All Ears at Child's Voice Podcast Episode 24: Listening with Lindsay

On episode 24 of All Ears at Child’s Voice: A Hearing Loss Podcast, Tatum and Wendy are joined by Lindsay Cockburn from “Listen with Lindsay.” Lindsay is a pediatric Audiologist in Los Angeles, CA. She runs a website and Instagram that she created “to be a resource for parents, loved ones, professionals, and students working with and caring for children with hearing loss.” Her website has excellent resources and articles for families.

Tatum and Wendy talk to Lindsay about remote microphone systems. We discuss the most current technology and terminology, what remote mic systems do and how they are used with children and adults of all ages. She shares her expertise on why remote mic systems are important for an optimal listening environment for young children as well as how the advances in technology have changed the way they are used in homes and schools.

Where to Find Lindsay:

Where to Find Us:

  • You can email us at podcast@childsvoice.org.
  • Follow Child’s Voice on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram: @childs_voice
  • Follow Wendy & Tatum on social media: @WendyDetersSLP, @TatumFritzSLP

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Special thanks to John McCortney & Michael McCortney for their work recording All Ears at Child’s Voice episodes. Episodes of All Ears at Child’s Voice are graciously edited by John McCortney.

 Disclaimer: Child’s Voice is a listening-and-spoken-language program for children with hearing loss. All Ears at Child’s Voice: A Hearing Loss Podcast is a resource provided by Child’s Voice. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by Child’s Voice. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Views and opinions expressed by Child’s Voice employees are those of the employees and do not necessarily reflect the view of Child’s Voice.

Intro: Welcome to All Ears at Child’s Voice. We aim to connect parents of children with hearing loss with the families who serve them. My name is Dan Stratis and I am the President of the Board of Directors at Child’s Voice and an alumni parent. I am often asked “what is your favorite thing about Child’s Voice?” and that truly is an impossible question to answer because I have many, many favorite things about Child’s Voice but if I had to narrow it down to just one, it is a very simple thing and that is when I walk into the school on any given school day and I immediately hear the sounds of laughter, and fun, and joy, and hope from the kids in the school. That truly is awe inspiring and one of my favorite things about Child’s Voice.

I also wanted to reach out and let you guys know about our annual Golf Outing this year. It’s going to be an online even and we are super, super excited. You need to register on our website at www.childsvoice.org to be a part of it and it will take place between September 9th through the 27th. It’s a unique event this year in that after you register we are asking you to participate through taking a video or a picture and sending it on to Child’s Voice and we will post it on our social media. This can be any way of golfing. It could be traditional golfing of 9 holes or 18 holes but it could also be going with your family to play mini golf, hanging with your friends to play video golf, going to the driving range or simply swinging a club in your backyard. Again you can register at www.childsvoice.org ask your family and friends to participate as well. There will also be an online auction for the duration of the event and this event supports all of the incredible work at Child’s Voice, including this podcast. Thank you for all your support and now let’s start the show.

 

Tatum:

Welcome to all ears, at Child’s Voice, a podcast discussing all things hearing loss. We aim to connect parents of children with hearing loss with the professionals who serve them or your hosts. I’m Tatum Fritz.

Wendy:

and I’m Wendy Deters. We are very excited today to be joined remotely by Lindsay Cockburn. Lindsay is a pediatric audiologist in Los Angeles. Some of our listeners may recognize her as the creator of the website and Instagram: “Listen with Lindsay,” she’s with us today to talk about remote microphone systems. So if you’re unfamiliar with remote microphone systems, don’t worry, we will be defining that term for you very soon. On that topic. We wanted to give the disclaimer that because we are talking about remote microphone systems, we might be mentioning specific names of manufacturers. However, we’re not promoting one over another. We encourage you to contact your child or your own audiologists to get specific information about products and what would work best for your child. So before we get started, Lindsay, welcome and can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your website, Listen with Lindsay?

Lindsay:

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to talk to you guys today. So, I started this website. This is actually the perfect topic that coincides with why I started my website and my Instagram because we as audiologists have so much information in our brains but such a limited time to talk to parents and families about that information and the recommendations and sometimes I teach parent classes where I talk about different topics like remote microphone systems and you know, only a certain amount of families can come every week. It’s during the middle of a work day and it’s hard to take time off of work or if you have other kids. So only a small amount of parents get that information. And I was like, this doesn’t seem fair. What about all the other parents? If my child had hearing loss, I wouldn’t be able to take time off of work every single week to come to this class. I work full time so I thought how can I share this information with more people and make it more accessible to everyone and especially with things going online. I’m the age of the parents that I work with, so I understand where they’re looking for the information and I didn’t see it there, so I thought it’s time for someone to do it.

Tatum:

That’s awesome. Yeah, I follow you on Instagram, and started following you well before you reached out to us I’m just always so impressed by your Instagram. Like the graphics that you make are really accessible. I’ve been to your website and the posts you make are really easy to understand and they’re even helpful for me as a speech pathologist because our audiologists on staff and then also like the manufacturers of the different companies will come and do like little learning sessions with us. But it’s so hard to retain that information, especially when you don’t use it every day. And like working in early intervention, especially when it comes to remote microphone systems, I just feel like I have less experience with them. So having that resource online is like, has been helpful for me as well. What you just explained there too is like kind of a motivation that Jessica Brock and I first had for starting this um, podcast. The information Child’s Voice be more accessible to parents elsewhere.

Lindsay:

Exactly. And not just the few privileged parents who are able to come and are lucky enough to find you or to be local or to be able to travel.

Wendy:

Can you also share with us briefly about how you became interested in the field of hearing loss and specifically in becoming a pediatric audiologist?

