Real users. Real success.
Boulder Valley Case Study
After upgrading their wide-area fiber network to accommodate all 55 schools across the district complete with a new video archive system, Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) in Colorado set out to compliment their new district-wide investment with classroom-based technology that would take full advantage of this new infrastructure. BVSD wanted a full-featured classroom solution that was not only easy to configure and use, but was cost-effective enough to cover most of the district’s needs.
After an extensive search and a competitive bidding process, BVSD selected Front Row’s ezRoom 5100 classroom A/V solution to harness the power of all its classroom technology tools effectively and efficiently. The ezRoom system delivers fully integrated device control, hardware and software interfaces, remote monitoring, audio amplification, multimedia wall plates, projector mounting, ceiling mounted speakers, and all connectors, wires and cables needed to connect classrooms district wide.
According to BVSD bond IT project manager Chad Zemer, “Our goal was not technology for technology’s sake. It was to address inequities in the classroom and create an environment in which all students can see and hear what’s being taught. We felt that FrontRow was the best technology partner to help us accomplish that goal.”
In a district that is already considered “tech savvy”, the advantages to having integrated classroom A/V controls may not be obvious. BVSD already enjoys some of the highest Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) test results in the state, but according to Zemer, there’s always room for improvement. v“Even if you take high-tech learning out of the equation and you consider something as simple as audio enhancement in the classroom, there’s typically a 40% higher retention rate in classrooms with microphones, “ Zemer said. “There is no doubt that we can do better, whether it’s helping bridge achievement gaps for underperforming students, or improving on our already excellent CSAP scores.
The FrontRow solutions in the classrooms will be a catalyst for such improvement.”To date, BVSD has been able outfit almost 80% of their 1,500 classrooms across the district with ezRooms and that rollout continues, along with some of their district audiologists, speech pathologists and principals who are aggressively championing the addition of FrontRow’s Symbio microphones with the ezRoom systems previously installed.
The gallery continues to present innovative and challenging work by New Zealand and international artists. It is owned and operated by the New Plymouth District Council.
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery used funds to purchase a FrontRow ToGo as part of their accessibility initiative.
Everyone Should Feel Welcome in the Gallery
Based in New Plymouth, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is regarded as one of New Zealand’s most courageous contemporary art galleries. The life and spirit of the Govett-Brewster was determined by the vision of founding patron Monica Brewster (nee Govett). Monica envisaged a contemporary art museum of international standing that would offer New Plymouth a window to the world. In 1962, she realised her dream through a generous gift and a subsequent bequest to the city that established the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, its policy and collection.
Described as a “futurist”, Monica believed in openness and individuality, choice and freedom of expression. The Govett-Brewster opened in February 1970 with a groundbreaking multi-sensory installation by New Zealand artist Leon Narbey. Since 1980, it’s been home to the collection of modernist filmmaker and kinetic sculptor Len Lye.
The gallery continues to present innovative and challenging work by New Zealand and international artists. It is owned and operated by the New Plymouth District Council.
Govett-Brewster receives the Big ‘A’ Creative New Zealand Arts For All Award.
A key benefit of receiving the award is that it’s encouraged us to continue our journey of ensuring accessibility. Accessibility to us means that everyone should feel welcome in the gallery. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the concept of manaakitanga – treating everyone with respect, no matter who they are. Ensuring the gallery is as accessible as possible has benefits for everyone, whether it’s a mum with a baby in a pushchair or someone with a hearing impairment.
The award money enabled us to buy our own FrontRow ToGo, an amplification system for people with a hearing impairment. This means the system is always available at the gallery: before that, we used the Council’s FrontRow ToGo. This has the added benefit of freeing up the Council’s resource.
Click here to view the entire article (pdf).
Use of FrontRow increased number of first graders reading at grade level by 50%.
How to Boost Reading Scores by 50%
The West Orange Public School District (West Orange, New Jersey) requires amplification in all classrooms. The technology became mandatory after teachers started using FrontRow during the 2003-2004 school year and the district saw first-grade reading scores jump from 59% to 89% at or above grade level.
“That got everybody’s attention, as you can imagine,” said Karen Tarnoff, the district’s testing coordinator. “There was nothing else over the course of the year that was different than in any other year. The teachers and the curriculum remained the same, and nothing new was added other than the amplification system.”
How Mr. Gurney’s Voice Came Back
When kindergarten teacher Dan Gurney of Dunham Elementary (Petaluma, California) first discovered the FrontRow sound system in 2000, he knew right away it would help him improve students’ literacy skills. Having invented a literacy-building program called Soundabet, he was well aware of the need for students to clearly hear individual phonemes.
