Q&A: Speech-Language Pathologist Normajean Mehrman Reflects on 17+ Years of Instructional Audio Success
Ahead of her retirement in November 2021, Normajean Mehrman met with Lightspeed to discuss her experience with instructional audio during her time as a speech-language pathologist at Hampton Bays Public Schools.
Q: When did you recognize the need for instructional audio—and what drew you to Lightspeed?
A: When one of our students was diagnosed with Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) in 2004, we recognized the need for classroom amplification. I connected with a colleague of mine, who was very knowledgeable about hearing disorders and instructional audio systems.
We decided to team up and looked at various resources available to support classroom amplification—Lightspeed was one of those companies. Two members of their team came to the district and did a great demonstration. Our administrator was there during that demo, and we were convinced that of all the companies, Lightspeed’s system felt the most solid, and was also very competitive in terms of pricing and user friendliness.
Then, in 2009 our district purchased an additional 31 instructional audio systems for students with hearing loss, CAPD and similar needs. Most recently, we purchased 23 of Lightspeed’s new Redcat systems which are just phenomenal—very user friendly, and the sound quality is fantastic.
Q: How has instructional audio benefitted Hampton Bays students? Are there any stories that stick out?
A: One story that sticks out is a student who was diagnosed with moderate to severe hearing loss at age four. He was given hearing aids but was resistant to wearing them until he reached seventh grade—a common challenge.
During those early years, at the very least, classroom amplification was there as support—and remained there until that student graduated. Even post-graduation, students with IEP or 504 plans can request an instructional audio accommodation through their college–it provides lasting benefits.
Q: Why is instructional audio so important?
A: If I could, I would put amplification in every single classroom. Luckily, our district has been great about recognizing the need for instructional audio to support all of our students. Classroom amplification makes it easier for students to hear and understand, because they have the ability to process information quickly and the memory to store it.
It’s interesting—while there are requirements for lighting in the classroom, there are no requirements for audio. So, when discussing the importance (and need for) instructional audio with educators, I started using a chart that illustrates how the decibel level decreases significantly between a teacher and students seated in the back.
During consults, teachers consistently share that because instructional audio projects their voice to all students, it helps improve overall clarity of speech—which is especially useful for those teachers who talk fast. There’s also less fatigue and strain on their vocal cords.
Some educators are teaching four classes in a row, and each period is 41 minutes—that’s a lot of work for a teacher. The energy they have to put into that vocal use is difficult.
Instructional audio has been especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because face masks muffle voices, I had teachers coming to me requesting instructional audio for their classrooms—luckily, we had enough to meet the demand.
Changing the Classroom Experience
It has been such a pleasure to help educators and students over the years—especially hearing feedback about the positive impact instructional audio has made on their classroom experiences.
Enjoy this post? Check out our downloadable resource: How Instructional Audio Can Help Overcome Listening Challenges