FM systems: better hearing in classes
1,800 people live in the north of the Canadian province of Ontario. Cases of hearing impairment are disproportionately frequent here, yet the medical and audiological care available is far from sufficient. A team from Canada’s Western University is working on improving the situation in this remote region.
Place & Year
Project PartnersWestern University, Ontario/Canada
Considering the harsh northern Canadian winters, with all that snow and ice, it is no wonder that health problems such as middle ear infections – which can cause hearing loss – occur more frequently in the small town of Attawapiskat than they do elsewhere. A team led by audiologist Jack Scott is committed to setting up a professional audiological care system here, but this is not something that can be achieved overnight.
FM systems provided by the Hear the World Foundation have now been installed in the classrooms to ensure that all children at the local school can participate in lessons in spite of any hearing problems. This can help even if their hearing is only temporarily restricted due to inflammation in the ear or too much earwax. Jack Scott and his team are also working on raising awareness of noise-induced hearing loss in the local community. Going out hunting is not only a fundamental part of the culture of the people living here in the north; it also still provides an important source of food. Yet the hunters barely pay any thought to the risk of losing their hearing as a result of exposure to the sound of their gunshots.
A peaceful environment is what the school children want most of all
The fact that many school children in Attawapiskat have difficulty following lessons is not just due to their partially restricted hearing, another problem is the poor condition and inadequate equipment of the school building: poorly insulated classrooms, window shutters rattling in the wind and the noise from the nearby airport hamper any efforts to establish good communication between the teaching staff and the children. The loudspeakers and pass-around microphones that come with the FM systems now make it easier for both teachers and pupils to understand one another and therefore play a vital role in ensuring focused lessons.
Interview with Casey Enright, coordinator of the project in Attawapiskat, who installed the FM systems.
How have the school children responded to the FM systems in the classroom?
The younger ones were very enthusiastic right from the start. The older ones were somewhat skeptical about the new technology at first and were very keen to point out that they were not completely deaf. After a short while however, they were all amazed at the difference the systems made and bombarded their teachers with questions about how they work.
How are the systems incorporated into teaching?
Most teachers switch on their microphones first thing in the morning and use it all day long, while others mainly use them in lessons that involve a lot of talking and explanation. If the children need to be left to work or play in peace and quiet, the microphones are switched off.
What kind of feedback have you received from the teachers?
Everyone is really enthusiastic! The loudspeakers reduce stress levels, because the teachers’ voices are not so strained. The children listen with better concentration and participate more in lessons. Shy children who do not like reading out loud in front of the class, for example, particularly benefit from this. The pass around microphones boost their confidence, so they can articulate their thoughts more clearly and generally improve their communication skills – which builds self-confidence!