‘When I put on the headphones – wow!’

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The first time Ross Dickie used the assistive listening system at the St James Theatre he was “blown away” – he could hear what the actors were saying.

“It’s like learning to hear again,” Mr Dickie, who is hearing-impaired, said.

The first time he used the system was during the New Zealand International Film Festival in August.

“When I put on the headphones – wow! – I heard words.

“I was blown away.”

When he had viewed movies at the theatre in the past, the sound was always distorted for him and movie viewing was now much more enjoyable.

The first movie he attended as a child was The Sound of Music, he said.

He could not understand the words then as he was too young, he said.

He now lip-read, he said.

In the past he went to movies only occasionally.

The theatre had a hearing system in the 1970s but it was not nearly as good as the new version, he said.

“That’s a vast improvement for me.”

Theatre manager Peter Cairns said the new system had some teething problems when it was installed at the beginning of the year, but they had been sorted out.

The system worked by bouncing infra-red light on to the screen and then into viewers’ headphones.

Wearing the headphones also meant hearing-disabled viewers could hear evocative sounds in movies such as the wind blowing, footsteps or a dog barking, Mr Cairns said.