FM Technology (Phonak EduLink System)

As described in the Pages of this web site devoted to APD, use of FM technology can be a successful form of intervention for children and adults with APD. Soon after I arrived at the University of Florida in 2000, I began collaborating with Carl Crandell on several research projects involving FM technology. Carl was one of several internationally known experts on the topic. When Carl died unexpectedly in 2005 (at the young age of 47 years) I carried on this research with several of his former students, who were also my students. On this Page you can read an abstract for one of our presentations at American Academy of Audiology (AAA) Conventions, and also an article we published in the International Journal of Audiology. I want to take this opportunity to again thank Phonak for their generous support of our research.

Abstract: Children diagnosed with auditory processing disorder (APD) experience listening difficulties in difficult listening situations, even when hearing sensitivity is normal or hearing loss is slight. Classrooms, which are typically noisy, reverberant, and distracting in multiple modalities, can be particularly difficult environments for children with APD to communicate and learn. Children with APD typically demonstrate listening difficulty, decreased on-task behavior, poorer relationships with peers and teachers, and diminished academic performance. Use of personal frequency-modulation (FM) amplification devices has been proposed as a remediation strategy to overcome these difficulties. In theory, the high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) provided by FM technology may help overcome speech-recognition deficits as well as the academic deficits often reported in populations with APD. However, limited data exist to support the positive anecdotal reports on utilization of FM technology for children with APD in the classroom.

In the current investigation, a group of 12 children age 7 to 17 years of age with a formal clinical diagnosis of APD were fit binaurally with Phonak EduLink FM receivers. Phonak Campus S transmitters were provided to the subjects' teachers and training was provided to those teachers in the use of the technology. Repeated measures throughout the school year were made in three domains: (1) Educational performance, as measured by participant scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), by administration of the Listening Inventory for Education (LIFE) and by parent report; (2) Functional health, as measured by a battery of questionnaires completed both by the participant and by a parent and consisting of the Behavioral Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-II), the Dartmouth Primary Care Cooperative Information Project Charts for Adolescents (COOP), and the Student Styles Questionnaire (SSQ); and (3) speech perception performance in noise, as measured by signal-to-noise ratio thresholds on the Hearing in Noise Test (HINT) administered in sound field with and without use of the EduLink system. Data were compared to baseline measures conducted on a control group of children in the same age range with normal hearing and who successfully completed a battery of APD tests.

Results of this investigation confirmed that FM fitting provided benefit with speech perception in noise, and on several measures of emotional health and educational achievement. Results from selected functional health measures suggested continued improvement in emotional and psychosocial status with prolonged use of the FM devices. Speech perception assessment using the HINT revealed significant decreases in the SNR needed for speech perception with the EduLink devices at baseline and long-term maintenance of this improvement. Self-report measures elicited from participants, parents, and teachers support the hypothesis that use of an FM system, such as the EduLink devices, can greatly improve educational performance and functional health of children with APD.

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James W. Hall III       |