Teacher Dan Gurney noticed he had more energy at the end of each day when using a FrontRow system.
What he didn’t anticipate was the positive effect it would have on his voice and energy level. Like many teachers, Dan went hoarse several times a year, and regularly felt worn out by the end of the day. In fact, his doctor told him that being repeatedly hoarse was a matter of concern, just as back pain would be for a construction worker.
Soon after using the FrontRow sound system, Dan was elated at how much energy he had at the end of the day and how his voice improved. “In the same way I switch on the lights so I don’t have to teach in a dark room, I switch on my FrontRow so I can be heard without straining,” he says.
How Ms. Baker Got Her Kids to Listen
Principal Joya Baker began using FrontRow sound systems in 2005 in the Banning Unified School District in California. Now, nearly 35 classrooms at all grade levels are equipped.
According to Joya and her teachers, it’s made a huge difference in getting students’ attention. “Now it takes absolutely nothing to get everyone's attention,” she says.“A teacher can say, 'One, two, three — eyes on me,' and everyone looks up because they can hear in every part of the room. It's very easy for the teacher, in a calm manner, to call them back together or get them on task.”
The FrontRow ToGo made a big difference in Max McGee principal training symposium.
Making teacher training more more effective
With school districts under pressure financially and academically, it's imperative that professional development sessions are effective. Max McGee, President of Illinois Math and Science Academy (Aurora, Illinois) uses the FrontRow ToGo at symposia for principals. While these sessions are notorious for being difficult to hear, leading to distractions and disengagement, McGee found that using the sound system made presentations clear, and the handheld microphone ensured that contributions by the group could be heard as well. “Usually, I am completely exhausted after these workshops," he says, "but I have to say being able to speak in a normal voice enabled me to keep my energy and endurance throughout the entire afternoon. The participants wrote in their evaluations about how I was ‘on’ for the full time and thus kept them more engaged.”
Additionally, McGee notes that “after the first five minutes, [using the system] became second nature.”
In January 2012, eMINTS released a study that examined the impact of classroom amplification in classrooms. The study spanned the 2010-2011 school year, included 34 teachers, 943 students, and 13 schools ranging in grades 4 through 12, and examined the effects of FrontRow on:
- Student academic performance
- Student behavior/motivation
- Teacher instructional change
Classrooms without an audio system were compared to those that either used a FrontRow Lasso or a FrontRow Pro Digital with the OptiVoice feature turned on to improve speech comprehension – and the results were dramatic.
According to this study, FrontRow:
- Provided significant benefit to students with Spec Ed classifications.
- Made learning easier for English-language students.
- Boosted academic performance in reading/language arts across ALL levels (with the highest improvement being in the Pro Digital with OptiVoice category).
- Helped reduce the number of student behavior incidents.
- Increased the use of other classroom technologies.
- Reduced teacher vocal fatigue.
Students were quick to note the impact FrontRow had on their learning, as shown here:
Data source: “A Study of Classroom Amplification Systems in 21st Century Classrooms: An Analysis of the Impact of System Usage on Participating Teachers and Students”
The need for amplification in schools
The rationale for the use of sound field amplification in regular classes is based on an extensive body of literature documenting a higher incidence of ear infections (and related hearing loss) in young children, greater difficulty understanding speech in the presence of noise, and immature listening skills related to neuromaturation of the auditory system well into adolescence: (Bluestone, 2004; Moore, 2002; Nelson & Soli, 2000; Gil-Loyzaga, 2005; Stelmachowicz, Hoover, Lewis, Kortekaas, & Pittman, 2000).
As well, studies have found that recommended acoustical standards for noise levels and reverberation times are not achieved in the majority of classrooms (Bess, Sinclair & Riggs, 1984; Crandell & Smaldino, 1994; Crandell & Smaldino, 1995; Crandell, Smaldino & Flexer, 1999; Pekkarinen & Viljanen, 1991).
Researchers have argued that the intersection of often poor classroom acoustics, the inherent high demands on listening and auditory processing in classrooms, and the immature listening skills of children due to neuromaturation, create barriers to learning that place all children at educational risk (Anderson, 2004; Flexer, 2004).
The research on academic improvement due to voice amplification
Signal to noise ratios (ie. the level of the teacher’s voice compared to the level of the background noise) can be improved through the use of sound field amplification, resulting in clearer speech signals (Larsen & Blair, 2008).
Research with hearing children indicates better ability to discriminate words and spoken language more accurately with the use of a sound field amplification system than without (Arnold & Canning, 1999; Prendergast, 2005).
