I have recently returned from a workshop I did for the staff at Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln Nebraska. The room was packed with teachers of the deaf, speech-language pathologists, audiologists and school administrators. There was no question but that we needed a remote microphone system to allow everyone to hear. As usual, I was given an FM with a clip on microphone. So, was that sufficient?
There can be no argument that every child with a hearing loss or other auditory disorder needs to use a remote microphone system. They are in a classroom that will be noisy just because it has children in it and they will always be at a distance from the teacher. So, using an FM or other remote microphone system is a given. Now let’s discuss microphones.
There is no doubt that a clip on mic provides good access but only when it is placed in the right place – within 6 inches of the mouth. How can I be sure that it is always within six inches of my mouth? There are very high end mics that will pick up as you turn your head but not the ones we use in schools. I often do a demo when I give a talk in which I move the mic around to show how the sound quality and volume change. This, of course, assumes, that the mic is clipped 6 inches from the speakers mouth.
When I do a school visit I frequently see the mic clipped at the waist, or sometimes upside down (usually not intentionally but it just got twisted). Or sometimes, it gets moved under clothing or tangled with jewelry. The problem is, the person who is wearing the clip on mic does not recognize that there is a problem because she is not listening through a receiver and the child with hearing loss who is listening doesn’t know to report a problem.
Head worn boom mic’s
If you go to listen to music performance (from opera to rock) you will see that the singers are wearing head worn boom mics. Why? Because they are ALWAYS in the right place – right next to the speaker’s mouth. No matter what you do, how you turn around, how you bend up and down the mic is in the right place. For our purposes, it means that the child will be hearing everything that is said in a clear, non distorting way.
I have heard teachers complain that a boom mic it is uncomfortable, interferes with glasses etc. It doesn’t. I wear glasses and hearing aids and I have absolutely no problem wearing a boom mic. And when I am wearing one I do not ever have to worry about where the mic is and whether the signal is a good one. It won’t get turned around, get tied in with jewelry and get into clothing. It may feel a little strange when you first wear it but after a couple of hours you won’t know it is there – and the value for the child is significant.
I have heard teachers express concern that a boom mic with interfere with lipreading. The answer to that one is simple. If it is one of those very thin mics then it will not interfere. It if is one of the larger mics then just move it down an inch and it will not be in the way.
What’s the goal?
The goal is that the child hear what is being said in the classroom without difficulty. If we agree that we need to assure that the child hear, we need to know that the kind of mic the teacher uses matters.
PLEASE let’s be sure that we have a mic which does the job. Go for a boom.