Sound Field Systems on the Rise in Schools

Baltimore County Public Schools in Maryland may soon join a growing number of schools to amplify general education classrooms with sound field systems. Sound field systems amplify a teacher’s voice evenly throughout the classroom so every student can hear every word all of the time.

If the school board approves the proposed budget, a large-scale $400,000 pilot study may put the systems in up to 25 classrooms in eight elementary schools.But schools in the district didn’t wait for the pilot project to begin. In at least three new schools in the county, forward-thinking principals added sound field systems during construction.

After BCPS audiologist Eloise Brown encouraged her to consider sound field, Principal Maralee Clark spent $13,000 of the equipment budget to install sound field systems in 10 classrooms and the media center when the school opened its doors last fall. “I read research articles and talked to experts and I knew it was a good opportunity. It helps students to stay focused and to better hear letter sounds,” Clark said. “Any child can benefit from sound field systems.”

For administrators across the country, hearing is believing when it comes to understanding the benefits of sound field systems. The amplification systems are now moving out of special education classrooms and into the mainstream as administrators realize the benefits for all students. Approximately 160,000 classrooms in the United States have sound field systems-a number that grows by 20% annually, according to manufacturer estimates.

“I think there are going to be more sound field systems being used because of the link between listening and literacy, and the awareness that literacy is at its core an auditory experience,” said Carol Flexer, professor of audiology at the University of Akron, OH.

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