Studies have found improved scores in dictated spelling tests (Burgener & Deichmann, 1982; Zabel & Taylor, 1993).
Chelius (2004) reported that students in grades 1, 3, 4 and 5 in amplified classrooms achieved better standardized test scores in early literacy, on the Developmental Reading Assessment and in reading fluency than did students in unamplified classrooms. Similarly, a longitudinal study by Gertel, McCarty & Schoff (2004) found that students in amplified classrooms scored 10% better on a standardized achievement test than students in unamplified classrooms. Darai (2000) found first grade students in amplified classrooms to show greater literacy gains as measured by a reading inventory. Long term outcome measures from the Mainstream Amplification Resource Room Study Project (MARRS) indicated better scores on standardized tests of listening and language skills for kindergarten students, and better scores in the areas of math concepts, math computation and reading for grade 2 and 3 students (Flexer, 1989; Ray, 1992).
Massie & Dillon (2006b) reported statistically significant improvement in ratings of attention,communication and classroom behaviour in amplified vs unamplified classrooms, and noted that teachers considered that "sound-field amplification facilitated peer interaction, increased verbal involvement in classroom discussion, and promoted a more proactive and confident role in classroom discussion” (p. 89). Wilson (1989) compared classroom amplification and teacher training in language development with respect to changes in language skills for children enrolled in Head Start programs, and found that while neither sound field amplification nor teacher training alone resulted in measurable changes in language scores for these children, the combination of amplification and training did.
Flexer, Biley, Hinkley, Harkema, & Holcomb (2002) studied changes in phonological awareness skills in 3 groups of kindergarten children; one group taught with the standard curriculum, a second group taught with the standard curriculum plus targeted phonological awareness instruction, and a third group taught with the standard curriculum plus phonological awareness instruction in an amplified classroom. While both the second and third groups showed higher post-test scores on a standardized test of phonological awareness, the third group from the amplified classroom showed the highest scores. At the end of the first semester of kindergarten, 57% of children in the control group and 43% of the children in the direct instruction group obtained scores on the phonological measures which placed them “at risk” for reading development, compared to 7% of the group receiving direct instruction and sound field amplification, although small sample sizes precluded further statistical analysis. The authors suggested that the addition of sound field amplification to target phonological awareness instruction “allows phonemic detail to reach the brains of children continuously” (p. 44).
Allcock (1999) also reported improvement in scores on standardized tests of phonological processing, with 74% of children in amplified classrooms achieving an improvement of 1 stanine or more, versus 46% in unamplified classrooms.
Rubin, Aquino-Russell, & Flagg-Williams (2007) conducted a study of 60 New Brunswick classrooms, grades 1 through 3, in which 31 classrooms received sound field amplification systems, and 29 served as a control group. Using the Revised Environmental Communication Profile (as described in Massie, Theodoros, McPherson, & Smaldino, 2004), they found statistically significant increases in student responses to teacher statements, decreases in the number of teacher repetitions, and fewer student initiated communications with peers during instruction (ie. fewer instances of students speaking amongst themselves during teacher instruction) in the amplified classrooms. The findings that teachers needed less time to direct and maintain attention was particularly strong for kindergarten children. Teachers commented that sound field amplification helped make classrooms more inclusive because all students were more engaged, and that use of the pass-around microphone increased student participation, confidence, and empowerment.
Allcock, J. (1999). Report of FM sound field study, Paremata School, 1997. Oticon Research Draft.
Allen, L., & Patton, D. (1990). Effects of sound field amplification on students on-task behavior. Paper presented at the American Speech Language Hearing Convention, Seattle, Washington, November.
Anderson, K. (2004). The Problem of Classroom Acoustics: The Typical Classroom Soundscape Is a Barrier to Learning. Seminars in Hearing, 24(5), 117-130.
Arnold, P., & Canning, D. (1999). Does classroom amplification aid comprehension? British Journal of Audiology, 33(3), 171-178.
Berg, F., Bateman, R., & Viehweg, S. (1989). Sound field FM amplification in junior high school classrooms. Paper presented at the American Speech Language Hearing Association Convention, St. Louis, MO, November.
Bess, F. H., Sinclair, J. s., & Riggs, D. (1984). Group amplification in schools for the hearing impaired. Ear and Hearing, 5, 138-44.
Bluestone, C. (2004). Studies in otitis media: Children’s Hospital of Pittsburg=University of Pittsburgh progress report 2004. Laryngoscope, 1111(11 Pt 3 Supplement 195, 1-26.
Burgener, G. & Deichmann, J. (1982). Voice amplification and its effects on test taking performance. Hearing Instruments, 33(11)
Chelius, L. (2004). Trost Amplification Study. Canby, Oregon: Canby School District. Unpublished manuscript.
