What is hearing augmentation?
Hearing Augmentation is the process of collecting audio and transmitting it to receivers built in to hearing aids.
Hearing augmentation is compulsory pursuant to Code and we are advised by Access experts that screen / TV audio requires augmentation as does PA. A performance-based solution is needed given that Code assumes that induction / TSwitch is a transmission platform that exists in all hearing aids however it is not anymore.
A compliant Hearing Augmentation system must collect and transmit inbuilt amplified audio. Often educators and others can think that voice capture and distribution only is hearing augmentation; it is not. An interface with Screen Audio and PA is required.
Where must hearing augmentation technology be installed in Schools?
The blend of regulation existing within the Building and Construction Code, Disability Law, Australian Standards and State Government and Diocesan rules mean that if there is a device in a learning space that has a speaker in it, a person who is hard of hearing must have that audio transmitted to a receiver built in their aid.
Code refers to audio requiring augmentation as “inbuilt amplified audio” and various sources give clarity to what this is.
The revised Aus. Standard AS 1428.5:2021 Design for Access and Mobility Part 5 (Communication for people who are deaf or hearing-impaired) offers guidance:
“Inbuilt amplification systems include the following:
(a) Where the loudspeakers are mounted in the ceiling or on the walls, including:
- Audio Visual system
- Public address system
- Paging system
- Music system
- Background music system
- Video conferencing system
(b) Mounted speakers
(c)Wall or ceiling mounted television, regardless of whether it includes a
(d) Wall or ceiling mounted monitor that includes and audio capability
regardless of whether that audio capability, regardless of whether that
audio capability includes a soundbar
(e) Soundfield system
(f) Where the emergency warning intercommunication system (EWIS) is used for any other additional purpose than emergency warning”
The Building Quality Standards Handbook May 2023 of the Victorian School Building Authority state :
“Hearing augmentation is the process of collecting audio from amplification systems such as public address or audio-visual systems for transmission to receivers built into the personal hearing devices worn by hard of hearing or deaf learners, teachers and visitors.”
The South Australian Education Facilities Design Standards state:
“Soundfield audio …(including and not limited to audio from AV sources including TV, projectors and other visual devices and voices of teachers and students) , and that from a PA signal in the room, must be captured via cable and made available for electronic transmission to receivers built into assistive listening devices (including hearing aids) used by hearing impaired students, teachers and visitors to create complete hearing augmentation.”
Performance Specification Hearing Augmentation for DOE Facilities of 21/02/2018 of the Queensland Department of Education state:
2.2 INBUILT AMPLIFICATION SYSTEM
An Inbuilt Amplification System is usually regarded as a system or mechanism which is built into a room or building (not portable) or fixed to a structure which contains a means of amplifying the sound being transmitted or broadcast such as through speakers or other similar devices, delivering broadcast sound. Typical devices include;
- Projectors with built-in or separate standalone speaker systems,
- Televisions with built-in or separate standalone speaker systems,
- LCD, LED, Display screens, etc., with built-in or separate standalone speaker system,
The above devices would be regarded as an Inbuilt Amplification System, as would any AV system, music system, whiteboard, or device which is equipped to transmit sound.
What hearing augmentation technology is best for Australian Schools?
Like all technology, the winds of change are blowing hard in the world of personal technology worn by Australians who are hard of hearing.
How receivers built into hearing aids work and programmed is not universal; one aid may have one type of receiver, and another another aid may have a different receiver all with their own type of transmission technology.
So hearing augmentation technology must be agile to change. Traditional thought must be abandoned. Installing anything that is deemed to satisfy the Building and Construction Code means it will not work for all Learners.
Hear and Learn UConnect systems offer this agility. They future proof learning spaces. We believe our solutions are best of breed.
If a Performance Based hearing augmentation solution is planned for, does this mean certification / approval is achievable?
Yes. Hear and Learn works directly with an Access Consultant and offers clients help with the approval process.
How does an Architect or Electrical Consultant or Education Infrastructure Specialist get advice about hearing augmentation?
Hear and Learn can receive the most basic floor plans of a new build or a refurbishment and report back in writing with advice supported by the opinions of an Access Consultant. There is no need for stakeholders to learn what we already know.
Should we only rely on the experience of Educators about hearing augmentation?
This is a very fluid science. It’s hard for anyone to keep abreast of these technologies. Hear and Learn continually procures advice to not only to know what is happening in the world of hard of hearing Australians, but – and we think most importantly – what can happen in the future.
It is not uncommon for clients of Architects and Electrical Consultants to rely on ideas based on tradition and what is relevant to a School’s population now. We need to think more about the future.