Lindsay:

I always knew I wanted to work with kids. I originally wanted to be a pediatrician and looking back, I think it’s because my own pediatrician growing up was actually such a good listener. He would always like really take what I had to say seriously. And I loved that about him. So I think that kind of inspired me to want to work in medicine and want to work with kids. And I went the path of most audiologists where I thought I was going to be a speech language pathologist and work with kids. And then I got to spend some time in an audiology clinic and see someone’s cochlear implant get turned on for the first time. And I was like, Oh wow, this, this is really exciting and interesting and combines my interests and my love of gadgets and technology. And you can help someone so quickly. You don’t have to wait weeks and weeks and months and years for one word. You can turn it on and change someone’s life right away. So I loved that part of it and that’s how I got into it.

Wendy:

great. Yeah. I feel like every speech language pathologist and audiologist has a story about how they started off in the opposite profession and decided that. I really like this aspect of the field, but I don’t want to see you every week.

 

Tatum: Or, I want to see you every week so I do not want to be an Audiologist.

Wendy:

Everyone seems to have chosen the right path. So yes, I think we are all good.

Tatum:

Yes, you seem very well suited for Audiology. Well thank you for sharing with us about “Listen to Lindsay” and your path to audiology. Something that you may know we do if you listen to our show is that we like asking our guest speakers for an interesting story from the past week. So it could be something cute, something funny, something heartwarming. Does anything come to mind for you?

Lindsay:

Yeah. So speaking about getting people into the profession, I am trying to inspire more children to become audiologists. So there’s a preschool where I work and I talked to the teachers and they let me bring the kids back into the booth. So not only did I let the kids go wild in the booth, I had them behind the audiometer and they put on the headset and they were talking into the microphone and pushing the VRA toy buttons and lighting them up and they loved it. And it was just so cute to see them like imitate audiologists and what they said and how they did. It was hilarious.

Tatum:

That’s so cute.

Wendy:

That’s really sweet.

Tatum:

I know our kids go back to the booth for testing, but have, do they ever do that? Like just to explore?

Wendy:

I don’t think so. We should suggest that to Dr. Dawn.

Tatum:

It would be a good like field trip.

Lindsay:

It’s fun. You got to break things up sometimes and have some fun.

Wendy:

That’s wonderful. So, our main reason for having you on today was to talk about remote Mic systems. So before we go any further, can you define that for us and sort of set the stage of what we’re talking about?

Lindsay:

Sure. So remote microphone systems go by so many different names, which I know can be confusing. So they can be called FM, remote microphone technology, Mini Mic, some people call it a Roger. So they’re tools or technology that help people with hearing loss overcome three of the biggest challenges or obstacles that they have in listening, which are overcoming distance, noise and reverberation.

Lindsay:

So how the system works is the talker. So that could be a teacher or a parent. They wear a microphone and the sound from the microphone is wirelessly transmitted directly into the child’s hearing aids, their BAHA cochlear implants, auditory brainstem implant into their devices. Uh, if you’ve ever been to a museum and a small group tour, you might’ve used something similar where the tour guide wears a microphone and the people in the group wear headphones so they can all hear what’s being said. That’s called a personal remote microphone system because it’s going directly to the person’s ears or their hearing device. The part of the remote microphone system that receives the signal is called the receiver and the microphone is called the transmitter. The microphone can also be connected to a standalone speaker like one music would come out of. So most of us have seen this setup either in a class, a lecture, or a sporting event or on TV. So if a person in a lecture hall, is talking to you, you can usually hear them pretty well if you’re sitting up close and next to them. But the further back you get in the lecture hall, the more you have to pay attention to hear and understand everything. Even if you have normal hearing, especially if it’s super large and “echoey” with a lot of hard surfaces. So the microphone and speaker setup helps us all hear more easily or whether we have hearing loss or not because we’re all trying to overcome background noise, distance and reverberation. So that kind of system is called a sound field remote microphone system or it’s also called classroom audio distribution system or CADS so remote microphone technology can connect us not only with someone who’s talking but also to other technology we want to interact with so can connect to phones, computers, smart boards, Chromebooks, a sound system in a dance class and all these other ones too. So I think one example is to think about if you’re trying to watch a movie on an airplane and if you’ve forgotten to watch your headphones and tried to watch, it’s so hard because there’s so much ambient background noise on a plane. So once you pop on some headphones, especially if you have like noise canceling ones, you can understand what people are saying so much better during the movie. That’s why they use the PA system or the microphone system on the plane. Similar concept. So even if the flight attendant yelled the instructions, the people in the back of the plane still wouldn’t be able to understand them because of all the background noise and the distance. They are away from the passengers that are in the back. So the microphone helps their voice become louder than the background noise. So you can hear and understand them clearly.

Tatum:

That’s a great explanation. From my understanding, um, the current systems we use, like it’s a misnomer to call them FM systems. Could you talk a little bit about why that is a misnomer if I’m right about that.

Lindsay:

Yeah. So FM means frequency modulation. And about seven years ago, we finally switched over to DM or digital modulation. So before when we had FM technology, some of the drawbacks were sometimes you would hear static or the sound wasn’t clear. You could also accidentally get on the wrong channel and hear someone else’s conversation. And you had to figure out different channels for different microphones. So imagine if you had multiple classrooms with kids with hearing loss and they’re changing classrooms to try to set up the channels and how everything’s going to be transmitted and not getting crossover would be so complicated and so frustrating. So now they jump to different channels instead of staying on one. And that helps with the technology. And then the other confusing part is that even audiologists and professionals call the newer technology, FM. So that’s just such a common name for it. We might call a remote microphone system an FM, we might call a DM system FM, we might call the mini mic an FM. They all kind of do the same thing where they’re helping with the distance, the noise and the reverberations. Just the way they do it is a little different.