Cornwell, S., & Evans, C. (2001). The effects of sound field amplification on attending behaviours. Journal of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology, 25(3), 135-144.
Crandell, C. (1991). The effects of classroom amplification on children with normal hearing: Implications for intervention strategies. Educational Audiology Monograph, 2, 18-38.
Crandell, C., & Bess, F. (1986). Speech recognition of children in a 'typical' classroom setting. Asha, 29, 82.
Crandell, C., & Smaldino, J. (1994). An update of classroom acoustics for children with hearing impairment. The Volta Review, 96, 291-306.
Crandell, C., & Smaldino, J. (2000). Classroom acoustics for children with normal hearing and with hearing impairment. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 31, 362-70.
Crandell, C., Flexer, C., & Smaldino, J. (2004). Sound Field Amplification: Applications to Speech Perception and Classroom Acoustics. Clifton Park, NY: Thomson Delmar Learning.
Crandell, C., Smaldino, J., & Flexer, C. (1999). An overview of sound-field FM amplification. The Hearing Review, 6(6), 40-2
Darai, B. (2000) Using sound field FM systems to improve literacy scores. Advance for Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists, 10(27), 5, 13.
Edwards, D. (2005). A formative evaluation of sound field amplification system across several grade levels in four schools. Journal of Educational Audiology, 12, 59-66.
Elliott, L. (1979). Performance of children aged 9 to 17 years on a test of speech intelligibility in noise using sentence material with controlled word predictability. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 66, 651-653.
Flexer, C. (2004). The impact of classroom acoustics: Listening, learning, and literacy. Seminars in Hearing, 25(2), 131-140.
Flexer, C., Richards, C., & Buie, C. (1994). Soundfield amplification for regular kindergarten and first grade classrooms: A longitudinal study of fluctuating hearing loss and pupil performance. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Audiology, Richmond, VA.
Flexer, C., Biley, K., Hinkley, A., Harkema, C., & Holcomb, J. (2002). Using sound-field systems to teach phonemic awareness to pre-schoolers. The Hearing Journal, 55(3), 38-44.
Finitzo-Hieber, T., & Tillman, T. (1978). Room acoustics effects on monosyllabic word discrimination ability for normal and hearing-impaired children. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 21, 440-458.
Gertel, S., McCarty, P., & Schoff, L. (2004). High performance schools equals high performing students. Educational Facility Planner, 39(3), 20-24.
Gil-Loyzaga., P. (2005). Neuroplasticity in the auditory system. Review of Laryngology, Otolaryngology and Rhinolology, 126(4), 203-7.
Gilman, L., & Danzer, V. (1989). Use of FM sound field amplification in regular classrooms. Paper presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention, St. Louis, MO.
Jonsdottir, V. (2002). Cordless amplifying system in classrooms: A descriptive study of teachers' and students' opinions. Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, 27(1 ), 29-36.
Knittel, M., Myott, B., & McClain, H. (2002). Update from Oakland schools sound-field team: IR vs. FM. Educational Audiology Review, 19(2), 10-11.
Larsen, J., & Blair, J. (2008). The effect of classroom amplification on the signal to noise ratio in classrooms while class is in session. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 39(10), 451-460.
Long, A. (2007). The effects of sound field amplification on reading achievement. Action Research Exchange, 6(1). Downloaded
McSporran, E., Butterworth, Y., & Rowson, V. J. (1997). Sound field amplification and listening behaviour in the classroom. British Educational Research Journal, 23, 81-96.
Mendel, L., Roberts, R., & Walton, J. (2003). Speech perception benefits from sound field FM amplification. American Journal of Audiology, 12(12), 114-124.
Moore, J. (2002). Maturation of human auditory cortex: Implications for speech perception. The Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology, 111(5), 7-11.
Nabelek. A, & Donohue, A. (1986). Comparison of amplification systems in an auditorium. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 79(6), 2078-2082.
Nelson, P. B., & Soli, S. (2000). Acoustical barriers to learning: Children at risk in every classroom. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 31, 356-61.
Palmer, C. (1998). Quantification of the ecobehavioural impact of a sound field loudspeaker system in elementary classrooms. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 41(4), 819-833.
Pekkarinen, E. & Viljanen, V. (1991). Acoustic conditions for speech communication in classrooms. Scandinavian Audiology, 20, 257-63.
Prendergast, S. (2005). Use of the California Consonant Test with children. Journal of Educational Audiology, 12, 67-75.
