FM Systems: What is your experience?

I  have a question for anyone who has hearing loss, and has used or is using an FM system in school…  and/or  any parents with a child who does.  I’d like to hear your experiences with using the FM – positive, negative – when it was used, where?  What grade did you start using it?  And, was it continued through high school?  college?

This has been our experience with the FM:

AC started wearing hearing aids when he was 4 (preK), but didn’t start using an FM in school until 3rd grade.  Third grade was a rough year and we had to fight to get him that system, and a 504 plan, as well as just recognition from his teachers that he had a hearing loss, not “behavioral” issues.  More on all that here:

Anyway, once he started using the FM system in 3rd grade,  I think it made a big difference at first.  He even liked it.  And, I was a huge advocate for it with him and his teachers.  Especially after learning that he only heard approximately 60% of a conversation with background noise without the use of the FM system, and could hear 90% with the FM.  To me, that settled it.  You’re using the FM.

However, as time went on, he started liking it less and less.  I learned that many HOH teenagers with would just refuse to use FM’s and/or their HA’s once they hit Junior High in an effort to “fit in” socially, which not only didn’t really work but also usually meant they would fail classes.  We were hoping we could avoid this common problem with AC, since he started using it earlier on and with positive reinforcement, etc.

Still, AC started using the FM less consistently as time went on.  Also, after elementary school  it was his responsibility to give it to the teachers and basically request them to wear the mic.  If he “forgot”, they usually didn’t ask for it.  Truthfully, I don’t think most teachers really like using it.  They also commonly would think he didn’t really need it because, “they talk loud”, or “he’s a good student”.   Some would even say things like, “he can hear me just fine” or make comments to the effect that AC was the least of their problems.   So, I felt like I not only needed to convince them that he really did have a significant hearing loss and needed their consideration, but I also spent a lot of time trying to get AC to do his part and be a better self advocate.  Sometimes, I resorted to flat out threats:  “do I have to follow you around school and MAKE you wear it?”.   I found the threat of me coming to his school was even more embarrassing to him than using the FM.   ;)  I also have/had  meetings with his teachers in the beginning and end of each school year, and checked in with them regularly.

Once AC started high school, things were harder with the FM.    At the end of 9th grade I had a long heart to heart with AC and learned that he really, really did not like using the FM in school anymore.  Not only that, but he admitted that for the most part he usually was NOT using it – even when I thought he was.  =(  While I wasn’t happy about that,  I also wanted to understand.

While we talked, AC insisted that for him, the FM just wasn’t working anymore.  He said it was not just for social reasons that he doesn’t like using it = and insisted that all his friends know he has a hearing loss and don’t care.  Instead he really felt like he doesn’t needs it, and that he does better without it.  ?  He went on to list his problems with the FM, including:  “half the time it doesn’t work”; it “sounds tinny”; it makes things harder to hear – especially when other kids are talking/answering questions.  He also pointed out that he has learned to read lips and use other coping skills very well now.  Oh, and he said his teachers talk loud, and don’t have a problem repeating things when asked – that they know he has a hearing loss.  Also, his new hearing aids are better now than before.  Lastly, he made the point that whenever he did seem to struggle in class, it was more about doing homework than it was about failing tests, or
not understanding content.

I had to admit, he made some very good points.

So, this year, 10th grade – we made a deal.  I’ve told him he could be more of a self-advocate – and decide for himself when/where to use the FM… as LONG as his grades kept up.  What I wasn’t expecting, but happened was that so far he just isn’t using the FM at all.  He does wear his hearing aids, but I am not so sure I like the fact that he gave up on the FM all together.  But, I told him as long as he gets good grades I will keep letting him decide.  If he started failing, I told him we would have a battle because I am not about to sit back and let him turn into a negative statistic of HOH teenagers who fail school because they won’t use the technology available.  He did have a little up and down with his grades, but for the most part he’s doing very well in school. He is in all advanced classes, and looking into all AP for next year…    He’s playing cello in school and guitar at home.  He’s been in Cross Country and Track the last few years and likes it a lot.  Not to mention he’s just a really great kid.  All in all, he’s really doing well and we can’t complain and are very proud of him.

Sometimes, I worry that I should still be pushing him to use the FM more.  His hearing aids were never, and are not, an “option”.  I felt the same way about the FM in school for a long time, but now I’m not so sure.   I always want to do what is best for him,  but, I also know he IS growing up and I feel like I need to let him learn to be a self advocate and make his own decisions.   It’s hard to know when you’re in that in-between stage what is best… especially when I personally have never had to deal with hearing loss.

So, if anyone who has experience with the FM has any thoughts, I’d love to hear them!

Take care,


27 Responses

  1. Hi Deb! I don’t have any experience with FM, as I am brand new to all of this. I just learned last week that my 5 year old son has mild-moderate high frequency loss. I stumbled onto your blog yesterday while searching for answers of what could have caused this. I cried reading at a lot of your posts because I am SO lost with all of this and there still is so little information it seems. I plan to check out all the links you have provided this weekend. Reading your blog has made me feel a little less alone, but I am still terrified of what this brand new world holds for us.