Tatum:

Yeah, that makes sense. I feel like it gets confusing for some of our families because the professionals they might be seeing at home, the speech pathologist or the teacher of the deaf might be using different terminology than the audiologist does. And there might be a disconnect that really we’re talking about the same thing in all likelihood, since most people, I’m guessing use the DM systems.

Wendy:

I’m definitely guilty of saying FM still just that’s what I’m used to and the scenario that you just explained was very present in my early career.

Tatum:

Yeah. Oh yeah. Oh, that’s static.

Wendy:

switching channels and hearing teachers in other rooms and all those things. “Make sure you sync yourself,” and “I’m on this channel” and yeah, it’s gotten so much easier.

Tatum:

I think I’ve heard stories of people like syncing to like passing, like truckers radios. Not just a different classroom, just a totally different thing.

Wendy:

Right. So terminology should we be using, what should we just as a, well, you tell, you tell us.

Lindsay:

I don’t know if there is a right answer. I think that remote microphone technology or remote microphone system is a good catchall. But I wouldn’t say someone’s wrong if they’re calling it an FM. That’s still kind of the, the going phrase that we’re using.

Tatum:

Yeah. Something I’ve tried to do is tell families that it could be called either one, depending on who you’re talking to. So just so they know, it’s the same likely the same thing that people are talking about.

Lindsay:

Yes. That too. Explaining that they’re the same.

Wendy:

Yeah, because I went to an IEP meeting this morning, we had a whole discussion about FM systems. Oh yeah, of course. And so using the word FM and talking about that with the school district, because I think public schools in my recent experiences are still sort of on that terminology. So it’s good to stay current and, and know how to explain the terminology to families.

Lindsay:

It seems like for school districts too, on the IEP, they want to keep it kind of broad or general so that they can change. That’s the kind of the specific piece of technology without having to change the whole IEP. Is that your experience?

Tatum:

I would say I have less experience with getting FM systems or remote microphone systems on an IEP.

Lindsay:

laughter

Wendy:

I’m definitely, I’m mostly involved with IEP’s that are for children turning three and getting into early childhood and the way that we use remote mic systems in early childhood is different than we use it in kindergarten, first grade.. And it’s something we want to explore so maybe we can, you can kind of get to that as we move along.

Tatum:

It’s definitely something that we want to talk to you about like recommendations for when um, like these should be introduced cause I feel like I’ve heard different opinions in the field, but before we do that, I feel like we’ve jumped ahead. For our listeners who are just learning what a remote microphone system is. Could we maybe go into, I know you talked a little bit about it with like the distance and the noise and the reverberation, but like dive a little further into like why these are so important for kids who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Lindsay:

Sure. So for kids to listen and speak, they need access to clear audible speech and they need a lot of access to it all day, every day. So remote microphones are going to give us the best possible access to the most clear and audible speech possible. So they’re going to give you the clearest signal for the longest period of time.

Tatum:

I saw you make a post recently about remote microphone systems that actually one of my families referenced to me before we had you scheduled to come on the show. So you’re reaching a wide audience. Cause they didn’t even know that I had known who you were. It was something about like a study that showed that like kids get like access to like 42%. I’m like, I can’t really remember.

Lindsay:

No, that’s exactly right. 42% more words per day. So yeah. You know when you’re doing, when you’re spending all that time narrating to kids all day long and having that “serve and return,” those conversational turn taking times, if you’re going to be expending that much energy talking to your child, you want them to hear as many of those words as possible and clearly, and this is the way to get those words and clearly so you’re not just wasting all of your energy and your breath because once your kid is, you know more than three feet away, if you can’t touch them with your hand, they’re not hearing you as well. And people I think really underestimate the effect of noise and think noise needs to be something like a loud, really busy place, but ambient noise is everywhere. It’s the only place where it’s quiet. It’s when you’re in the sound booth and no one’s talking everywhere else is noisy.

Tatum:

Yeah, that’s a great point too, because I think too, like we think about noisy classrooms being the like the appropriate place for them or like a noisy restaurant being in the best place to use them. It sounds like they might, like the use of remote microphone systems might be appropriate in other scenarios, but we’ll get into that.

Wendy:

I think, um, if you could also, um, just quickly define reverberation for our listeners. I think some, uh, professionals might be familiar with the term, but can you just define that for us?

Lindsay:

Sure. I would say reverberation is that echo-y sound. So when you’re in a big lecture hall or if you’re at like a basketball court and just that echoey sound that you get where it’s bouncing off the walls and it’s not as clear, that’s from reverberation. And when you’re in a place that has more hard surfaces, the sound is bouncing off of them more. So you get more reverberation. So when you’re in a sound booth, it absorbs the sound better. When you’re around. Like we’re recording a podcast, you would want to be around a lot of soft surfaces and like carpets to absorb a lot of the background sound so you’re not getting that reverberations.

Tatum:

Yeah. Which like most classrooms, unless they’ve been modified to have, I would guess a lot of reverberations. Like a lot of hard surfaces.

Lindsay:

Yeah. It’s hard, especially with like modern, the modern decor that we have and the simple classrooms that they try to make and everything. It is a lot of hard surfaces.

