Blogging About Research: PK Teachers’ Perception and Use of Sound-Field and FM systems!

 October is Audiology Awareness Month and I’m planning on sharing information about this field ALL MONTH LONG!!!!  So sit back and relax because were are going to take a journey to the “other side” of our profession!  Let’s head into the world of…Awesome Audiology!!!

This is my first time participating in the monthly Blogging about research linky party and I’m happy to do so by reviewing an article about early childhood educators’ perceptions on the use of hearing assistive technology (i.e. personal FM and sound-field systems).


Nelson, L., Poole, B., & Munos, K. (2013). Preschool teachers’ perception and use of hearing assistive technology in educational settings. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools44, 239-251. doi: 10.1044/0161-1461(2013/12-0038)


The purpose of this study was to explore the frequency with which sound-field amplification and personal FM systems were used in PK classrooms, teachers’ perception of the advantages and disadvantages of using these systems, and any possible recommendations they might have for hearing assistive technology use.


This study was a cross-sectional survey design in which survey questions evaluated four aspects of the use of hearing assistive technology for PK children:

1)                 frequency with which FM and sound-field systems were used in PK classrooms,

2)                 teacher perception of advantages and disadvantages of use of hearing assistive technology,

3)                 availability of technical support,

4)                 teacher recommendations and feedback regarding the use of hearing assistive technology.

The 5-point Likert scale (1=no advantage, 5=significant advantage) was used to rate advantages and disadvantages of the use of personal FM and sound-field systems in the classroom.

Participants and Survey Demographics: 

All participants were professionals who provided PK services to children who are deaf or hard of hearing in public or private school setting.  In an effort to accurately represent all areas of the country, surveys were sent to 306 schools in all regions of the US, however only 99 completed surveys were returned.

Of the 99 surveys received:

1)         76% were completed by deaf education PK teachers,

2)         22% were completed by administrators or SLPs,

3)         5% were completed by PK aides/assistants

Some professionals served students via two roles, thus the reason the sum of these percentages is greater than 100%.

Surveys were received from the following settings:

1)         55% from private schools

2)         28% from state schools for the deaf

3)         8% from public schools

4)         9% from other programs not otherwise specified

Types of programs students were participating in:

1)        65% in listening and spoken language (LSL) programs

2)        35% in bilingual-bicultural (Bi-Bi) or total communication (TC) programs

Sound-Field vs. Personal FM system:  58% of participants indicated they currently/previously used sound-field systems in PK classroom (> ¾ of respondents from LSL programs).


Sound-Field Systems:

Few respondents viewed sound-field technology as having no or minimal advantage.  In, fact, sound-field systems were reported to provide a considerable advantage for the following:

1)        Increased student attention (84%)

2)        Improved language development (79%)

3)        Reduced strain on teacher’s voice (77%)

4)        Improved academic performance (71%)

5)        Improved student behavior (67%)

Only 6% of respondents indicated that sound-field systems provided a considerable disadvantage in student distractibility, poor sound quality, or teacher discomfort when wearing microphone, whereas 12% did report acoustic feedback and/or other technical difficulties to be a disadvantage of this type of hearing assistive technology.

Personal FM Systems:

Few respondents viewed personal FM systems as having no or minimal advantage.  In, fact, personal FM systems were reported to provide a considerable advantage for the following:

1)        Increased student attention (86%)

2)        Improved language development (78%)

3)        Improved academic performance (73%)

4)        Improved student behavior (63%)

Only 5% of respondents felt student distractibility was an issue.  Fifteen percent reported teacher discomfort when wearing the microphone; 17% reported difficulty hearing classmates and 22% reported technical difficulties.

Reasons provided for not using Personal FM System:

1)         Felt PK children were too young to report technical difficulties (39%)

2)         Lack of funding (30%)

3)         Felt PK child will receive insufficient benefit from personal FM system (27%)

Technical Support:

According to survey respondents:

1)         88% reported audiological support

2)         83% indicated they received audiological support within hours of making request

3)         80% indicated they routinely performed listening checks on personal FM system or sound-field system amplification hearing assistive technology.

Personal System Recommendations:

When asked if they would recommend the use of hearing assistive technology, 77% indicated they would recommend a sound-field system, while 71% indicated they would recommend a personal FM system to other educators.


Comments were examined via the use of content analysis, which divided comments into 4 categories: 1) comments positively supporting the use of hearing assistive technology (42%), 2) comment describing limitation of hearing assistive technology (24%), 3) logistical challenges to using hearing assistive technology (18%), and 4) reasons hearing assistive technology was not used in their classroom (16%).

Conclusion:  Overall results indicate that hearing assistive technology is often used in PK classrooms and respondents indicate positive perceptions with regard to the hearing, speaking and learning benefits of its use.

Limitations:  The results and conclusion of this study should be read with caution as there are a few limitations to this study that could have affected results:  1) study possibly lacks complete representation of various setting that use hearing assistive technology as observed by the limited response from the public school setting as well as from Bi-Bi and TC programs, 2) the survey was anonymously submitted therefore it is unclear if all regions of the US were represented (and to what degree this representation compares to the general population of deaf or hard of hearing children ), and 3) anonymously submitted surveys did not allow for clarification of comments or incomplete surveys by researchers.  Therefore, results should be interpreted with caution.

Stay with me ALL MONTH as I’ll be blogging about Audiology!!!  Next week’s Tip Tuesday topic will be on research support for the use of sound-field systems and its benefit on school-age children!