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What’s new? Hearing in the modern classroom

Modern classrooms now include pods of desks that foster student interaction, play, and flexibility, but this could be a challenge for a child with hearing loss, an attention problem, or a learning disability. What technology out there can help?

Today's guest blogger is Yell Inverso, Au.D., PhD., CCC-A a pediatric audiologist at Nemours/Alfred I duPont Hospital for Children.

Elementary school classroom are virtually unrecognizable these days compared to what most of us can recall. Gone are the neat rows of desks with children sitting forward-facing, alphabetically organized by last name. Modern classrooms now include pods of desks that foster student interaction, play and flexibility.

Sounds great, right? But what about a child who has hearing loss, an attention problem, or a learning disability? How do you recommend preferential seating when there is no longer a "front row"?  As a pediatric audiologist, I have to be more specific now with my academic recommendations. Teachers no longer stand and write on the blackboard, so we have to ensure that, regardless of where they are teaching in the room, a child has access to their voice no matter where they are sitting.

Classroom FM (Frequency Modulated) systems are a great place to start. These systems have different configurations and can help all children in the classroom, not just those with hearing loss. A child wearing hearing aids or a cochlear implant connects to the system via a small receiver, where the teacher's voice transmits directly from a body-worn microphone. Additionally, FM systems can deliver the teacher's voice to the child's ear without being connected to a hearing aid. Speakers placed around the room can ensure that the teacher's voice is reaching all children loud-and-clear no matter where they are sitting.

Imagine, every child getting "front-row" sound access from anywhere in the classroom. This also allows the teacher to move around the room and not be quite as tethered to one spot. All children benefit from systems like Classroom FM and schools can consult with a pediatric audiologist, or the hearing and speech specialist that works with the school district when establishing budgets and building new classrooms.

Personal FM systems take the teachers' voice and put it directly into the ear of the student, making them essential for children with hearing loss. However, children with Auditory Processing Disorders or children with attention deficit disorders can also benefit from these audio-enhancing devices. If you are wondering if this type of technology is available in your child's school, ask your child's teacher or the school's administration.

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