Wendy:

Yeah. A lot of glass, a lot of hard surfaces. My son is getting a brand new school next year. They’re tearing down his old school and building brand new. I know it’s great building a brick and uh, they showed all the parents, the plans for the school and as I was looking at it, I was just cringing because I’m so used to thinking about the acoustics of a room and it looks, it makes me very nervous. I mean, very modern. So it’s all sort of this open concept. There’s, you know, tile floors of course, because it’s easier to clean so I think, um, it’s really important for parents to think about what kind of environment their, their child is in and then what they can do to modify both within the environment. And then with the technology itself.

Lindsay:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Tatum:

So getting more into, just like building a picture of, or a remote microphone system is for people listening who might be unfamiliar, um, what types of remote microphone systems are available today?

Lindsay:

So some people are still using the traditional FM systems. So an example would be the Oticon Amigo . I think that’s starting to be phased out more because of the problems that we discussed before about the static and the channels and all of that. Then there’s the remote microphone systems that are more simple or straightforward and how they work. So there’s the Cochlear™ Mini Mic, the Phonak PartnerMic™, the Oticon EduMic, EDU mic and connect clip. So those all are small microphones that are easy for parents to use at home. Mostly you can use them at school too. But um, the other type is the DM systems. So Phonak makes the Roger line. So a lot of people are familiar with Roger systems. Roger devices like the Roger touchscreen, Roger select, Roger pen. Those ones are different because they adapt to the background noise. So the louder the background noise, the more it suppresses the background noise and increases the sound from the microphone. So it’s constantly adapting to the environment and changing or as the mini mics are not as adaptive to the different background noise. So those are all a little bit different in how they work.

Tatum:

Yeah. And then could you talk a little bit about how the different options look? Um, as someone familiar with them, I can picture them, but like the, the pen versus the select versus the mini mic. Like what they would look like.

Lindsay:

Sure. The pen is, it looks kind of like a big pen and the Roger Select just like a little circle. The Roger touchscreen almost looks like a small iPhone or smartphone to me at least. Um, and then the mini mic is like smaller and clip on. I’m trying to think of a size comparison.

Wendy:

It’s like a Bluetooth headset.

Tatum:

You clip it almost like it has the clip on the back of it, right? Like you clip it onto your shirt.

Lindsay:

A lot of them have clips or they have, um, like ways that you can wear them around your neck because they need to be close to your mouth in order to be used appropriately. Uh, and the other thing that I would say are the, the different technology. It’s another analogy would be, so I, this is hard cause I’m an audiologist, so I like gadgets. I like audio things. So I have both Apple AirPods and I have like Bose noise canceling headphones. So I like to use those for different situations. So for every day I like to carry around my AirPods in my purse cause they’re small, they’re convenient, they’re easy, pop them in. I can hear a podcast when I go on a walk, they’re easy to use. Uh, my Bose headphones, I love when I’m on an airplane cause they are noise canceling. So it’s easier for me to hear on the airplane versus the AirPods. So if you’ve ever used those or if you can imagine that that’s kind of the difference. One is smaller and more portable, the other one’s a little bit bigger but has more features.

Tatum:

Yeah, that makes sense. I’m thinking of like the Roger pen, like having different like options and use, like some people wear it around their neck, some people like put it on the table. Like could you talk a little bit about that? Like, um, like a remote mic that maybe a teacher would wear versus something that would like maybe pick up like a conference discussion or something that you’d use like in a group type setting?

Lindsay:

Sure. Actually a lot of them have different settings where they’re either directional and directional would be one that you would wear around your neck and the microphone is pointed up towards your mouth and picking up the person who’s talking. And then when you put it flat on the table, it becomes omni-directional where the microphone picks up the sound from all around. So the pen and the touchscreen can do that. The Select can do that. I think the Cochlear mini mic can do that. So you can use them both ways.

Wendy:

How do remote mics work with different types of hearing technology like hearing aids and cochlear implants? Are they all compatible or how does, how does that work?

Lindsay:

Some of the products are manufacturer specific and others can be used across different manufacturers, but they vary in the ways that they can connect and the amount of different pieces or accessories in order for them to connect and how good the connection is. From my experience, the majority of the school districts around here use the Phonak Roger system because it can connect with basically any hearing aid or any implant or any BAHA. And it just takes different receivers or adapters in order to connect to it. And that way if there’s different kids with hearing loss who use different devices within the same class, you can connect to all the same kids and just wear the one microphone.

Wendy:

So the current state of implant technology is moving towards the option of single unit processors. So are any of those compatible with remote mic systems?

Lindsay:

Oh, that’s a good question. Like off the top of my head, I couldn’t tell you exactly which one connects exactly in which way. I think that most of them are connected. That is because I would say that’s becoming a priority for all of the hearing aid manufacturers and cochlear implant manufacturers. Being able to connect to remote microphone technology is now a priority, especially for a product that’s for children. So I think that more and more the products are more compatible than ever. Some of them you have to wear a uh, my link or a telecoil loop around your neck in order to send the signal to the processor. So yes, it depends on the processor, you know, for those situations. Sometimes you can sort of switch up how you’re doing it and use a different processor in different situations. Like if you have two different processors

Tatum:

A lot of our families have both the single unit, then they have like the behind the ear unit that um, has been around longer. We’ve talked a little bit about like what remote microphone systems are, a little bit about why they’re important, how can families and also just individuals like access remote microphone systems. Like how are they paid for usually? I’m guessing it might depend on different scenarios, but how can families access these?

