Do I have to use the microphone?
If the IEP team has determined that an Assistive Listening System (ALS), sometimes referred to as hearing assistive technology (HAT), is required for free appropriate public education (FAPE) as outlined on the student’s IEP, then yes, microphone use may be required. Data must be collected to determine if the student requires assistive technology (AT) in order to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of the student to access the auditory communication in the educational setting. An AT evaluation, which may or may not include a functional listening evaluation with and without the use of amplification, may be sources of data for the IEP team.
Remote microphone hearing assistive technology (RmHAT) consists of a transmitter (microphone) worn by the speaker and a receiver (student’s hearing aids, classroom speakers, etc.). The microphone picks up sound and transmits the sound to overcome distance, reverberations, and background noise for the listener. You can watch “Hearing Loss in the Classroom” to see how using the microphone can improve the auditory signal for students who are D/HH.
Assistive listening devices (ALDs) can be used in the K-12 educational setting, post-secondary education, work place, and community. The video, “Like the Mic,” shows the first-hand perspective of adults with hearing loss and how microphone use can make meetings a more accessible and friendly environment. In the video it is explained, “If someone hesitates [to use the microphone], remind them that it’s important to have a conversation that everyone can participate in.”
Using the microphone with an ALD makes the communication more accessible for participants. As pointed out in “Like the Mic” a loud voice, often referred to as “teacher voice,” does not improve auditory access, as it actually distorts the sound, which may make the communication more difficult to understand. A “teacher voice” significantly amplifies the vowels resulting in the loss of consonant sounds. This leads to a lack of comprehension for the recipient.
For the speaker, using the microphone helps prevent vocal fatigue and possible injury. For example using a “teacher voice” for extended periods of time may lead to a vocal disorder. Research suggests as many as 11% of teachers report having a voice disorder (Intermountain Healthcare, 2017). The loudness of the voice is the cause of the damage (Long, 2016). Teachers use their voices so much during the workday that they are at a higher risk of developing such issues. One way to prevent this kind of damage is to use a microphone with speakers such as those used in soundfield amplification.
The behavior of the teacher sends a powerful message to the student. By saying the microphone is not important, it can impact the student by discouraging them from understanding the importance of their own amplification and may lead to them missing auditory communication. The teacher sets the tone of the classroom environment. Teachers who use their actions to emphasize the importance of all students having equal access to ALL communication in the class, fosters confidence in the students who rely on the amplification to advocate for their needs not only in the K-12 setting, but throughout their life. This is especially important as many students may require ALDs for access to communication throughout all stages and in all settings in life.
An additional concern about the use of a microphone is sanitation. Sanitation is key if only one microphone is available, though users must be careful to not permit liquids, such as cleaning solutions, to enter the microphone to the point of harming the equipment (Stein-Meyers, 2020). Where possible, direct transfer from teacher to teacher would eliminate one cycle of sanitation so it doesn’t have to be cleaned by the surrendering teacher, the student, and then the receiving teacher. Another option would be to provide a sanitary bag in which the microphone could be transported. The surrendering teacher could sanitize the mic and place it in the bag and seal it. The student could transport it to the receiving teacher, who would remove it from the bag, eliminating the student touching it. An alternative would be to consider microphones for each teacher. Similar considerations are necessary for student-utilized pass-around microphones. In the event a pass-around microphone for peer communication is not available it is critical that the teacher wearing the microphone repeat any student commentary or questions in order for the student relying on the amplification to have the benefit of their statement or inquiry.
The information contained in the FAQs does not constitute legal advice. RMTC-D/HH does not endorse or sponsor any one product. Please refer to the original sources listed in each FAQ for more information.