Make Sure the Hearing Aid Can Use an FM System.

Well I hate to make one of my first blog entries a “rant”, but I must.  Events this week have compelled me to speak about this topic.

This week, two things happened that kinda ticked me off. First, I was helping a child with FM system problems only to find out that the problem was simple.  She just needed to have an FM + M program added to her hearing aids.  The other thing that happened was that I was at an event for adults with hearing loss.  I wanted to demonstrate how the MyEasyLink FM system can help in noise, however, most of the adults either did not have a telecoil program on the hearing aids, or they had no idea how to activate it.  So even though I spoke to quite a few adults with hearing aids, no one could listen to the benefits of an FM system.

Furthermore, most of the adults I spoke with had never even heard of an FM system.  This lends credence to the theory that the number one reason most adults don’t use these systems is because no one ever told them about it.

So here are my pleas:

  1. To Audiologists and Hearing Instrument Practitioners.
    1. For adult patients, please ensure that you select a hearing instrument that can use an FM system, even if you do not think they need it right away.  The FM system can be used with direct audio input, a telecoil, or in the case of a Phonak aid, the iCom.  Make sure the patient knows how to get to the correct program in their hearing device that can use an FM system.  Activate the telecoil at least. I know you also need to keep things simple, but try not to limit the patient’s options too much.
    2. Please introduce the concept of an FM system at least to patients with moderate-severe losses or greater. At this degree of hearing loss, only an FM system can provide them with the required signal-to-noise ratio needed to understand speech in a noisy environment.
    3. For pediatric patients, please double check to make sure the FM + M program has been activated.  Too often I trouble shoot FM problems in schools, and find this as the cause.
  2. To People with Hearing loss.
    1. Please don’t always go with the smallest possible hearing aid.  You likely won’t be able to use an FM system with some of these devices and that seriously limits your listening options.  But the hearing aids that can use an FM system are still quite small!  And FM systems are small now too.
    2. Please understand that the hearing aid is but one device that will help you hear better.  You can hear better in noise if you add another device such as an FM system.
    3. Please don’t say the problem is that everyone else mumbles.  Its not true…you need help.  Your audiologist would be delighted to get you all the help you need.

I am reminded of a cocktail party I attended recently.  I had my SmartLink+ FM system in my left hand, my glass of single malt Scotch in my right hand, and off I went schmoozing.  Several people asked what the FM system was and I gladly explained.  Now here’s the funny thing.  A lot of people said, “You know, my dad’s (or mom’s) hearing is way worse than yours.  He could use one of those things”.  Folks, I have lost essentially all of my natural hearing. I have far greater hearing loss than the typical senior.  So even though I have a hearing aid in one ear, a cochlear implant in the other ear, two FM receivers and an FM transmitter, I was perceived as having LESS of a hearing loss (or disability) than a typical adult with hearing loss due to aging.  These additional devices did not make me look more “disabled” because they help me function in a noisy place like a party.  Struggling and not being able to communicate would have made me look like I have more of a hearing loss.

So lets not limit our options please.  Thanks!


5 thoughts on “Make Sure the Hearing Aid Can Use an FM System.

  1. I totally agree with you Peter. People with hearing loss need to be exposed to the amazing technology out there. Once they know about it, they need to actually try it to experience the benefits. I am glad you are blogging about this and know it will impact many.
    Take care

  2. Thanks Cathy. Of course, they can’t even try it if their hearing aids don’t have a telecoil or an FM program. Lets make sure there are no limitations from the get go.


  3. I can highly recommend the iCom from Phonak. It has a great sound and together with my iPhone the perfect audio equipment.

    I am repeating Peter but it is very important: Never ever buy a hearing aid without FM capabilities!

    • Thanks Sandra. Its a bit funny, but when most people come to see us as audiologists, their first complaint is hearing in noise. We need to address this aggressively via directional mics and FM systems. A hearing aid is important, but by itself only addresses half the problem.

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