Purcell, N. (2003). Grade one sound field study: The effects of sound fields on reading acquisition in grade one. Unpublished manuscript.
Ray, H. (1992). Summary of Mainstream Amplification Resource Room Study (MARRS) adoption data validated in 1992. Norris City, IL: Wabash and Ohio Special Education District.
Rosenberg, G., Blake-Rahtner, P., Heavner, J., Allen, L., Redmond, B., & Phillips (1999). Improving classroom acoustics (ICA): A three-year FM sound-field classroom amplification study. Journal of Educational Audiology; 7(3). 8-28.
Rubin, R., Aquino-Russell, & Flagg-Williams (2007). Evaluating sound field amplification technology in New Brunswick Schools. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists.
Sarff, L. (1981). An innovative use of free field amplification in regular classrooms. In R. Roeser & M. Downs (Eds.), Auditory Disorders in School Children (pp. 263-272). New York: ThiemeStratton.
Smoski, W. J., Brunt, M. A. and Tannahill, J. C. (1992). Listening characteristics of children with central auditory processing disorders. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 23, 145-152.
Sockalingham, R., Pinard, L., Cassie, R., & Green, W. (2007). Benefits of sound field amplification for elementary school children with and without hearing loss. Asia Pacific Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing, 10(3), 145-155.
Stelmachowicz, P. G., Hoover, B. M., Lewis, D. E., Kortekaas, R., & Pittman, A. L. (2000). The relation between stimulus context, speech audibility, and perception for normal-hearing and hearing-impaired children. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 43, 902-14.
Zabel, H., & Taylor, M. (1993). Effects of soundfield amplification on spelling performance of elementary school children. Educational Audiology Monograph, 3, 5-9.
Reductions in special education referral rates
Data showing decreases in special education referral rates following installation of sound field systems across school districts has been reported in several studies. Of course, special education referral rates encompass a range of students with learning challenges, and many factors may be at play; however, the magnitude of these decreases in referral rates is very interesting. For example, in the Oconto Falls School District in Wisconsin, special education referral rates fell from an average of 7.72% in the years 1989-1998 to 4.6% from 1998 to 2000, where sound field amplification systems were installed in every classroom in the district from kindergarten to grade 5 (Flexer & Long, 2004). Long term data from the MARRS project described previously indicated special education referral rates fell almost 40% after 5 years of sound field use in classroom across the school district (Ray, 1992).
McSporran , Butterworth & Rowson (1997) reported a significant increase in scores on the Children’s Auditory Processing Scale (CHAPPS) (Smoski, Brunt & Tannahill, 1992) for children identified as being at educational risk, following 5 months’ use of sound field amplification in two classrooms, and in fact suggested that the greater the initial difficulties reported, the greater the improvement tended to be.
Research has shown sound field amplification to have positive effects on classroom behaviour for students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); a small study by Maag & Anderson (2007) found decreases in the time it took their subjects to respond to teacher instructions to levels approximating those of average students. A similar study by these authors of children identified with emotional and behavior disorders (with Individual Education Plans) also indicated faster responses to instructions when sound field amplification was present versus unamplified conditions. Studies have also shown positive changes in listening behaviour of students with learning disabilities (DiSarno, Schowalter & Grassa, 2002)
The fact that children with Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities have a higher incidence of temporary and permanent hearing loss is well-documented (see review by Bluestone, 2004). While it might be hypothesized that self-contained classrooms for children with special needs might represent more favourable listening environments, Leung & McPherson’s (2006) study of 8 classrooms for children with developmental disabilities showed that classroom acoustics were no better than what is consistently reported in the literature for typical classrooms, and that sound field amplification provided a signal to noise ratio which met recommended guidelines. Research shows improved speech perception abilities for children with Downs Syndrome with sound field amplification (Bennetts & Flynn, 2002; Flexer, Millin & Brown, 1990). McPherson, Lai, Leung, & Ng (2007) in fact recommended the routine use of sound field amplification systems in classrooms based on their findings on previously undiagnosed hearing loss in older children with Down Syndrome in Chinese schools.
The first large sound field amplification study was the Mainstream Amplification Resource Room Study (MARRS), which investigated the benefits of sound field amplification for children with minimal hearing loss. At the end of 3 years, students with minimal hearing loss who received regular classroom instruction in an amplified classroom showed significantly greater improvement in academic achievement than students who received instruction in regular classrooms without amplification, or those who received regular classroom instruction with supplemental resource room instruction (Ray, 1992; Sarff, 1981).
