Interview with Christine Jones, M.S., CCC-A, Manager of Pediatrics and Schools, Phonak

November 3, 2008
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Linda Schreiber: Today I am interviewing Christine Jonesthe Manager of Pediatrics and Schools from Phonak. Christine, you are an audiologist with Phonak. Tell us a bit about what you do as a manager of schools for Phonak. Christine Jones:Hi Linda. Thanks for this opportunity to speak with {{site-tit
Linda Schreiber: Today I am interviewing Christine Jonesthe Manager of Pediatrics and Schools from Phonak. Christine, you are an audiologist with Phonak. Tell us a bit about what you do as a manager of schools for Phonak.

Christine Jones:Hi Linda. Thanks for this opportunity to speak with SpeechPathology.com about FM technology for children with APD. I am responsible for the pediatric team at Phonak which includes 8 regional pediatric managers who are audiologists and experts in the areas of pediatric amplification and FM systems. They work around the country with clinical and educational audiologists and school professionals. We also have a specialized in-house call center, the SchoolDesk, which is a team of customer service professionals and audiologists who are specialized in working with schools and supporting FM systems on children. Our mission is to provide professionals with the products, information, and support necessary to maximize the potential of children with hearing loss and other auditory deficits. Phonak has a world-class reputation as an FM trend-setter and market leader. The EduLink product that we will talk about today is a great example of a unique solution that can really change outcomes for children with auditory deficits. This is an exciting topic right now with a growing body of compelling evidence.

Linda: I've been hearing a lot about Edulink and the effective resultsin terms of classroom performanceit provides for children with auditory processing disorders. What is Edulink?

Christine:EduLink is a wireless, ear-level FM receiver that is designed for individuals with auditory performance deficits despite having normal or near normal peripheral hearing. The EduLink receiver is worn on the ear and receives the signal from a MicroLink transmitter. Since hearing and listening are the cornerstones of classroom learning, the purpose of the EduLink is to provide a high-quality and consistent speech signal at the ear of the listener. It has been shown to improve understanding of speech in noise, attention and concentration, auditory memory, and academic performance.

Linda: Are you targeting school-age children with Edulink?

Christine:We know that due to the immaturity of their central auditory system, children have greater difficulty processing and understanding in background noise. Children with learning difficulties are even more vulnerable to problems related to signals degraded by poor signal-to-noise ratios, poor acoustics, and distance from the speaker. EduLink can play an important role in the management of anyone who experiences problems understanding and listening in complex environments. Evidence shows that FM systems are beneficial for students with auditory processing disorder, learning disabilities, speech and language disorders, and those learning English as a second language. There are also some types of hearing loss that Edulink is appropriate forincluding unilateral hearing loss (used on the normal ear)&#59 fluctuating, conductive, or high frequency hearing loss, and auditory dysynchrony/neuropathy.

Linda: How are you defining an auditory processing disorder?

Christine:ASHA (1996) defines an auditory processing disorder (APD) as a deficit in one or several central skill areas including auditory discrimination, the ability to localize and lateralize sound, auditory pattern recognition, and temporal processing. Kids with APD have difficulty processing spoken language and are at an extra disadvantage in noise because it may mask speech elements crucial for understanding and it may serve as a distraction for these children who already susceptible to attention problems. APD is estimated to occur in 3-5% of children (Musiek, 1997) and is more prevalent in males than females. Expert opinions and scientific evidence generally favor a three-pronged approach to the management of APD including direct therapy, compensatory strategies, and environmental modifications. Direct remediation involves taking advantage of neuroplasticity to change the way the brain processes auditory information. Compensatory strategies are not intended to remediate the underlying disorder but rather to provide top-down strategies for coping. Environmental modifications would include improving auditory access and clarity via improved classroom acoustics and the use of a personal FM system such as EduLink.



EduLink receiver with standard retention lock attached. It can also be worn with a custom open-fitting mold.

Linda:ASHA also refers to auditory processing disorder as central auditory processing disorder.