And the future is best explained by specialists in this area, and specialist advice should lead debate.
Are there UConnect systems in use now?
Yes. Thousands of them.
Can hearing augmentation AND the capture and delivery of all classroom audio be achieved by one piece of infrastructure?
Yes. The Uconnect SoundHouse can be the backbone of all audio demands. Screen audio can be captured and delivered evenly to all areas of a room as can voices. All this audio can be augmented to hard of hearing learners, teachers and visitors.
What is soundfield, or classroom sound enhancement, or classroom audio technology?
It’s an industry term to describe voice capture technology (using microphones) so that teacher voices and student voices are heard equally by all learners in a space.
Soundfield is different to traditional microphone tech because it is designed for teachers and schools; it needs to be one touch, small, not requiring the IT guy, and be designed for the needs of young brains. It makes sure children get delivered crucial consonant sounds that fade over distance and get compromised by things like aircon, furniture noise and the like. Also, it needs to work in schools where Wi-Fi and the like create crowded airways.
How is soundfield helpful? Why change from tradition when voices were rarely captured by microphones?
Remember, us adults don’t cannot ever know what information is actually being processed by the brains of learners. While adults may be able to process what is being said even if we are in the back of a room, we have auditory experience; we have heard the words and the story before. We have context and can make up the difference between things we have heard and understood, and what we haven’t. Learners cannot; if they miss a crucial part of a word, they can’t fill in the gaps.
Rooms are bigger and busier now too, and it’s not a chalk and talk environments. Even over small distances, the intelligibility of the human voice fades over distance. Good noise – voices and AV audio – can be overtaken by bad noise including furniture / shuffling noise, heating and cooling systems etc – so that the required signal-to-noise ratio that children’s brains need is not enough.
Learner populations are different too. More kids who don’t speak English at home, and we now know of more challenges learners face including auditory processing and behavioural issues. Also, learners are used to great listening conditions in the car, at home, and in their ear buds. We should do our best to do that in schools.
And why ask a teacher to speak above a conversational voice? It creates something other than a calm learning environment and gone are the days where it was a badge of honour to have a somewhat damaged “teacher voice”.
How much do our Redcat, 975 and Topcat soundfield systems cost?
Given we have a wide family of solutions – for standard rooms up to labs and libraries and agile/collaborative learning areas – and other add-ons such as additional teacher Flexmikes, learner Sharemikes, and small group instruction pods, it’s important not to cast an impression that there is a set price. And we offer discounts for bulk purchases and extended payment terms. It’s a case by case thing. Best thing to do is contact us directly on 0393709355 or use our contact form.
My microphone is not working as well as it did. Why is this?
Chances are the battery in your Flexmike, Sharemike or Redmike has worn out. They are warranted for a year. These batteries are unique and you need to get the correct ones to not compromise warrantees.
Learn how to change batteries, and other tips, below.
How should I wear my Flexmike or Redmike?
Any microphone works like an ear; the closer it is to a sound source, the more it ‘hears’. Lanyards on our teacher Flexmikes open wide enough to slip over your head BUT they can be adjusted to suit the Flexmike sitting on your sternum and you can use the magnetic clip to take the mike on and off.
The short answer is to have the Flexmike sit on your sternum and not lower. This means the Flexmike ‘hears’ your voice most efficiently, and this means volume settings can be moderate because a faint collection of your voice by the Flexmike is avoided.
Why am I sometimes hearing a crackling sound from my white coloured Redcat?
Older Redcats have an equalizer on the back of the unit covered by a black plate. Dust can get into that equalizer. Clean out these equalizer sliders by blowing them out, or brushing them out, and then slide these sliders up and down to dislodge dust and you will be good to go!
How is our Access system of transmission from Flexmike to receiver better or worse than Infra-Red?
We used to use infra-red light as a transmission system years ago. We switched to Access because that means there is absolutely no chance of drop out caused by a mike being covered by scarves etc, or blocked by a teacher reading from a book or standing close to a whiteboard.
What is Access? It’s a form of radio frequency (called DECT) which hops from one frequency to another so the one Flexmike cannot jam with another Flexmike.
Sometimes we conduct small group learning in agile learning spaces. Can our technology help with this?
YES! Our Flexmikes can be used to lift a teacher’s voice to everywhere in a learning space AND can be sent only to a group of children working in a group learning environment. And teachers can listen in to that group to discover how well they are working without disrupting them. It’s called Activate technology. It can be added to our Redcat Access or 955 systems.