, and they try to hide it.”