  2. Hi Melissa,
    Please don’t be too down. It really isn’t so bad. I remember when I felt differently though, and initially finding out was very hard to take. We want the best for our babies. It’s normal. And all the information is a lot to take in too. Trying to figure things out is difficult… you want someone to tell you what your son needs – but, hearing loss can vary so much.

    It DOES get easier… especially when you realize your son will be just fine. You don’t have to let this make or break him. It’s just one small part of him, and really – don’t we all have some battles in life to fight? I want you to know that my son, AC, now 16 years old – is a typical teenage boy and doing just great.

    The good news is that now that you know – you can get your son the help he needs, and there really are more resources and better technology now than ever before. This blog isn’t all that active.. but, I hope you find info here that will help. There are also many groups on Facebook now that you might find very nice for support and info, like these:

    Take a deep breath… hug that baby… and know that you will both be ok. ((Hugs))

  3. Hi Deb,
    When I was a kid I used the FM system from 3rd Grade through to 12th Grade and then at University. I found the FM system very, very helpful as far as being able to hear my teacher – however, the fact that you couldn’t hear the other kids in the class did make me feel a bit cut off at times from the class. These feelings were tied in with my problem of feeling like I didn’t fit in socially – I hated feeling like I was different. I was the only hearing impaired student in my school, so I struggled at times with feeling so different to everyone else. Even worse, because I had good English speaking skills, people had no idea that my hearing loss had such an impact on me. It really is an invisible disability.

    I think as long as your child is doing well educationally without the FM that’s great. I think it is very good that you are monitoring his academic progress though – and if he starts slipping it will be clear that he really can’t function well without the FM – and I think it’s fine to insist that he use it then. I think your son’s resistance to the FM has more to do with the social issues of fitting in than anything else. Also, if teachers or lecturers showed any reluctance to use the FM system (and there were some!) that also made me feel a bit reluctant to use the FM as I didn’t want to be seen as being too much trouble for people. As I got older, I got better at being OK with being different and now make use of whatever works to help me to get by a bit better! I am even considering using an FM system for work.

    Hope this helps.

    • Netty,
      Thank you so much for your response and info. It is very helpful to get input from somebody who has actually “been there – done that”, and I really appreciate your input. With AC, I try to reiterate frequently that he should take advantage of any technology that does benefit him. It sounds like you have done just that, and I’m glad to know it gets easier as time goes on. AC is proving himself currently and doing well in school with some prompting. He still insists that it’s not for social reasons that he doesn’t want to use the FM anymore. I hope that he will take the initiative to say something if he is struggling. So far, so good – but, we will continue to monitor things. Thanks again. =)

  4. Hi and 1st Id like to say I’m not good at typing or spelling so forgive me. My son was born at 28 weeks at 2lbs. My huuby has hearing loss , so I was expecting it. My son was diagnosit right away and has severe to moderate biladeral loss and wears 2 aids. He had IE for 3 years and I got him in to an all oral School ( Childs Voice) that was AWESOME! But now we moved to a rual area out of state for us to take care of my Dad, and no one in the school has hearing loss.He is 6 and in kindergarden.His IP calls for an FM system and I thought it was going well till latley Ive asked ” hows your fm going” He keeps saying ” I forgot”. I say forgot what? He said to put it on. So needless to say I went to school and questioned about this. Now im hearing “well we only use it in small groups” or this that and the other thing. As I pop in for lunch and dont see the boots on his aids and he still says ” he forgot”.
    I dont know whats going on, but Im working on it. I thought he wore it all day. Who do I ask how this all works? His audiologist ? ( weve only met her maybe 3 times. Im so use to were we lived before this is so new to me. AND we didnt have an fm in preschool. Im really mad though. Why is he saying he forgot? How can that be the responsability of a 6 year old? Also Ive heard the teacher say , oh he hears just fine. OHHHH how that gets me mad. Thanks for your time.

    • Hi Noelle,
      Reading your post, especially the end just floods my memory with all the frustration and emotions I had years back when AC was in third grade, and then some. I’m sorry that you are going through this. I’m sure it’s so hard. You had everything going well, and then – kaboom – the rug is pulled out. If it’s any consolation, that can happen even when you don’t move… just due to changes in teachers, etc.

      The “oh he hears just fine” comments would always get me too. I started just saying, “no. he doesn’t. that is why he wears hearing aids”. I would say it with a smile, but I found it was better to speak up (nicely) then to let it slide because it would happen so often and I really felt like they need to get it through their heads that hearing loss IS a real disability, with REAL consequences if not addressed. I mean, seriously, do they think he’s wearing HA’s for fun?

      Your son is 6. It is not his responsibility at such a young age. In fact, now is the time to be getting his use to the FM, and get in the habit of it so that later when it IS more his responsibility, hopefully he will stick with it. The teachers need to understand that the FM is on your IP and therefore is not an option unless there are unusual circumstances (like phys ed or something). So, not using it should be the exception, not the norm. You will probably need to nicely reiterate that, a few times.

      My son was also the only kid in his grade with HA’s, and using the FM, so teachers didn’t get it. Most teachers were happy to accommodate, though, once I explained things better.

