Fm system question - & please tell me about your experiences!

my son was identified as hh when he was an infant, has had bilateral aids since he was 4 months old. now he is in junior kindergarten where they use an fm system. he says he doesn’t like it, but i can’t get a straight answer about why!

so if you use fm - how does it compare to just being aided? is there any difference in sound quality? are there ever problems with distortion? would he maybe have a better time picking up environmental sounds as well if he wore only one receiver instead of both?

he routinely takes the receivers off. and on the weekend he hid them - in a glass of water. right now they are in a drying beaker with lots of silica gel, i have my fingers crossed…

Ouch! Good luck. My son abandoned the FM in middle school. He said that he could hear fine without it and that it bugged him when it was on. He had one FM receiver connected to his iCom after he complained that his own Naidas were better than the school aids with the built in FM which he used in elementary school. After he lost the receiver but was still getting As and Bs we all agreed to let him stop using it.

my son has naidas too! but the receivers plug into them directly, he doesn’t have to wear different aids or anything (he would definitely not be willing too - he has sloping loss/cochlear dead zone so the naidas are perfect for him).

A few things spring to mind that may be annoying him. Yes, there is a certain difference in sound quality - that’s usually a positive difference, but children often don’t like change even if it’s a good change, so it may just be that and he needs some time to get used to it. However, there are things it’s important to check on first.

Yes, Fm receivers can have distortion and interference - does anyone else in the building or nearby use FM? You may not necessarily know if there is someone in the surrounding area with something that interferes, but channel interference is literally painful! If he’s got interference then that can usually be fixed by choosing a new channel number. Do you have a hearing aid listening set? I am always astonished to find that parents have not been provided with one of these for children’s hearing aids. A listening set lets you safely listen in to the hearing aid at a lowered volume. You will then be able to understand what the hearing aid normally sounds like and recognise immediately if it sounds different. They need a listening set at the kindergarten also, so they can listen in to his FM and check it’s working and doesn’t have all manner of strange noises in it.

The volume of the FM needs to be expertly adjusted to balance with the hearing aid - who has done this? If nobody, then you need to find out who can do this work for you. If the Fm signal is overwhelming or incredibly loud then it’s not going to be comfortable for him. What is the program that is in use on the hearing aid? Is it an FM only or an FM and hearing aid microphone mixed signal? It shoudl be FM and mic together so he can hear environmental noises also.

I’m not quite sure what a junior kindergarten environment consists of, but I’m guessing it’s a lot like a nursery here in the UK, where some of the day is sitting down doing group tasks like reading books, but a great deal of the day is also dedicated to sand and water play, painting, building, moving around the room. It may be that the FM is being inappropriately used, he shouldn’t be connected to it at all times when he’s trying to play with the other kids, it’s for the times when the teacher’s voice is the main speaking voice and little else is going on. Sometimes inexperienced places get some equipment and strap it on 100% of the time because they don’t know any better. It’s very disorientating to use FM when you are moving around as you cannot tell where noises are coming from, they always arrive equally in each ear. It always sounds like the teacher has just sneaked up behind you and gone “boo” in your ears, can be very frightening. The signal is also broadly irrelevant during that time as the teacher is talking to another child, another teacher, doing something noisy that is nothing to do with him.

He should always know where the person is before they speak to him unless they are diverting him from an immediate danger. The FM should only be used to equalise with children with normal hearing, not to avoid having to move towards the deaf child and communicate with them properly, some teachers use it as a sort of a leash, constantly then talking to the child at a distance. They need to be using at as part of a set of tools for good communication, not as a substitute. He may also be having trouble talking to the other children if the adult signal is overwhelming him.

Other common FM problems include poor microphone positioning so the wrong sounds are picked up, teachers not muting the mic when they are doing something else (and they should use mute, not “off” if it’s only to be muted for a few minutes, as the on-off makes a noise in your ears). Equally remembering to put it back on if it’s been muted otherwise they assume he’s getting access to material he’s not actually getting. It’s also important that anyone wearing an FM transmitter doesn’t wear a load of jewellery like bangles that click and clack into the microphone, a necklace that bangs on it, a scarf which rubs on it, or that the person is a fidget and drums fingers on a table down the microphone, or shouts because they are looking for the attention of a far away child, forgetting that they are yelling into his ears.

Children’s FM fittings should have many of the functions disabled so a child cannot accidentally go into the wrong program, and that they don’t get a load of notification beeps in their ears all day long when the signal comes on and goes off.

Hopefully that gives you something to work with, is it a Phonak brand FM system? Do you know which transmitter it is used with? Some are more flexible than others and need different kinds of handling to avoid the common problems.

wow that is a lot of information, thank you for such a thorough reply! some issues have been discussed already (e.g. the buttons on his aids have been disabled so he can’t mess with them, using a mix of fm + environmental) but certainly some new questions to ask - we’ve talked about the teacher turning it off when it’s not appropriate, but i don’t know if she mutes it, or turns it off. i know there are fm systems in other classes in the building, and they chose the channel they use so as not to conflict with the other classes, but could there still be interference? i’m trying to remember if his teacher wears jewellery or scarves or anything.

i think i might print out your email for further study before our next parent-teacher meeting!

It’s possible, the system will tell the person setting it up whether the interference is definite, likely or possible, but I also sometimes find some channels better than others for reasons I can’t entirely explain. The only true test of whether there is interference is to get a listening set and listen to both hearing aids, the computer can only tell them that interference with the other channels is unlikely, not impossible.

Sometimes intereference comes from somewhere else entirely. When I was younger we lived near an ambulance station and we couldn’t get a proper signal on anything, not on the personal FM, not on the radio, half the time not on the TV, nothing! Things like that can still interfere, also truck yards (lots of CB radios), taxi companies, police yards, security companies, air traffic control, cellphone masts and so on. By law they cannot use the exact same frequencies reserved for these FM systems, but they can still cause a deteriorated signal.

The Inspiro transmitter has a microphone test setting on it, which the teacher should do each day to ensure the mic is in a decent position. If it’s in a poor position the signal randomly fades in and out because there is an automated mute if the transmitter doesn’t detect any input at all, and it’s really offputting. Different clothing can make the positioning of the mic slightly different each time, so the test really ought to be done each time it’s clipped on, it only takes a few seconds. Even simple things like making sure to engage the key lock once the FM is set up and ready to use make a difference, it’s easy to hit a button that will activate something or other and change the sound, turn the sound off or cause a load of beeping in the receivers.

If there are other kids with FM it sounds like they have some experience, but then again experience is not always good experience, best practice experience. Do they have a teacher’s set-up card/poster? I have loads of these as I get them when I buy equipment from my local supplier in the UK, they print a how to use card, a daily checklist and a weekly checklist, they are so useful to be able to give to people. Sometimes they still get ignored, but it’s a start. :rolleyes:

there are other kids with fm, but in a separate classroom (a separate program in the same school - i noticed some tension/turf wards between head of the dhh program and principal of the school actually, that’s another story).

i haven’t gotten to speak with the afternoon teacher yet as we’ve just had march break, but my son got a new fm system and spontaneously told me this morning that he likes it “because (morning teacher) mutes it at snack time.” i asked him if his afternoon teacher does that and he said “no, she turns it on when i get there and off when i leave.” argh!!

I had teachers to do that to myself when I was at school. Drove me mad as I then found it hard to talk to my friends and the other people. The teacher would be no where in site and other times I have had teachers go to the toilet with it on.

Maybe some training for the teachers would be good.

It should not be on unless the teacher is speaking to him one to one or the whole group.

Hope you get things sorted. :slight_smile: