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FM Systems for Individuals with Hearing Loss

Technological advancements aid people with hearing loss so they can communicate well with others and understand speech properly. According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, FM systems are a wireless technology that makes it easier for people with hearing aids to understand what others are saying in noisy situations, like a theater, church, museum or other public place. The FM system, or a personal frequency modulation system, is made up of a transmitter microphone that is used by the person who is speaking in front of an audience and a receiver used by the individual with a hearing aid. The system uses radio waves, which are completely harmless, to send speech to hearing aids.

Why use FM systems

People with hearing loss often struggle with clearly understanding speech in loud situations when the hearing aid is picking up background noise as well as the intended dialog. If you find yourself struggling to hear the conversation at restaurants, parties or other large gatherings, FM systems can reduce your strain and make going out with others much more enjoyable.

Components of FM system

  • FM systems deliver a boosted signal to a hearing aid.Microphone: Think of a radio station. The disc jockey in the studio uses a microphone to speak to listeners who are tuned into the station in their home or car. FM systems for people with hearing loss work in a similar manner. There is a microphone worn by a teacher, friend or family member at chest level. Generally referred to as a lapel microphone, it hangs around a person's neck like a landing, and is about 6 inches away from the mouth in order to pick up the best speech possible. However, there are different types of microphones that may be used.
  • Boom microphone: This microphone is about 3 inches away from the face, and is in the style of a headset that a customer service representative would wear.
  • Directional microphone: This type of microphone makes it easy for the hearing aid wearer to get a direct focus on the person who is speaking. This cuts out background noise in loud situations. Directional microphones can be used by the listener, who will point the device in the ideal position to pick up noise when listening to others speak.
  • Table microphone: Table microphones are best used in restaurants or conferences because they can pick up the voices of people around a table instead of one sole voice.
  • Receiver: The receiver picks up the low-power radio signals from the microphone, which can be used within 50 feet of the transmitter. Then, the receiver can actually send the signal directly to an individual's hearing aid, cochlear implant or other device. Having the receiver makes it sound like a person is only a few inches away from you, so the sound is crisp, clear and easy to understand. There are also different kinds of receivers available.
  • Ear level receivers: These are the smallest kinds of receivers, and are considered to be the most convenient. Many audiologists will recommend using these devices to people who are trying FM systems.
  • Body-worn receiver: Body-worn receivers are bulkier and are less convenient to carry around, but they are usually paired with traditional headphones making it easy to hear wherever you go. Additionally, a body-worn receiver is great for someone who doesn't wear hearing aids.

Benefits of FM systems

There are many benefits to FM systems, like the one pictured.

Improved voice clarity and interpretation: If you are having a conversation with others, you may feel left out because you cannot fully understand what everyone else is saying. Being able to properly interpret speech around you gives you the confidence to speak up and join the conversation again.

Reduced background noise: People with hearing loss, and even those without, often have trouble hearing in situations when background noise gets in the way. FM systems reduce this noise and only amplify the voice of the speaker you are trying to hear.

Hearing from a distance: If you enjoy going to lectures or speeches, FM systems can be a great way to ensure that you are hearing every word that the person in front of you is saying. For example, if you are going to a grandchild's graduation who is speaking on behalf of his/her class, you will want to make sure that you understand what they are saying. FM systems will pick up and produce clear noise, even in a large auditorium.

Reduced fatigue: Just like any part of the body, if you are trying too hard to hear, your ears will be under much strain. FM systems amplify the noise when you need it so that you do not suffer from fatigue, which can eventually make it even more difficult to hear.

FM system in a large setting

There is no reason to let your hearing loss stop you from enjoying the theater or going to the movies. Many large auditoriums have the capabilities to provide excellent sound quality without interference. FM technology in a theater setting allows you to use your hearing aid and FM receiver, and the signal goes straight through to the device so that the sound is clear and you are able to properly adjust settings on your device to meet your degree of hearing loss.

FM system for children

FM systems are commonly used in schools for children with hearing impairment.Children who are experiencing hearing loss may struggle with being able to hear properly in the classroom. This can hinder their education and cause them to lag behind because they cannot understand what the teacher is telling them. According to Audiology Online, a sound-field amplification system is similar to a loudspeaker as there is a microphone being used to amplify the sound of the speaker's voice, but instead of being connected to a hearing aid, it is simply projected louder throughout the classroom. This helps to reduce the stigma for children with hearing loss, and allows teachers and students to move freely throughout the classroom without having to move the microphone or receiver.

If you are using an FM system with a child, it allows them to more consistently understand speech and language, especially since children do not typically look at the person who is speaking. An FM system gives families a better opportunity to interact during daily activities as well as enjoying trips to the zoo or park, or driving in a car.

References

  1. FM Wireless Assistive Listening Systems, TecEar, http://www.tecear.com/About_FM_Assistive_Listening_Systems.htm#What is the benefit to you
  2. FM Systems for Children, Audiology Online, http://www.audiologyonline.com/articles/frequency-modulation-fm-systems-for-1166
  3. ConnectLine for Life's many opportunities, Oticon, http://www.oticon.com/products/wireless-accessories/connectline/about-connectline.aspx
  4. FM Systems, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/FM-Systems/

This content was last reviewed on: July 22nd, 2013

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