Lindsay:

Yeah, so they’re starting to come with hearing needs as part of the purchase and they were already coming with a lot of the cochlear implants as an accessory option. So now it’s become a more of a package. Like when you buy hearing aids, you also get a connect clip mic or a little microphone to use at home because we’re seeing the importance of these things. The manufacturers are kind of bundling the products together. So that’s going to depend on your audiologist and where you’re buying it. Like I said for the cochlear implants, it can be an accessory that you’re able to choose. So they can pick the Water Wear, or Aqua kit so that they can swim with a device. Well that is way cheaper than the remote microphone or some of the manufacturers offer the Phonak, Roger and those devices are like closer to $1,000 versus the Water Wear going to be like under $200. So you would want to request the microphone option because that’s going to save you money and you can just get the other one out of pocket. They’re provided by most school districts at no cost to the family. And actually in California in 2020 a law was recently passed that said that kids are allowed to bring their assistive technology home with them. And I just heard about this law like a week or two ago. So that means that after school, if the parent requests it, the school must let them take the remote microphone home with them and be able to use it at home, which is amazing. Anyone who is motivated and wants to use the remote microphone at home, I think they absolutely should have access to it and it’s such a great tool and can be so helpful and makes such a big difference in how many words a kid is hearing every day. I think that it’s just amazing. And then, and I had a family who gave me a really good recommendation. If you’re writing a letter to appeal the remote microphone not being covered, an example would be that the child would be unable to hear and understand instructions during an emergency, which is absolutely true. And they wouldn’t be able to hear urgent instructions from an adult at a distance. So, you know, parents that have typically hearing kids can yell, like “stop, don’t go on the street.” If a kid has hearing loss and they’re wearing their devices, if they’re far away but they can’t hear their parents. But if you were using the microphone, you can turn on the microphone real quick and be like, turn around and come back here please. Which is really important.

Tatum:

I know you mentioned that they could be provided by this school. Is that something that would be only provided if it were listed in the IEP or do you know?

Lindsay:

Yes, I think it would only be provided if it was listed in the IEP. So that would be something that you would need to request. And some families do get it through their I F S P. so for kids under three, you know this is a newer paradigm where we’re using this technology more and more often. And most professionals know just how useful and important it is. And they want your kid to get it. But it’s kind of a pain to get it right now. It’s not easy if you don’t have the coverage or if you don’t have the money or the access. So you do have to kind of push back with the insurance companies with the school district, especially if you have a younger child in order to get this. Parents these days have to be like the, in the forefront of like pushing for this and the, hopefully it will be easier for the families coming after them, but right now you have to kind of demand this change.

Tatum:

Yeah. One thing I’ve seen be helpful before getting an IEP is having that testing in noise done at the audiologist.

Lindsay:

Oh, that’s interesting.

Tatum:

Yeah. So showing a difference in like speech recognition in presence of background and booth background noise in the booth.

Lindsay:

Yeah. The one of the last conferences I went to, they said that we don’t need to test that anymore cause we already know kids can’t understand and background noise, which I know that’s gonna vary with every okay. But, um, but there are ways for us to test to see how much benefit the technology is giving, which that can be a helpful to, to get, um, what you need.

Wendy:

Well, like you said, a lot of, um, now the cochlear implant kits are coming with the remote mic systems, which is really great because a lot of families use them for sports, like with kids. So you know, to the subject of, of younger kids like early childhood age and early intervention age. Right now we don’t, at least I, I don’t in my practice and in most of the kids that we see at Child’s Voice, we’re not using remote mic systems on babies, toddlers and in early childhood. But I do see that shifting. Can you tell us a little bit about how that is changing over time and why that is and, and what we need to know?

Lindsay:

Yeah, it’s changing for a couple of reasons. One is the technology is so good now that we don’t have the problems like I was talking about before with the static and the inconsistent signal. So that was hard before because you wouldn’t know what your child was hearing, especially if they had a cochlear implant, you’d have no clue. And you wouldn’t want them to be hearing static all day long and not be able to tell you. So that used to be a major issue, but now the technology is so much better and so much more consistent. And we know for sure the benefits far outweigh any possible cons that this technology has. So it’s so much more worth it than it ever has been before to use this technology. So that’s why before we used to wait until a child could report and can tell us how it’s sounding, but now it works so much better and the benefit is just enormous for using this kind of technology, especially consistently.

Wendy:

Thank you for that. That’s, that’s really helpful because that has always been the issue in early childhood. We’ve, you know, had the fear was that the child would be hearing you know, another classroom and not be able to tell you. But you mentioned that the benefits outweigh the cons. What, you know, just so we’re telling all sides, what are some of the cons? I know that another fear that has been floated around in the profession is that kids, yes, they need to hear their teacher, but they also need to hear their friends sitting next to them. So can you speak to that a bit?

Lindsay:

Yeah. So that brings up another technology option, which, and an important part about how these work, which I should have mentioned earlier, is that for the most part, there’s a mixing ratio for how much someone’s hearing with these devices. So they’re usually set so that it’s 50/50. So you’re hearing the remote microphone signal. So the person talking into the microphone and all of the people talking around you at about the same volume. So it helps when the teacher is far away or if it’s noisy, but you’re also hearing everything else. It’s never going to cut off the other kids around you.

So when you’re using the my remote microphone, you’re getting that clear speech in the best way possible. You’re hearing most of what the teacher or the parent is saying and we definitely know the risks and the, the negative effects of language deprivation. We need as much language going into these children’s brains as possible. So the more we’re able to put in consistently, that’s clear. The more of a foundation they’re going to have to understand more of what people are saying both when they’re using the technology and when they’re no longer using the technology, they’re going to have the vocabulary and the context and the information to fill in more of the gaps if their language skills are stronger. So that’s one of the huge benefits of the remote microphone is that increased amount of language the kid would be hearing every single day if you’re using it consistently at home, for example, for a young child. The rest of the time kids are always going to have to hear the regular way, you know, at a distance and in noise. It’s not like you have to go out of your way to make sure they hear like that the rest of their life is spent listening like that because that’s just how the world is. So they’re always going to get experience doing that. But if, especially if their language is delayed, that’s the priority and we need to get as much clear language in there as possible.

