Assistive Listening Technology
David Walliams using a radio aid
Assistive Listening Equipment
Hearing aids and cochlear implant processors are essential pieces of equipment as they help deaf children by enabling them to hear the sounds of speech more clearly. However, they can also amplify unwanted background noise in addition to the essential speech sounds.
For optimum listening, the speaker should be about one metre from the hearing aid/cochlear implant user.
Ways to Improve Listening Conditions in Classroom for Pupils with a hearing difficulty
There are three main barriers to listening effectively through a hearing aid/cochlear implant:
- Background noise
- Reverberation or echoes
Classrooms with good acoustics make listening much easier for all pupils, but especially those with hearing difficulties and those that use assistive listening technology. The Teacher of the Deaf can advise on ways to improve the listening environment.
A few simple modifications:
- Carpeting floors
- Fitting rubber feet on tables and chairs
- Putting felt in the bottom of pencil pots
- Putting noticeboards on the walls to 'soften' hard surfaces
- Putting blinds or curtains at the windows
For deaf children, the teacher's voice needs to be 15-20dB above the level of the background noise in the room. This can be a challenge in a noisy classroom.
In order to help optimise access to the teacher's voice, it may be appropriate to introduce some additional assistive listening equipment, such as a radio aid or a soundfield system.
A radio aid comprises of: transmitter (microphone) worn by the teacher, and receiver(s) worn by the child
The microphone, worn close to the mouth, picks up the teacher’s voice. The voice is then transmitted to the child’s receiver(s). This enables the teacher’s voice to be received directly into the hearing aids or cochlear implants, wherever they are in the room, giving a more consistent and much improved access to the teacher's voice for the child.
There are many different systems available commercially. The majority of radio aid systems currently used by the BSCS are Roger technology, the latest digital standard from Phonak. The Sensory Consortium Service can loan radio aid systems to pupils in schools, set them up, and train staff and pupils in their use and maintenance.
The Teacher of the Deaf and the Educational Audiologist, in consultation with parents and the class teacher, evaluate whether a radio aid system will be of benefit for the child. Please see our Radio Aid Policy for further information around the procedure.
Soundfield systems can enhance the listening experience of all pupils in the class, and are usually supplied by the school. These can be permanently fixed speakers in ceiling or on the walls, or can be portable and moved into another classroom when required. The teacher uses a microphone, and the sound is distributed evenly around the room, through the speakers. In order to work well, the room must have reasonable acoustic properties. BSCS can advise schools on soundfield systems and have a small stock of loan systems for schools to try before they make a decision to purchase.