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FM Systems use with Cochlear Implants To Hear Audience Questions

Q: My friend has a cochlear implant.  In her job, she has many public speaking engagements. She will often have to present information and answer questions from the audience. She turns up the microphone so the audience can hear her but it does not always help.

A:  Answering questions from an audience can be a challenging task for someone with significant hearing loss. Use of an FM assistive listening device can be quite helpful in these situations. An FM system is a wireless method (using radio waves) of transmitting speech from a sound source to the ear, hearing aid, or cochlear implant of the listener. Although most often in an audience situation, the cochlear implant user is the listener in the audience and the person speaking to the group would have the FM transmitter, it can also be used in the reverse for a situation as described where the hearing impaired person is speaking to an audience and needs to hear the questions. If there is a public address (PA) system in use with a microphone available for the audience to speak into during question time, the FM transmitter can be connected directly to the PA system already in use. If there is no microphone available for the audience to speak into, then the FM transmitter itself can be passed around to each person asking the questions. The cochlear implant user would then have the associated FM receiver connected to the cochlear implant sound processor.

The program used on the processor for FM system use in this situation should be programmed in consultation with the audiologist to achieve an appropriate audio mixing ratio. The audio mixing ratio determines the amplification emphasis from the FM transmitter compared to the cochlear implant microphone. By setting this audio mixing ratio appropriately for the individual, this could also accommodate the issue of the need to turn the processor volume down when the user is speaking. For example, in the situation described, it may be desirable to have the volume of the FM system be received louder than the volume of the cochlear implant microphone so that she does not have to turn the volume down due to the level of her speaking voice. Regardless of the programming settings for the use of the FM system, I would also suggest that this person discuss with her audiologist the issue of having to turn the volume down when she is speaking to a group because this is something that could possibly be alleviated through altering some of the programming characteristics.

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