Tatum:

Yeah. That’s so interesting, um, to think about it in that way. I think one of the questions we even have written down is like, do we need to factor in time to practice listening in noise, but that’s a good point that that’s the world for these kids. Um, and one thing like with filling in the gaps, the way that I explain that to parents is like when you’re in a noisy restaurant, even as a hearing person, you’re definitely not hearing everything the person across from you is saying. But because you have a fully developed language, you can fill in the parts of the words that you’re missing. And that’s why you don’t have communication breakdowns. So I think that’s what you’re saying, that if our kids have that strong language foundation, they can do that same thing that we do as adults with fully developed language systems.

Lindsay:

Exactly. And some examples of how that’s worked for families I’ve worked with is one family side when they started using it all the time at home with their two year old that in one month or kid learned 80 new words. So, I’ve seen like huge differences in using this technology consistently. And then another parent explained, I recommended using the mini mic with their cochlear implants and this was a child who could not report. And um, she went home and used it that day and she was like, this was amazing because once I started cooking dinner and usually the conversation has to stop even though I can still see her, she’s too far away to hear and understand me, especially with the noise. But when I was using the microphone, the conversation can keep going. So we’re able to talk for so much longer and have such a more engaging conversation. So, you know, parents have to live their lives too. So if you’re imagining using the technology at home while you’re folding laundry while you’re doing the dishes, having your kid be able to hear the words that you’re saying while you’re doing that is so beneficial and it makes your own life so much easier.

Wendy:

Yeah. I wonder if that gives parents like a sense of a little bit more freedom. You know, we as therapists are so, um, you know, I think we inadvertently put pressure on parents to always be stimulating language and talk about what you’re doing, involve your child in daily routines. Well, when they’re young, that means that they’re next to you all the time and maybe you don’t want them next to you all of the time. Like you said, it’s still, it takes some of the pressure off of you’re still giving language, but you’re also just, you know, going about your daily routine and not like, yes, of course you’re putting forth effort. Um, but you’re treating your child with a hearing loss just as you do your child with typical hearing.

Tatum:

The child with typical hearing would still here, the conversation that you’re having in the kitchen, even if they’re 10 feet away. So giving that same access.

Lindsay:

Exactly, exactly. And of course living in Los Angeles, we spend a ton of time in our cars and that road noise is so loud and you have distance and your child can’t see you because you’re looking in the rear view here, which I know a lot of parents with kids with hearing loss especially do to try to, you know, give their kid more visual information. So using the microphone then, I mean what better way to spend that commuting time than inputting language to your child and having a conversation and without that technology they’re not going to hear the same way. They’re not going to hear the words clearly. It’s going to be harder to have the conversation. And that’s the other huge benefit parents have reported to me and I’ve seen and it’s been in the research, is it’s motivating when you use the technology because your kid wants to keep talking to you, so you, so sometimes when they’re not hearing you as well, they kind of tune out and stop wanting to engage. But once you’re getting the feedback of you’re talking to your kid and they’re responding or reacting or they’re playing or they’re more into it, then it’s more reinforcement to keep talking to them for longer.

Tatum:

Yeah. And one of the major problems our families tend to have is the kids wanting to take their devices off in the car like two-year-olds. But I wonder if that would decrease if their access to their parents’ voice is still intact.

Lindsay:

I think that that could be a big helper for those young babies and kids and I, that is when I would start using remote microphone technology is with an infant. I mean, when they’re in the stroller, when they’re in the grocery cart, when you’re walking around the store, you know as soon as you turn your back and you can’t touch the kid, they’re not hearing you. So if you’re reading the different items off the shelf, you want them to hear that. So why not wear a little microphone so they can get all that information. And like I said, so you’re not wasting all of that energy. And the other energy thing that remote microphones are important for in the classroom is that listening fatigue, that has become a super popular topic. So people with hearing loss, they experience listening fatigue. So after they, their brains use so much more energy trying to listen and pay attention and understand in a noisy environment that they don’t have as much brain energy left, especially at the end of the day to learn new concepts and to pay attention and to focus. So we only have so much like gas in our brains’ tank every day. And once we’ve used it up, that’s it. So some kids with hearing loss, they take naps at the end of the school day or they’re just absolutely exhausted. So making it easier for them to hear the teacher and understand all the things the teacher saying is saying so they don’t have to strain so much and focus so much just to hear that helps with the listening fatigue as well. A lot of kids with hearing loss, they’re not able to take notes and listen to the lecture at the same time. That’s like a real struggle for them, especially if they’re not using a remote microphone and the remote microphone makes it easier for them to do things that we really take for granted. Like listen and write at the same time.

Tatum:

So we’ve talked about when you would recommend them, which it sounds like right away. Something I also run into families they’ll ask me like, well, my child need this forever. Are they going to need this as an adult? Is this something they’re going to outgrow? So do people who are, um, who have hearing loss use remote mic systems throughout their lives? Or could they benefit from them throughout their lives?

