How does Roger contribute to incidental learning?
Incidental language learning has been shown to be a vital part of a child's vocabulary and language development. Research suggests that approximately 80 to 90% of what a child learns in their language development is done so incidentally (Gillis & Schaerlaekens, 2000). Research has shown that 40% of speech in a child's typical day comes from a distance of over six feet and/or with overlapping noise (Mulla and McCracken, 2014). A child who wears hearing aids or has cochlear implants hears sounds within a "bubble" of a five- or six-foot circumference. Anything outside of that bubble is not being heard clearly, and probably isn't going to contribute to the child's language access. If 40% of what a child hears in a typical day comes from a distance of over six feet, or with overlapping noise, this presents a significant challenge of understanding.
Real and meaningful education occurs when children are truly engaged. Children can only be truly engaged with their teachers, parents, or siblings, if they're wearing appropriate technology. Hearing challenges for children with hearing loss include classroom environments, home life, and the outdoors, among many others. In these complex listening situations, it's extremely challenging for a child to hear, even with the best fit amplification. They are still going to struggle. In the past, FM systems have been used to bring a teacher's or parent's voice directly to the child's hearing instruments to help boost their speech understanding. Phonak has led the FM field for many years. Now, we are leading the field with Roger, named after the aviation term meaning "message received and understood."
Roger is a digital, wireless, remote microphone system (DM) consisting of microphones and receivers. Roger provides speech and language access in noisy situations and over distance. It provides speech and language access in noisy situations when hearing aids and CIs require that boost, to ensure that the user is getting what they need. Roger is a 2.4 GHz wireless technology that improves speech understanding. The remote microphone signal measures the environmental noise in real time, and it adjusts the receivers to provide the best signal-to-noise ratio. The microphone is constantly scanning the environment, judging loudness levels and background noise. Then, Roger adjusts what is delivered to the receivers to ensure the best signal-to-noise ratio. This adaptive behavior capability is unique to Roger. It also uses beamformers, which are constantly sampling the environmental noise and adjusting accordingly, so that the child only hears the best SNR. Roger is fully compatible with hearing aids, bone anchored devices, and cochlear implant systems. Phonak has made a universal receiver, as well as integrated receivers into their hearing aids. We even have one you can wear around your neck.
How is Roger different than FM?
Let's talk a little bit more about the digital wireless characteristics of Roger. It is a 2.4 GHz, globally license free frequency. Audio signals are constantly sampled, and then they are digitized. They are then put into very short digital bursts of codes, or packets. These packets are broadcast several times, each at different channels between 2.4 and 2.4835 GHz. It's a very narrow channel. The audio delay is less than 25 milliseconds. Typical, historical FM systems have a much larger frequency range. One of the problems with that is channel interaction. If you had multiple students in a classroom with different receivers, every one of them had to be programmed to a specific frequency, which didn't always work. If a child were to go to the next classroom, he or she could still hear the teacher through the walls, because the channel didn't change from room to room. With Roger, you don't have to worry about any of that.
Frequency hopping is what Roger does to ensure that the clearest digital signal goes from the microphone to the receivers. It's adaptive and it's automatic. As the audiologist, there's nothing that you need to do, except pair the microphone and the receivers. The microphone will automatically avoid occupied channels. There will be no signal crossover. They will avoid complicated channel schematics for multi-talker networks. In addition, privacy is guaranteed.
Gillis, S., & Schaerlaekens, A. (Eds.). (2000). Child language acquisition: A handbook for Dutch. Groningen:MartinusNijhoff.
Mulla, I., & McCracken, W. (2014). Frequency modulation for preschoolers with hearing loss. In Seminars in Hearing, 35, (3), 206-216. Thieme Medical Publishers.