Jones, Berg & Viehweg (1989) found that kindergarten children with minimal hearing loss performed as well as hearing peers in a word discrimination task when words were presented via sound field amplification; discrimination scores for children with minimal hearing loss improved from 81% without amplification, to 98% with amplification. Neuss, Blair & Viehweg (1991) also found improved word recognition in noise for this population of children when sound field amplification was used. Similarly, Blair, Myrup & Viehweg (1989) found that children with moderate hearing loss showed better speech discrimination abilities with sound field amplification and personal hearing aids, compared to hearing aids alone, and Inglehart (2004) showed similar results for students with cochlear implants. However, research on children with permanent hearing loss who use personal amplification indicates that, while sound field amplification provides more benefit than personal hearing aids or cochlear implants alone, personal FM systems are generally preferable to sound field amplification for providing a better auditory signal (Anderson & Goldstein, 2004; Anderson, Goldstein, Colodzin & Inglehart, 2005; Schafer & Thibodeau, Nabelek & Donohue, 1986).
DiSarno, N., Schowalter, M., & Grassa, P. (2002). Classroom amplification to enhance student performance. Teaching Exceptional Children, July/August, 20-16.
Flexer, C. Turn on sound: an odyssey of sound field amplification. Educational Audiology Association Newsletter, 5(5).
Flexer, C., & Long, S. Sound field amplification: Preliminary information regarding special education referrals. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 25 (1), 29-34.
Maag, J., & Anderson, J. (2007). Sound field amplification to increase compliance to directions in students with ADHD. Behavioural Disorders, 32(4), 238-254.
Maag, J., & Anderson, J. (2006). Effects of Sound-Field Amplification to Increase Compliance of Students with Emotional and Behavior Disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 31(4), 378-393.
Ray, H. (1992). Summary of Mainstream Amplification Resource Room Study (MARRS) adoption data validated in 1992. Norris City, IL: Wabash and Ohio Special Education District.
Ray, H., Sarff, L. S. and Glassford, F. (1984). Soundfield amplification: an innovative educational intervention for mainstreamed learning disabled students. The Directive Teacher, 6, 18-20.
Wilson, R. (1989). The effect of sound field amplification paired with teacher training as an approach to language stimulation with Head Start children. PhD dissertation, University of Toledo.
Benefits for children learning English
A variety of studies have indicated that adults and children learning English as a Second Language demonstrate more difficulty in discriminating words accurately when there is background noise (Crandell, 1990; Crandell & Smaldino, 1995; Crandell, Smaldino & Flexer, 1995; Mayo & Florentine, 1997; Nabelek & Nabelek, 1994). Mayo & Florentine (1997) further found that children who acquired English at an earlier age had less difficulty with speech discrimination in noise than did children learning English at an older age.
Sound field amplification has been shown to produce improvements in speech perception scores of up to 30% for children learning English as a Second Language when noise is present (Crandell, 1994; Crandell, 1996). Vincenty-Luyando (2000) compared monolingual school children (English speaking) and bilingual children (Spanish speaking) in their speech perception accuracy in a real classroom with typical classroom noise levels introduced, with and without sound field amplification. Bilingual students demonstrated significantly poorer phoneme discrimination abilities in the presence of noise (63% vs 76% for monolingual children). Under the highest noise conditions, all children’s scores combined improved by 19% with the introduction of sound field amplification. Differences in phoneme identification scores with and without sound field amplification were statistically significant, although monolingual and bilingual children did not differ in the amount of improvement seen.
Special benefits for aboriginal and native students
There is ample evidence to suggest that Aboriginal children experience a higher incidence of recurrent otitis media and related conductive hearing loss. In fact, the highest rates of chronic otitis media in the world are found in Inuit, First Nations and Metis populations of Canada, Alaska and Greenland, with incidence rates as high as 40 times those of southern communities (Bluestone, 1998; Bowd, 2005, see review by Baxter, 1999). Aboriginal children in Australia and New Zealand similarly demonstrate a very high incidence of otitis media (McPherson, 1990; Nienhuys, Boswell, & McDonnell, 1994; Massie, Theordoros, McPherson & Smaldino, 2004); Nienhuys (1994) reported that 50 to 80% of Aboriginal children have sufficient middle ear related hearing loss to have an adverse effect on learning. American Indian children show incidence rates of otitis media of 3 times that of other populations (Hunter, Davey, Kohtz, & Daley (2007). Eriks-Brophy & Ayukawa (2000) suggest that complicating the fact that otitis media is extremely common in Aboriginal children is the fact that traditional amplification for hearing aids is typically not used consistently due to problems with acceptance and with maintaining and repairing working hearing aids in extremely isolated communities with limited resources.
