A soundfield sound amplification system involves a microphone (usually worn by a teacher or presenter) to pick up sound, and speaker(s) placed around the classroom to amplify these speech sounds. Soundfield systems have traditionally been used to aid individuals who have hearing impairment or children with other diagnosed disabilities (Glaaser, 2008). Though soundfield systems are thought to aid individuals with auditory processing disorders or hearing impairment, research has demonstrated that personal or desktop FM systems are much more effective for children with these profiles (Anderson & Goldstein, 2004). Soundfield systems, however, have shown to be effective for classrooms of typical children. For example, Palmer (1998) found that on the whole a classroom of children demonstrated fewer behaviour problems and much more on-task behaviour while using a soundfield system than without. Schafer & Thibodeau (2004) found similar results; typical students benefitted from soundfield systems, whereas students with auditory processing disorders or hearing impairments benefitted much more from personal FM systems, and Zanin and Rance (2016) also demonstrated that children with hearing impairments performed much better when using personal FM systems than soundfield systems. Overall, research evidence dictates that soundfield systems may be a beneficial addition to regular classrooms, but that personal FM or IR systems are superior for students who have auditory processing disorders or hearing impairments.
Research Rating: Due to the experimental nature of the information cited in this description this information is to be trusted as valid and reliable.
May be less stigmatizing to students than an FM system
May benefit all students in a classroom, so appropriate under a Universal Design for Learning approach
Demonstrated to be effective in decreasing negative behaviours in regular classrooms for typical students
Though soundfield systems may benefit all students, research evidence shows that students who have hearing impairments benefit less from soundfield systems than FM/IR systems
Determine whether the sound amplification system is being implemented for an entire class or an individual with hearing impairment
Contact an audiologist to determine which system and what components are the most appropriate.
Special Consideration: Workflow
Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed.
$ - Under $5
$$ - Between $6 and $50
$$$ - Between $51 and $250
$$$$ - Over $250
Anderson, K. L., & Goldstein, H. (2004). Speech benefits of FM and infrared devices to children with hearing aids in a typical classroom. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 35, 169-184.
Glaaser, D. J. (2008). The effects of improved classroom acoustics on the educational performance of students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. ProQuest LLC.
Palmer, C. V. (1998). Quantification of the ecobehavioral impact of a soundfield loudspeaker system in elementary classrooms. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 41, 819-833.
Schafer, E. C., & Thibodeau, L. M. (2004). Speech recognition abilities of adults using cochlear implants with FM systems. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 15, 678-691.
Zanin, J., & Rance, G. (2016). Functional hearing in the classroom: assistive listening devices for students with hearing impairment in a mainstream school setting. International Journal of Audiology, 55, 723-729.
Written by Bronwyn Lamond, Last Revision January 2017