The overall objective of the present study was to assess the efficacy of FM system use in the home setting for a group of preschool children with mild-to-severe sensorineural hearing loss. Changes in language acquisition were monitored and compared with similar measures from a group of children who used hearing aids. Secondarily, the perceived benefits and practical problems associated with FM system use across a variety of nonacademic situations were documented.
Ten children with mild-to-severe sensorineural hearing loss participated in a 2-yr longitudinal study investigating the efficacy of FM system use in the home setting. The subjects were divided into two groups: one group was instructed to use FM systems at home as often as possible while the other used only their personal hearing aids. Changes in language acquisition were monitored in both groups. Subjective benefit and the practical problems associated with use of FM systems outside of traditional academic environments were monitored via daily use logs, a weekly observation inventory, and a situational listening profile.
The majority of children in both groups improved in all measures of language development over the study interval. Although there were relatively large individual differences in performance for some measures, no statistically significant differences between the FM and hearing aid users were found. However, some children in the FM group made unusually large gains in some aspects of language development over the study interval. In addition, both parents and children reported benefits of FM system use in specific listening situations. Throughout the 2-yr study, a number of practical problems associated with FM system use outside the classroom were identified.
Formal language measures did not yield significant differences between the FM and HA groups, but some subjects had rates of language acquisition which suggested that FM system use may be beneficial in selected cases. In addition, subjective reports of FM system benefit suggest that appropriate use of the device may facilitate effective communication in a variety of listening situations. Although recent advances in FM system design may minimize some of the factors that reportedly restricted consistent FM use in this study, the complexities associated with the modes of operation and problems with FM interference remain issues that require consistent audiologic monitoring of FM system use in nonacademic environments.