The following position statement was adopted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Legislative Council (LC 17-90) in November 1990. Members of ASHA's Committee on Amplification for the Hearing Impaired responsible for the development of this position statement include Thomas S. Rees, chair; G. Jean Boggess; Evelyn Cherow, ex officio; Alice E. Holmes; Barbara J. Moore-Brown; Polly E. Patrick; and Valenta G. Ward-Gravely, with the guidance of Teris K. Schery, 1988–90 vice president for clinical affairs.
It is the position of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association that it is incumbent on audiologists to provide optimum amplification to young children with hearing impairment during the early years of their lives—the most critical period for speech and language development. Appropriate audiological management for these children must include selection and fitting of suitable amplification for all listening environments. Personal hearing aids may be appropriate for some communication situations, but the use of FM amplification may be necessary in other listening contexts to ensure optimal use of residual hearing.
The importance of early identification and appropriate audiologic management of children with hearing impairment is well known. In order to achieve optimal use of residual hearing for the development of speech and language, a consistent and nondistorted auditory signal is necessary. The major goal in fitting amplification is to improve the signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) in order to increase the understanding of speech.
Unfortunately, the ability of personal amplification (i.e., a hearing aid) to provide an optimal speech signal to the hearing-impaired child is compromised by acoustic conditions commonly encountered in various listening environments. Speaker-to-listener distance, background noise, and reverberant room characteristics combine, resulting in a deterioration in speech recognition ability in hearing-impaired listeners regardless of age.
Very young children experience language under a variety of acoustic conditions. Typically, an infant or toddler receives close, one-to-one attention from the parent or caregiver with abundant opportunities for communicative interaction. Exposure to incidental speech that occurs naturally in the home is also critical for normal speech and language development. This incidental speech does not necessarily occur in quiet nor with the infant nearby. In addition, with the rise in the use of day-care facilities, infants and toddlers may frequently encounter listening environments less suitable than the ideal, one-to-one situation. Similar acoustic conditions are known to be completely unsuitable for school-aged children with hearing impairments.
FM amplification systems have been designed to provide a solution for deleterious acoustic circumstances that listeners with hearing impairment encounter at home, in the classroom, or in many other common listening environments. The significant advantage of FM amplification over personal hearing aids has been documented for school-aged children with hearing impairments. In principle, FM listening allows a constant distance of approximately 6–8 inches to be maintained between the speaker's lips and the FM transmitter microphone. Thus, a greatly enhanced S/N is provided regardless of the distance between the child and the speaker or the acoustic environment.
In the past, FM systems have been used separately from the personal hearing aid and primarily in a formal classroom environment. Technological improvements currently allow the FM system to be coupled to the child's personal hearing aids. This provides the advantages of FM transmission while, in theory, maintaining the electroacoustic characteristics of the child's own hearing aid. These systems are also well suited for use in less structured environments.
Public Law 99-457 expands identification and education of disabled infants and toddlers, including those with hearing impairments. Appropriate audiological management for these children must include selection and fitting of suitable amplification for all listening environments. Personal hearing aids may be appropriate for some communication situations, but the use of FM amplification may be necessary in others. It is incumbent on professionals providing services to young children with hearing impairment to provide optimum amplification during the early years of life—the most critical period for speech and language development.
Index terms: infants and toddlers, preschool children, assistive technology
Reference this material as: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1991). The use of fm amplification instruments for infants and preschool children with hearing impairment [Position Statement]. Available from www.asha.org/policy.
© Copyright 1991 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association disclaims any liability to any party for the accuracy, completeness, or availability of these documents, or for any damages arising out of the use of the documents and any information they contain.