Objectives: To evaluate both monaural and binaural processing skills in a group of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and to determine the degree to which personal frequency modulation (radio transmission) (FM) listening systems could ameliorate their listening difficulties.
Study design: Auditory temporal processing (amplitude modulation detection), spatial listening (integration of binaural difference cues), and functional hearing (speech perception in background noise) were evaluated in 20 children with ASD. Ten of these subsequently underwent a 6-week device trial in which they wore the FM system for up to 7 hours per day.
Results: Auditory temporal processing and spatial listening ability were poorer in subjects with ASD than in matched controls (temporal: P = .014 [95% CI -6.4 to -0.8 dB], spatial: P = .003 [1.0 to 4.4 dB]), and performance on both of these basic processing measures was correlated with speech perception ability (temporal: r = -0.44, P = .022; spatial: r = -0.50, P = .015). The provision of FM listening systems resulted in improved discrimination of speech in noise (P < .001 [11.6% to 21.7%]). Furthermore, both participant and teacher questionnaire data revealed device-related benefits across a range of evaluation categories including Effect of Background Noise (P = .036 [-60.7% to -2.8%]) and Ease of Communication (P = .019 [-40.1% to -5.0%]). Eight of the 10 participants who undertook the 6-week device trial remained consistent FM users at study completion.
Conclusions: Sustained use of FM listening devices can enhance speech perception in noise, aid social interaction, and improve educational outcomes in children with ASD.
Keywords: APHAB; ASD; Abbreviated Profile of Hearing Aid Benefit; Autism spectrum disorder; FM; Frequency modulation (radio transmission).
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