Research & Innovation

Using Classroom Amplification in a Universal Design Model to Enhance Hearing and Listening

Universal design is an approach to designing environments, products, and communications that are “useable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” It is based on the principle that changes made to physical spaces to benefit persons with disabilities will benefit everyone. In the classroom, universal design addresses the need for learning environments that work for all students and meet a wide variety of learning needs. Soundfield amplification is a universal design initiative that can help make classrooms more conducive to hearing and listening for all.

Sound Field Amplification Research Summary

This paper is a summary of research studies investigation efficacy of sound field amplification for children and adults. Reviews of issues in classroom listening and learning environments, and the contributions of sound field amplification have been published in books, book chapters and journals (Crandell, Flexer & Smaldino, 2004; Crandell, Smaldino & Flexer, 1999; Sockalingham, Pinard, Cassie & Green, 2007); however, this paper is intended to be an updated, condensed review, categorized with respect to populations in which the use of sound field amplification has been studied, for use by consumers of research in education.

Benefits of Sound Field Amplification Systems

Sound field amplification is an effective means of enhancing the listening and learning environment for all students, including at-risk groups. The primary goals of sound field amplification are to improve the signal to noise ratio (i.e. the level of the teacher’s voice compared to the level of the background noise) and ensure equal distribution of the teacher’s voice throughout the classroom. The efficacy of sound field amplification has been documented in research studies spanning over 30 years.

The MARRS Project: Mainstream Amplification Resource Room Study (1980 – 1994)

The first large scale sound field amplification study, the MARRS investigated the benefits for children with minimal hearing loss. Commissioned by the US Department of Education, the study resulted in significant research findings that continue to be widely referenced today. Educational benefits were demonstrated for students with normal hearing as well as students with hearing loss. What was necessary for some, was good for all.

The Classroom Listening Environment in the Early Grades – Rubin, Flagg-Williams, Aquino-Russell and Lushington (2011)

The purpose of this study was to investigate selected components of the classroom listening environment in the early grades and to make recommendations for improving classroom listening. This study of 60 kindergarten to grade 3 classrooms investigated: 1) hearing status of students; 2) the noise level in classrooms; 3) classroom communication with and without sound field amplification; and 4) perceptions of teachers and students who used sound field amplification.

Classroom Acoustics

The Speech-Language and Audiology Canada (SAC) website serves as an excellent resource for information on classroom acoustics, including Canadian research, acoustical standards, and advocacy for better listening environments.

Omnipanel Technical Article

The principles of a new class of acoustic radiator (DML) are described and the counter-intuitive result for broad-band frequency independent acoustic radiation established. It is demonstrated that a low-loss panel with optimal modal distribution produces a flat power response. A simple mechanical model is presented to calculate the mean velocity within the panel as a function of frequency and intrinsic properties.

NXT Technology Review

NXT has developed a radically different loudspeaker technology that offers significant acoustic advantages over conventional alternatives and opens up exciting new design potentials. The object of this technology review is to introduce NXT’s technology, explain its numerous unique features and describe its particular advantages in the many applications to which it is being applied.