Christine:That's correct.

Linda:Will early learners, like kindergartners, find EduLink helpful?

Christine:Yes, the EduLink is designed for anyone experiencing auditory deficits down to about 5 years of age.

Linda:What do we need to know about how Edulink works?

Christine:All FM systems consist of two parts: the transmitter and the receiver. The transmitter picks up the teacher's voice and sends it over radio waves to the receiver. Often an FM receiver is "booted" onto a hearing instrument or cochlear implant but in the case of the EduLink, it is worn by itself on the ear. The EduLink is similar to a Bluetooth headset for a cell phone in that it sits on the ear, receives the wireless signal and directs that audio signal into the ear canal. EduLink receivers are powered by a 312 zinc air hearing aid battery. Usually two EduLink receivers are recommended, one for each ear.


How does it work?

Linda: Will children resist wearing the device?

Christine:The EduLink was intentionally designed with a unique look so that it would not have the same stigma that is sometimes attached to hearing aids. In fact, we have found that even the toughest customers, teen-agers, are usually willing to use it!

Linda: How much pretraining is required for the student?

Christine:At the initial fitting, the EduLink is bent with a special tool so that it fits perfectly over the top of the child's ear. It is necessary to teach the student to hang the EduLink over his or her ear and direct the loud speaker into the opening of the ear canal. The EduLink is usually kept securely in place with a little silicone extension that wraps up the concha bowl of the ear. In a few cases, children have preferred wearing the EduLink with a custom earmold. I often find it helpful for children to learn how to put on EduLink while looking in a mirror.



TheEduLInk bending tool

Linda:Might teachers find the Edulink device awkward to wear?

Christine:The teacher does wear the FM transmitter. All Phonak transmitters are compatible with the EduLink as long as the transmitter and receiver are set to the same channel. We offer both lavaliere and belt-worn designs. In order to get teacher buy-in, it may be helpful to consult him or her regarding which style is preferred. The use of a transmitter will not interfere with classroom teaching. In fact, teachers often report less time is spent off-task when the transmitter is used because students are more focused.

Linda: You call it the Link to Learn. Why?

Christine:Spoken language is the primary vehicle for classroom learning. Children with problems accessing, processing, coding, and attending to spoken language will be at a major disadvantage in the classroom. Multiple studies have also shown that children with language disorders, APD, and specific learning disability have poorer speech understanding in noise, putting them at a further disadvantage in the classroom. Poor room acoustics present serious challenges for children with auditory and learning disorders. Coping with degraded, reduced, or distorted speech is fatiguing, causing an even further drain on the child's resources and consequently can result in off-task behaviors. The use of EduLink helps to overcome these barriers to improve a child's access and quality of auditory information, resulting in improved classroom performance.

Linda: Why should speech-language pathologists be aware of Edulink?

Christine:In school, we know that SLPs are often providing services to children with APD and other learning disabilities and are charged with recommending and fitting assistive technology. The EduLink can be used to complement existing remediation and can improve intervention outcomes. In addition to the behavioral measures that have shown marked improvements with EduLink, there is also evidence of improvements in electro-physiologic tests used to document auditory dysfunction. We are continuing to gather information on this topic.

Linda: If readers would like more information, what are some options for learning more about Edulink?

Christine:Thank you for this opportunity to share information about EduLink. I also want to let readers know to stay tuned! There are more APD options to come from Phonak this fall. For more information about EduLink, please:
  • Visit our website www.phonak.com

  • Visit www.eschooldesk.com

    This is our website designed specifically to support FM systems including EduLink in schools. The configurator link will allow you to create a custom set up and user guide including how-to videos for your EduLink users.

  • Call our SchoolDesk at 888-777-7316 for a quotation and more information.




The new dynamic APD options that work with the Inspiro FM transmitter

Linda: Christine, thanks for your interview today. Best wishes in release of the new dynamic APD options. Perhaps we can chat about it when it is released.