SOME WASHINGTON-AREA theaters provide special services for those with sight and hearing problems. For those with hearing difficulties, an infrared listening system helps them hear a performance from anywhere in the theater. Signals from the master sound system are converted into infrared light impulses and transmitted to lightweight, inconspicuous wireless earphones. Available at several area theaters, it is usually free of charge.

For the visually impaired, a free audio description service is provided at several theaters. Patrons, wearing tiny headsets, can sit anywhere in the audience and hear the program described by volunteers who supply such details as stage setting, movements and body language, without interrupting the flow of dialogue. The volunteers do about two performances a month for each theater offering the service. Call Washington Ear at 681-6636 for information and schedules, or a copy of the monthly program guide.

KENNEDY CENTER -- The center was the first performing arts organization in the area to install an infrared system. A limited number of headsets are available for all performances, free of charge. Headsets are available at the box office; patrons must leave a form of indentification as a deposit. Washington Ear provides audio service at the Kennedy Center for at least two performances.

NATIONAL THEATER -- Infrared available, provided free of charge by the National Theater Corporation. Call 628-6161. Washington Ear service, two performances per month (or two per production).

ARENA STAGE -- Washington Ear only, two performances per month.

ROUND HOUSE THEATER -- Infrared available, free. Call 468-4234. Washington Ear service, two performances per month.


MORRIS MECHANIC THEATER (BALTIMORE) -- Infrared only. 20 headsets per performance, $2, available at lobby coat check room. Call 301/727-1042.