This study examined the attenuation characteristics of five FM system sound delivery options for a group of 10 adults and 15 children (5-13 years). Sound delivery options included a tube-fitting, lightweight headphones, a CROS earmold with tubing, a CROS earmold with a snap-ring, and a standard snap-ring earmold with a vent. Attenuation was defined as the difference between probe-tube microphone measures of the ear canal resonance and the SPL in the ear canal with each sound delivery option in place. A statistically significant but clinically inconsequential difference in attenuation for the CROS earmold with tubing was noted between adults and children. No significant differences in attenuation for any of the other sound delivery options were noted between adults and children. An investigation of the relationship between magnitude of attenuation and percentage of the ear canal occluded suggests that degree of occlusion is a major factor in determining degree of attenuation provided by a particular sound delivery option. Results also indicate that significant attenuation of high-frequency signals can occur with earmolds commonly considered nonoccluding. Caution should be used in fitting hearing aids or FM systems to individuals with normal high- frequency hearing sensitivity to prevent attenuation of unamplified high- frequency speech information.
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