Sound field amplification is a classroom intervention which may help to address this high incidence of hearing loss. Two Canadian studies have investigated the use of this technology with Aboriginal children. Eriks-Brophy & Ayukawa (2000) found an improvement of 16.2% in speech discrimination scores for children with hearing loss when sound field amplification was used, and an improvement of 9.7% for children with normal hearing. Teachers also reported measurable improvements in on-task behaviors for children with hearing loss with the use of sound field amplification, and anecdotally, described increased attention in large group activities, more rapid student response times, less need for repetition, improved listening skills and decreased teacher fatigue at day’s end. Pinard (2006) studied efficacy of sound field amplification for First Nations children in Nova Scotia, Canada and found hearing loss incidence to range from 12 to 25% of students screened, from mild to moderate hearing loss levels.
Implementation of sound field amplification resulted in significant increases in teacher reported scores on the Screening Instrument for Targeting Educational Risk (SIFTER), with the greatest changes seen for children with hearing loss compared to normal hearing classmates (although lack of a comparison unamplified control group was a limitation of this study). This researcher also noted that greater improvements in student performance were associated with number of hours the systems were used per day.
A study in New Zealand of schools with overall a 35% Maori population indicated significant improvement in standardized test scores of listening comprehension, reading comprehension, and reading vocabulary following one year of sound field use in the classrooms (Heeley, 2004). A particular focus of this study was changes in phonological awareness skills, which showed statistically significant improvement in ten subskills of phonological awareness for children in amplified classrooms vs control groups in unamplified classrooms. Anecdotal teacher comments in amplified classrooms included lower noise levels in the classroom, increased on-task behaviour, reduced disruptive behavior, improved understanding of instruction and student cooperation, and reduced vocal strain. As New Zealand school districts categorize schools on a socioeconomic status (SES) scale, this data was available for analysis; results show that, although not statistically significant, overall student score improvements in low SES schools were greater than for those in higher SES schools.
Massie, Theodoros, McPherson & Smaldino (2004) found increases in classroom communicative interactions, increases in number of child initiated interactions, and statistically significant changes in teacher evaluations of attention and class participation. Massie & Dylan (2006) in a study of 12 classrooms with a majority of students from Aboriginal heritage or learning English as a Second Language, found increases in numbers of skills mastered over a term in the areas of reading, writing and numeracy associated with sound field amplification use.
Page (1995) also reported positive teacher reports related to implementation of sound field amplification in 4 schools in Aboriginal communities and in schools with high proportions of Aboriginal students; similar positive anecdotal reports were found for Aboriginal kindergarten students by Dowell (1995). Flexer (2000) studied sound field amplification in first grade classrooms in Utah with 85% of its student population from Native American heritage. In five years prior to sound field use, only 44 to 48% of students scored at the “basic” level of a standardized reading test; following implementation of sound field amplification for 7 months, 74% of children scored at the basic level.
Baxter, J. (1999). Otitis media in Inuit children in eastern Canada Arctic – an overview, 1968 to present. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 49(1), S165-S168.
Bowd, A. (2005). Otitis media: health and social consequences for aboriginal youth in Canada's north. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 64(1), 5-15.
Crandell, C. (1994). Use of sound field amplification with ESL students. Presented at the American Academy of Audiology annual meeting. Richmond ,VA.
Crandell, C. (1996). Effects of sound field FM amplification on the speech perception of ESL children. Educational Audiology Monograph, 4, 1-5.
Dowell, J. (1995). Trial of sound-field amplification system. Proceedings of the Otitis Media NSW Conference 1995-Its Implications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. New South Wales Department of Health, New South Wales Department of School Education, New South Wales Board of Studies.
Eriks-Brophy, A. and Ayukawa, H. (2000). The benefits of sound field amplification in classrooms of Inuit students of Nunavik: A pilot project. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 31, 324-335.
Flexer, C. (2000). The startling possibility of sound field. Advance for Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists, 10(36), 5, 13.
Heeney, M. (2004). Creating enhanced learning environments: The benefits of sound field amplification systems. Retrieved from http://www.oticon.org.nz/pdf/soundfieldresearch.pdf
Hunter, L., Davey, C., Kohtz, A., & Daley, D. (2007). Hearing screening and middle ear measures in American Indian infants and toddlers. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 71(9), 1429-38.
Massie, R., Theodoros, D., McPherson, B. and Smaldino, J. (2004). Sound-field amplification: Enhancing the classroom listening environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 33, 47-53.
Massie, R., & Dillon, H. (2006a). The impact of sound-field amplification in mainstream crosscultural classrooms: Part 1 educational outcomes. Australian Journal of Education, 50(1), 62- 78.
