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Home » The Future of Education » How Phonak Is Cutting Through the Noise and Improving the Classroom Experience

It’s important for all students, including those with hearing loss, to hear well at school. Now, technology is helping provide a solution for better hearing in the classroom.

Phonak, a global provider of hearing solutions, has accessibility technologies called “RogerTM for Education,” which includes Roger Touchscreen Mic, an intuitive microphone for the teacher to wear; Roger Pass-around, a passable microphone for students so the student with hearing loss can hear both the teacher and classmate comments; and Roger Multimedia Hub, which can connect to any multi-media device used in a classroom.

Noisy world

Whitney Spagnola, a marketing manager at Phonak, and both of her children have hearing loss. Her daughter in fourth grade, and her son in kindergarten, have Roger technology in their respective classrooms.

“We live in a noisy world, particularly in the classroom environment. In classrooms noise comes from HVAC systems, from the hallway, and windows open to the playground, just to name a few. There’s noise everywhere,” she says. “And when you have noise coming from everywhere,  hearing the teacher becomes difficult. We really don’t want children missing any part of that educational lesson, or the opportunity to socialize.”

Here’s how it works: Spagnola’s child gives the teacher the Roger Touchscreen Mic, which the teacher wears around her neck. This is where the magic happens.

“Roger can help overcome noise and distance because it picks up the voice  at the microphone which is worn by the teacher and it wirelessly transmits it to the ears of the listener,” says clinical audiologist Dr. Andrea Dunn, global pediatric clinical development and research manager at Phonak.

Adaptive tech

The Roger technology is easy for the teachers to use and it integrates with any make and model of hearing aid or cochlear implant. It can be an asset in the classroom for students with hearing loss, as well as for students who struggle to hear for a variety of reasons, including loud classrooms and the implementation of masks during the pandemic. Improved hearing boosts the potential for student learning and improve the overall experience for both teachers and students.

“A lot of the learning that goes on with students is incidental learning,” says clinical audiologist Bill Bielski, AuD, a senior marketing manager at Phonak. “It’s important to know that the Roger system allows for a great line of communication with the main speaker, in this case, the teacher.

“The set up allows for a blending, so if someone in the back row raises their hand and answers the question and maybe there’s some discussion in the classroom, they’re having access to that as well. Without any connection like Roger, they could miss all of that.”

Typically hearing aids can process sound within a five foot radius of the person who’s wearing it. Roger technology is adaptive, automatically adjusting to background noise and a user’s distance from the speaker.

“It’s continuously monitoring the environment and seeing as the noise level changes how it needs to change the boost of the signal to ensure it’s consistently delivering a high signal-to- noise-ratio,” says Dunn.

More access

Improving access to hearing technology through advocacy and awareness is very important to Phonak. For example, the company has an online simulator  that helps people understand what it’s like listening in a classroom, from row one, two or three, with and without masks. Listen here

Many school districts are using the  American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to pay for Phonak technology. Parents, teachers and educational audiologists can ask their schools and school districts about implementing Roger technology in their respective classrooms too.

During the pandemic when students and teachers were wearing masks, Spagnola advocated for pass around microphones and a classroom speaker for her kids’ school. She says all the kids in the classroom benefited from the microphone and speaker, noting students’ auditory processing can be taxing on the brain.

Find out more about how Roger technology can benefit students at your school:

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