Lindsay:

I think they could totally benefit with using it throughout their lives. Think about when you’re at your job and if you’re at um, like a company meeting and someone’s talking at the front, you know, you want to be able to hear and understand what’s happening and follow along. You don’t want to miss out on the information. So having the person who’s talking where the microphone, if you go to a lecture or a class, having them more than microphone, using it on the table for small group work or for a conference, that can be really helpful. So it can definitely benefit people, not just children, but adults too. Using it at a noisy restaurant like you’re talking about, that’s always going to be a struggle for them. And some people with hearing loss just start avoiding situations like that. But how nice would it be to get to have the freedom to do things like that that you want to do or have a conversation when you’re in the car and you can’t be looking at the passenger the whole time. You need to be paying attention to the road or the other way. Technology is just becoming such a big part of our lives that it’s less, it’s less weird than it was before. Basically, it used to stand out. It used to be so different and so strange and so foreign that, you know, it was so much more noticeable. But now we all wear things in our ears. We all are on smartphones all day, every day. You know, we all wear AirPods, we all have all different technology all the time and it’s just a part of our daily lives. So I think that it will integrate more seamlessly than parents are imagining.

Tatum:

Yeah, that’s a great point. I have a lot of families too, or I’ll talk to them about the need for remote mic systems and they’re worried about what they perceive as an extra amount of like stigma or something. Like my kid already has these hearing aids and now you’re saying the teacher has to wear something for them. Um, but yeah technology is very integrated into our lives.

Lindsay:

Yeah. And I will say, I’ve heard some, some like amazing adults who have hearing loss or teenagers, young adults and they’ll parents will ask that question and they’ll be like, well I used it in school but I don’t really need it anymore. And something to keep in mind is that those kids used the traditional FM systems and have not used the newer technology. And I think if they did try it, I think they will be eventually using it.

Wendy:

I was just about to comment that my dad who’s in his seventies, I won’t give his exact age the mini mic with his cochlear implants and we’ve used it at home at the dinner table. We have not used it at a restaurant yet. And then he also really wants to put it on my three year old son. But we haven’t quite tried that yet, but we’re going to keep playing around with it. He also said he does, he doesn’t want to hear him like right in his ear because he can be loud. But it’s fun that we get to sort of play around with this, with this new technology. And you know, he’s in his seventies, so it’s, it’s really amazing.

I just mentioned that my dad uses the mini mic. That’s a personal FM. How is that different from a sound field? FM? So like in our, we called our discovery centers, like our large preschool classroom, the teacher has a sound field FM where her voice is amplified throughout the room. How is that different than each individual child wearing a receiver?

Lindsay:

Yeah. So the way that I would describe that is I really like listening to podcasts. I love this podcast. I listen to all the different episodes. It’s so good. I learn so much and here’s so many different perspectives, which is amazing. And I like to listen to podcasts while I’m cooking and cleaning in my kitchen. So I play them through my phone, on like speaker. I either do that or have it play through my Amazon Alexa. So that’s like a sound field system that’s coming out of a speaker. But if I’m cleaning my whole apartment, then I’ll pop in my little AirPods. So that way when I leave the room or when I turn on the sink or when there’s too much noise, I can still hear everything that’s happening because if it’s only coming out of this speaker, then once I’m in the other room, I’m going to miss a few of the words, which is okay, I can kind of catch up and get the rest of the information. But if I want to hear every single thing and I know I’m going to be walking all over and not close enough to to hear it clearly, then the personal system or the AirPods that works better for me. So that’s kind of like a hopefully somewhat relatable situation that people have been in or can imagine, um, listening in those different ways. And then for young children, you know, they don’t always hear in a lecture format. They do a lot of small group work. So sometimes the personal system is gonna work better for that. And sometimes the sound field is going to work better. It really is so specific to your situation. And if you’re having a hard time understanding the technology, working with your educational audiologist to help have them assess the situation is so important because every classroom can be so different and you don’t necessarily need to hear one person the whole time. Like if just one teacher has the microphone and you’re hearing it through the speaker, that doesn’t work for every situation. Like if the teacher’s wearing the microphone and you’re having snack time and they’re talking through the microphone, but they’re at a different table having a different conversation with the other half of the class, you don’t need to hear what they’re saying cause then you’re going to miss out on the conversation that’s happening at your table. Right.

Lindsay:

So I like a combination of both. Um, so that way you can be a little bit more flexible and then you can use the same microphone and connect to both a speaker and to the personal remote microphone system. I like that the best. I was actually looking at our preschool class and I was thinking, I was like, Oh no, these, these kids with implants, they’re like 10 feet away from the teacher. Like I know she’s using the personal DM system, but the distance I don’t love right now. And then I was like, Oh, if all the kids were closer, they’d be right next to each other. And definitely pinching and pushing and touching and saying stop touching me and all those different things that preschool, like she has to have space in between them. So they don’t do that. So she has stopped the distance. So that’s when the personal system helps cause the sound field alone isn’t going to be enough. That’s only going to give her like one or two DB louder, but the personal is going to give her a lot better. Um, a lot clearer signal.

Tatum:

Despite the distance. Yeah, that makes sense. Just like thinking too about what we’ve talked about with using remote makes life at home and thinking about how that makes like real life easier too. Like you don’t have to manufacturer situations as like in the structured way, you can deal with like the real life of cooking when you’re in the classroom. You can deal with the real classroom situation of like your kids can’t always sit right next to each other.

Lindsay:

Yeah. Hopefully that helps. I mean I think that you can use these anywhere to like an amusement park at the zoo. Those places are so noisy and your kids exploring and looking around, they’re not going to be right next to you. The other thing for distance is like imagine if they’re on one of those leash backpacks. Like that’s how close they need to be very close to you as soon as they’re more than a leash backpack away. Like they need something else in order to understand what you’re saying.