Massie, R., & Dillon, H. (2006b). The impact of sound-field amplification in mainstream crosscultural classrooms: Part 2. Teacher and child opinions. Australian Journal of Education, 50(1), 78-95.
Mayo, L., & Florentine, M. (1997). Age of second-language acquisition and perception of speech in noise. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 40(3), 686-693.
McPherson, B. (1990). Hearing loss in Australian Aboriginals: A critical evaluation. Australian Journal of Audiology, 12, 67-78.
Nabelek, A., & Nabelek, I. (1994). Room acoustics and speech perception. In J. Katz (Ed.), Handbook of Clinical Audiology (4th ed., pp. 624-37). Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins.
Nienhuys, T. (1994). Aboriginal conductive hearing loss for life. Australian Language Matters, 2(1), 8-9.
Nienhuys, T., Boswell, J., & McConnell, F. (1994). Middle ear measures as predictors of hearing loss in Australian Aboriginal children. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 30, 15-27.
Page, S. (1995). Dual FM sound field amplification: A flexible integrated classroom amplification system for mild to moderate conductive hearing loss. Unpublished manuscript.
Pinard, L. (2006). Prevalence of otitis media and hearing loss and effects of sound-field FM amplification among First Nations elementary school children. Masters thesis, Dalhousie University, Canada.
Vincenty-Luyando, M. (2000). The effect of noise and sound-field FM amplification upon the speech perception abilities of bilingual and monolingual students. PhD dissertation, The University of Connecticut.
Reduction in teacher voice problems
Teachers are at increased risk for vocal problems compared to individuals in other professions, a phenomenon which is well documented in the literature (Gotaas & Starr, 1993; Morton & Watson, 1998; Preciado-Lopez, Perez-Fernandez, Calzada-Uriondo, 2008; Smith, Gray, Dove, Kirchner & Heras, 1997; Titze, Lemke & Montequin, 1996; Vilkman, 2004). Gotaas & Starr (1993) in fact, reported that 80% of teachers surveyed reported vocal problems.
Sapienza, Crandell & Curtis (1999) found that teachers used less vocal effort when they used a sound field amplification system; they were able to speak more softly with the sound field system but still be heard more effectively by their students. A study by Jonsdottir (2002) of teachers and students from elementary school classrooms, and college/university classrooms indicated that without amplification, 70% of teachers reported throat discomfort prior to trial of sound field amplification; this decreased to 27% after sound field installation. Ray et al., (2002) found that teachers using voice amplification reported less voice handicap and voice disorder severity, which was corroborated by objective acoustic analysis following a 6 week trial than teachers in a control group.
Allen, L. (1995). The effect of sound field amplification on teacher vocal abuse problems. Paper presented at the Educational Audiology Association Conference, Lake Lure, NC.
Boswell, S. (2006, May 23). Sound field systems on the rise in schools: Improved test scores cited as benefit. The ASHA Leader, 11(7), 1, 32-33.
Gotaas, C., & Starr, C. (1993). Vocal fatigue among teachers. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 45, 120-9.
Jonsdottir, V., Laukkanen, A. & Siikki, I. (2003). Changes in teachers' voice quality during a working day with and without electric sound amplification. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 55, 267-280
Morton, V., & Watson, D. (1998). The teaching voice: Problems and perceptions. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 55, 133-139.
Preciado-Lopez, J., Perez-Fernandez, C., Calzada-Uriondo, M., & Precidado-Ruiz, P. (2008). Epidemiological study of voice disorders among teaching professionals of La Rioja, Spain. Journal of Voice, 22(4), 489-508.
Roy, N., Weinrich, B., Gray, S., Tanner, K., Toledo, S., Dove, H., Corbin-Lewis, K., & Stemple, C. (2002). Voice amplification versus vocal hygiene instruction for teachers with voice disorders: A treatment outcomes study. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 45, 625-638.
Sapienza, C., Crandell, C., & Curtis, B. (1999). Effects of sound-field frequency modulation amplification on reducing teachers’ sound pressure level in the classroom. Journal of Voice, 13(3), 375-381.
Smith, E., Gray, S., Dove, H., Kirchner, L., & Heras, H. (1997). Frequency and effects of teachers' voice problems. Journal of Voice, 11(1), 81-7.
Titze, I. R., Lemke, J., & Montequin, D. (1996). Populations in the US workforce who rely on voice as a primary tool of trade. NCVS Status and Progress Report, 10, 127-32.
Vilkman, E. (2004). Occupational safety and health aspects of voice and speech professions. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 56(4), pg. 220-253.