I received an email yesterday from an audiologist who is just beginning to work in an educational setting. She asked whether I thought a newly identified four and a half year old with a mild to moderately severe hearing loss needed an FM system. She had asked colleagues their opinion. One said yes, and two said no – that the child might do well enough without one so we should wait and see how things go. Frankly, I cannot imagine what the ones who said no were thinking. Saying we should wait and see how the child performs is the “wait for failure” model of services. We know that hearing loss causes problems with access to auditory learning critical for both language and literacy.
Hearing Loss & Classroom Listening
Let’s think about what a child with a mild to moderate hearing loss will hear in the classroom. Even if hearing aids are great, we can expect a child with hearing loss to have difficulty hearing at distance and in noise. There are some sounds we can control. We can close windows and doors. We can try and control noise from computers and HVAC. We can put footies on the bottom of chairs and movable tables. But, classrooms have children in them. No matter how well behaved the kids are, the classrooms will be noisy. Shuffling seats, turning pages, whispering to neighbors. We cannot eliminate all noise. But noise will interfere with learning. There is a lot of research demonstrating the benefit of Classroom Amplification Distribution Systems for children with typical hearing. If we know that children with typical hearing benefit from remote microphones why would we doubt that children with hearing loss don’t need them?
So why do we need remote microphones?
Distance and noise are a problem for everyone. Most classrooms have a signal to noise ratio of +5 dB – speech 5 dB louder than the noise. We need to do everything we can assure that children can hear in the classroom. That means they need to hear.
We need to know that hearing aids or cochlear implants are set to provide the best possible hearing – in the speech string bean. And we need to be sure that they can hear in noisy places and that means they need remote microphones!