Tatum:

So one thing we’ve sort of referenced throughout is self advocacy skills. So it used to be with the FM system that you’d really want to wait for the child to have those self advocacy skills of being able to say that “this is working,” “I hear the teacher,” it sounds like with the new DM such system that’s not as needed but um, I feel like there’s probably still ways that self-advocacy can play into using remote mic systems across like childhood. Could you talk a little bit about like what kinds of skills students might need?

Lindsay:

Yeah, so students need to understand how to communicate with their teachers about how they’re using it, which can be hard to tell your teacher. I mean, not telling your teacher what to do, but like the teacher doesn’t know what it sounds like, especially if it’s a personal system. So being like, I need you to mute it when you’re talking to the other kid and I’m trying to take the test or different little things like that or self-advocacy examples. The teacher needs to learn when to mute it and when to have it on. And that takes some training on their part, which means that the child has to remind them several times. Hopefully the team will also help with that. But it does take some skills. I’m actually hoping that eventually there will be even more technology, my favorite. And the teenagers and things will have apps so they can mute the teacher’s microphone remotely, that would be amazing. So they could have a little bit more control without having to interrupt the whole class and be a little more subtle and use technology to their benefit. Right now. You know, you have to, sometimes kids come up with like a secret signal to the teacher to let them know or to remind them to unmute it so they can hear them to make an adjustment. So it takes the teacher some time to learn different strategies like that and that the teacher needs to repeat the questions that the other kids are asking, especially if you’re not using multiple microphones or the other students need to talk into the microphone when they’re answering. It’s another self-advocacy thing that your teacher has to learn if they’re, especially if they’re a mainstream teacher and they’re not used to that.

Tatum:

I don’t have much experience working with older kids. The experience I have is from graduate school, which is really far removed, so it might be very different than it was then. But I know I worked with some high school students that they had the Roger pen and in certain classes they had the teacher wear it, and then in other classes they would put it on their desk and they knew which class worked better with which option.

Lindsay:

Yeah. And that’s just a learning process that sometimes takes trial and error. Um, so a student who’s more savvy is going to get that a little bit quicker. The other thing is, I know people say like teenagers don’t want this. They don’t want to stand out. They don’t want to use this. They refuse it. I’m really hoping that this next generation coming up is going to be so used to technology integrated in their everyday lives that it won’t be, like I said before, it won’t be as weird. It won’t stand out as much and they’ll just be like, this is what I’ve always used. Of course I’ll keep using it. So I’m praying that that’s what’s coming next?

Tatum:

So, This has been very informative. Um, for me, I think for Wendy too,

Wendy:

Absolutely. I’m About to go, even though it’s 8:30 at night, I want to call all of my families and say, okay, we’re talking about this next week and then we’re going to have a staff meeting about it. And so yeah, we have we have some things to discuss as a team and to explore as a program and just sort of look at our current state of using remote mics and how can we expand that to make sure our kids are getting the best access to sound. So, thank you so much.

Lindsay:

Yay, awesome.

Tatum:

Um, before we close out, we like to ask, um, our guests speakers if they have any general advice for our listeners. So it could be on this topic or it could just also be anything. So anything that you’d like our listeners to hear from you?

Lindsay:

I would say let the technology speak for itself. If you’re not sure about it, give it a try. See for yourself how it works out. I mean, that’s the best thing. And the other thing that I tell professionals is try to be patient. Like some people have the newest iPhone and some people still have flip phones. Everyone’s comfort level with technology is very different and you just have to kind of accept that at some point and adjust accordingly. Not everyone’s going to feel as comfortable or as savvy doing it. It just takes practice. But I think once you give it a try, you’ll see the benefit and it will really motivate you to learn how to use it and to use it correctly.

 

 

Tatum:

I love that analogy. My dad used the same like Nokia phone for like 10 years, literally. And then one day he went and got an iPhone before I ever even had one. He never upgraded from this like the Nokia like the brick ones. So it just takes time. Um, well thank you so much for joining us.

 

Lindsay:

Of course. Thank you so much for having, I’m so glad that we had to get to have this conversation.

Wendy:

Thank you all for joining us for another episode of all ears at Child’s Voice. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you get them monthly. And we will release our next episode next month on the second Wednesday of the month.

Tatum:

If you’d like to reach out to us, you can find us on Twitter and Instagram. I’m @tatumfritzslp and Wendy is @wendydetersslp And then you can also find our guests today on Instagram. Lindsey, would you share your Instagram?

Lindsay:

Sure. It’s @listenwithlindsay and my name is spelled L , I N D S a Y.

Tatum:

And then your website is.

Lindsay:

listenwithlindsay.com.

Tatum:

And then if you want to reach us, you can also email us at podcast@childsvoice.org And if you’d like to hear your voice on the show, you can send us your feedback in a voice memo using your phone’s voice memo app if you need help with that. There is a link in our show notes. There is a link in our show notes explaining how to make a voice memo using an iPhone or an Android. and you would just email that voice memo to podcasts@childsvoice.org

Wendy:

You can also find show notes and episode transcripts on child’s voices, website: childsvoice.org/podcasts

Lindsay:

If you’re interested in learning more about Child’s Voice, Child’s Voice is on Facebook as well as Twitter and Instagram with the handle @childs_voice. No apostrophe.

Wendy:

We’ll see you next time. Bye.

Tatum:

Bye.

 

Kids:

Bye! Thanks for listening.

 

Outro: Thanks for tuning in everybody we hope you enjoyed this episode and stay tuned for our next episode next month. Quick reminder too to check out our website at www.childsvoice.org and register for our online golf outing. Again that takes place between September 9th and 27th. We really appreciate you listening to this podcast and your support of Child’s Voice, thanks again, bye bye.