FM System For Hearing Impaired Students In The Classroom

November 5, 2021By: Jamie Bozarth, Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Mother helping to her son to finish homework.

Are you currently using FM Systems for the hearing impaired in your classroom? FM Systems are an assistive technology device for the hearing impaired and Deaf that has many benefits in the classroom from improving students listening ability by reducing the signal-to-noise ratio to allowing the listener to block out background noise better. Read more to discover if using an FM System for Deaf students in your classroom is right for you.

What Is An FM System?

An FM system, also known as a functional modulation system, is assistive technology for the hearing impaired that helps people hear better in noisy listening environments such as a classroom or restaurant. It does so by using radio waves to transmit audio signals from the speaker to the listener with radio receivers. This hearing assistive technology device is typically used with hearing aids or Cochlear Implants but can be used on its own as well. An FM system is used to pick up a speaker’s voice and send the signal right to the person wearing the receiver. This allows for a much better signal-to-noise ratio and allows the listener to block out background noise better. Being so, the use of assistive technology for the hearing impaired in the classroom provides many benefits to students.

FM vs DM Systems

Frequency modulation (FM) systems use radio waves to transmit sound across a distance. Meanwhile, Digital modulation (DM) systems use digital signals to transmit sound across a distance. The most current FM systems for hearing impaired students used in classrooms today actually use a digital modulation signal. The newest term used to label these systems is an RM (remote mic technology) system. Both terms can be used to describe the same equipment, but most still refer to them as an FM system.

The speaker wears the microphone, connected to a transmitter that sends a wireless audio signal to a receiver worn by the listener. The receiver is usually attached to the hearing aid, Cochlear Implant or  BAHA. There are a few FM systems that have a receiver that can be worn directly on the listener’s ear without any other amplification device. The listener might wear a small receiver attached to their amplification device, a separate receiver that fits right on the ear, or a loop system that uses the t-coil function of their amplification device.

The Benefits of Using An FM System In The Classroom

An FM system can help anyone hear better but is especially helpful in the classroom to students with hearing loss that have difficulty hearing in noisy environments. An FM system allows the listener to block out extra background noise and improves the ability to hear the speaker. An FM system can transmit signals through walls and can be used up to 30 meters away. This allows deaf and hard-of-hearing students to hear the teacher when across the classroom which is why it is recommended to use for deaf and hard of hearing teacher jobs.

When Should FM Systems Be Used In The Classroom?

In the classroom, a student can use an ear-level FM system that connects directly to their amplification device or they can use a classroom sound system. The classroom sound system has a microphone on the transmitter that the teacher wears and the receiver is just a large speaker that projects sound across the entire classroom. Classroom sound systems work very well for preschool settings as well as for students who don’t wear an amplification device.

An FM hearing system in the classroom can benefit a Deaf and hard of hearing student’s listening ability by reducing the signal-to-noise ratio. This allows the student to hear the speaker over any background noise. An FM system also reduces the distance sound must travel. Sound decreases 10 decibels every 3 feet that it travels. An FM system takes away the distance so a student can hear the teacher across the room the same as if the teacher were standing right in front of the student.

The use of an FM system in the classroom should be discussed with the student’s audiologist and IEP team. A Functional Listening Evaluation can be done to help determine if an FM system would be beneficial to the student in the classroom environment. This evaluation can be done by an Educational Audiologist or a Teacher for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing. The type of FM system used in the classroom will be based upon the student’s hearing loss, the age/ability level of the student, and any personal amplification device the student uses. 

Closing Thoughts On Using An FM System For Hearing Impaired Students

VocoVision Teachers for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing that provide virtual telepractice services can help determine which FM system would be best for an individual student to use in the classroom setting. VocoVision also has Educational Audiologists that can provide assessments and recommendations for the use of an FM system for the classroom. Both resources can be used to search Teletherapy Services for schools. The type of system and how it will be used will vary for each individual student.  FM systems allow for better access to educational material from students who are hearing impaired and should be considered an integral part of any classroom environment.

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