Phonak has been at the forefront of technological research and innovation for paediatric hearing instruments for years. Our dedicated team of engineers is always looking for ways of making young people live healthy and fulfilled lives despite hearing impairment. So this year we’ve continued to show our support for a truly important cause and participated at the BATOD (British Association of Teachers of the Deaf) Conference.
The conference offered a range of workshops on cognitive and emotional development of deaf children. The conference speakers presented papers on evidence-based audiology and practice, as well as innovative methods for providing consistent education to hearing-impaired youngsters.
This particular topic is very close to our heart here at Phonak, because we recognise that classroom settings can be extremely challenging environments for listening, especially for children with hearing loss. In order to combat the high levels of background noise, reverberation, and speaker-listener, our researchers have revealed that remote microphone system (RMS) can offer an ideal solution to this problem.
RMS improves the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and enhances speech perception. Access to high-quality, clear speech is critical for the optimum development of receptive and expressive language in all developing children but especially those with hearing loss.
But as the old saying goes, it takes a village to educate a child so good hearing resources should ideally be made available in all areas of the child’s life. Unfortunately, studies of RMS usage show that many children do not have access to such aids at home, reducing the amount of information and interaction they are exposed to throughout the day.
A recent study was conducted in the homes of children with hearing loss exploring the effects of RMS caregiver talk. Despite the fact that caregivers did not talk more when using an RMS in the home than when not using one, it was estimated that RMS use in the home enabled children’s access to approximately 5,300 more keywords during an eight-hour day. This is because parents spoke more from a distance to their child while using the RMS, confident in the knowledge that they could be heard.
In order to assess the impact of RMS technology at in-home environments, ten families of preschool-aged children with bilateral permanent hearing loss were provided with a Phonak Roger™ RMS. The families were also given LENA recorders, which can record up to 16 hours of data that can subsequently be downloaded and automatically analysed by LENA software.
Caregivers were instructed to activate both the child’s and their own recorders simultaneously as soon as the child awoke in the morning and to allow the recorders to run throughout the day up to the maximum recording time. Families were provided with four fully charged recorders for each weekend in which they participated in the study (one for the key child and one for the key caregiver for each day of the weekend).
The research showed that on average, key caregivers produced a higher proportion of distance talk when using the RMS (47% of words) than when not using the RMS (37% of words). lt was expected that caregivers talk more to their child while using an RMS due to the learned expectation that their children could hear them even under adverse acoustic conditions. However, caregivers did not talk more when using an RMS, but they did talk more from a farther distance.
It is possible that caregivers understood they could communicate effectively with children from a distance and, as a result, did not feel the need to be as close when talking to their child as they were when not using an RMS.
Another important finding of this study suggests that children with hearing loss could miss a significant amount of caregiver talk during a typical weekend at home when not using an RMS. Children lack access to as many as almost 5,300 words per day from a single caregiver when not using an RMS.
This study proves once again that early and consistent exposure to communication enhances child development and behaviour. At Phonak, we pledge to continue to innovate and support education and progress of young people with hearing loss. We also endeavour to learn from the experts in our field and collaborate in events such as the BATOD Annual Conference at every opportunity.