Schools Get Wired For Sound

Foothills Elementary in Riverton, Utah, might look like your typical American school, but it sure doesn't sound like it, reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker.

You see, Foothills is wired with a state-of-the-art, infrared sound system. It's transmitted from this necklace and bathes the classroom in the teacher's voice. Now, every seat is a front-row seat.

"It makes an amazing difference. I can honestly say I've never had to raise my voice to the kids," said teacher Jennifer Hebertson.

"So, has it changed things for the students as well?" Whitaker asked.

"You know, I think they are better behaved. And they are more likely to ask questions and more likely to participate," she replied.

It seems schools have tried everything to improve: smaller classes, more teachers, more homework, more computers. One solution was right under their noses — well ears actually.

Even kids with normal hearing can miss as much as a third of what teachers say. And remember those troublemakers in the back row? It seems they just may not have been hearing … ditto some kids labeled with ADHD and other learning disabilities. Some wired schools report test scores are up across the board.

"Do you see a downside to this at all?" Whitaker asked school Superintendent Barry Newbold.

"The downside for me is I can't get it in the classrooms fast enough," he answered.

Superintendent Newbold says the cost of one computer can wire a classroom. He's outfitting every school in his Utah district.

Ohio has mandated it for every school in the state. So . Ms. Hebertson, with the sound system off.

"One, amendment; two, bill of rights; three, due process."

Now, turning it on, she says much louder, "The last three you're going to define are human rights, jury and patriotism."

"Do you remember the classrooms before the sound systems went in?" Whitaker asked.

Replied one student, "Uh huh. It was really hard to hear, and I had to keep raising my hand, 'What did you say?'"

"And now, I can just hear perfectly."

It's the brainchild of Claudia Anderson of Audio Enhancement.

"Johnny was told to write an invitation, and he heard vacation. That's really close. But he went back and did write about his vacation. All of a sudden he was scolded," said Anderson.

She started out trying to help her two almost totally deaf sons. She wired their cribs and strollers to pump in sound. She studied engineering, started this company, and ended up helping lots of children.

It seems like such a simple idea.

"People didn't realize that the students were not hearing well. They get tagged as not able to learn and they're not able to hear," Anderson said.

"It does seem like a no-brainer, but I'm so glad to have it," said Ms. Hebertson.

It seems hearing is believing.