      What I found helped was to explain things like:

      – how important hearing loss is to education, and how even a mild hearing loss can make a big impact.

      – how much the FM can help. I explained facts that I didn’t know myself until that time that made a big impact on me. Like, how HA’s help, but the only have about a 10′ radius. They pick up whatever noise is closest in that range, and nothing out of it. So, they don’t help if teacher has back turned or is far away. Also, in our case, there was testing we did that showed that without the FM, and with background noise, my son may miss up to 40-50% of any conversation. However, the testing showed that WITH the FM, he only missed 5%. HUGE difference!

      – .how AC’s level of hearing and comprehension could fluctuate depending on many factors. Things like, background noise, lighting, even how tired he is (it takes effort to concentrate and try to hear!). So many things. So, it may seem that sometimes he can hear “just fine”, but that other times he will not.

      Sometimes, i would even print out an actual article that supported what I was saying so they didn’t think I was just basing this on my own thoughts/opinions.

      Most teachers were happy to accommodate once they understood how important it was. Most. There was one year… when it didn’t seem to matter WHAT I said. I wound up needing to go to the principal. It wasn’t until I was able to get the school district audiologist, and a special teacher of the deaf involved that things changed. Once I had the right people involved, though, things changed quickly for the better. The teacher listened to them, if not me. I still had to then go through what you are now, making sure ALL the teachers used the FM. That did get better, but I’m afraid to say it was an ongoing issue.

      These are some links to articles and past blog posts where I wrote about this. I hope they help:

  5. I am an elementary school teacher and am familiar with ALD I had the opportunity to use one for part of a school year and loved it. I felt like it gave all students an advantage (not just the 1 that needed it) and also gave my vocal cords a much needed break.

    I have to applaud you for being such an advocate for AC and making sure that it was on his 504 plan. ALDs are expensive to a school district and numbers can be limited. The teachers telling you, “he’s a good student,” or “I talked loud” probably hurt to hear because you want them to accomodate AC’s needs. As a parent – I say demand what is best for your child!

    In a neighboring town, there is a school building that has ALD in EVERY CLASSROOM. Can you believe it? I should ask and find out if implementing that has impacted student learning school-wide.

    *The ALD I am referring to is a microphone for the teacher and an excellent speaker for the classroom. Individual students did not wear or have anything as part of the system.

    • Hi Barb.
      Thanks for the thoughtful response and encouragement. When AC was first having some issues in 3rd grade, we tried a system like you are talking about with the speaker that the whole class could hear. I’ve heard this can have great benefits for the whole classroom, and initially we liked this idea because it did not require AC to wear the “boots” (or receivers), and did not separate him out from the class. His Audiologist, however, told us that while the classroom speaker was better than nothing at all, it would not be as beneficial as the personal FM with the boots that goes right to his hearing aids. This was because, with the speaker, there could still be interfering noises from anything between AC and the speaker; other kids talking, pencil sharpeners, running water, etc. Whereas if he had the personal FM, the teachers voice goes right from the mic, directly to his ears.

      That is the type of system he used until this past year (10th grade), when he has been preferring not to use the FM at all. He still wears his HA’s… and, now, I wish the school would do the speaker ALD system again – that would be better than nothing, I suppose. Although, we really can’t complain because AC is doing very well in school so far without it Sometimes, I think he could be doing even better with it, but for now will continue to monitor this.


  6. My 7-yo son was diagnosed at birth with mild to moderate hearing loss. Had hearing aids from the get go. At 3 he went to a preschool in our school district for speech and they used the personal FM system with the boots on his aids. He did so well there! Somehow his hearing improved to the point that he did not need hearing aids for one year. During that time we took him out of preschool and kept him at home.

    By kindergarten, he needed aids again, but his hearing kept fluctuating and the audiologists kept saying we should wait to see if his loss would get better and stay better. They found a cholesteatoma and removed that as well.

    Our school district, through money from a bond voted on by all residents of the district, placed sound field FM systems in each classroom, starting with his kindergarten class room. His teacher played with it for a day or two after the school audiologist showed him how to use it. Reid was sick for a couple of days after that. When he returned to school, Reid asked for the FM system to be on. (Great self-advocating for a 5-yo.) When Reid came home from school that day I asked how the FM system was working. He said his teacher told him that “When you were gone we all decided we didn’t need the FM system and threw it away.” That was also about the time of the school hearing test. I asked the teacher if Reid passed it, and he said, “My guess is yes.” Actually, he failed it. We had another hearing test with our audiologist and his hearing was worse, but still no aids. The teacher never would use the FM system after that, but did have Reid sit right next to him, etc. I repeatedly informed him of the importance of the FM system. Reid was not ready for first grade.

    First grade came and thanks to fluctuating hearing loss, still no hearing aids. His teacher did not use the FM system, but I think if she had it would have damaged all of the kids’ hearing since her voice was so loud. :) I helped out regularly in the classroom and she was awesome at making sure Reid understood and could hear her. He did well that year. He made up for his lack of reading ability, etc. and caught up in all other areas as well.

    For the first day of second grade, he had new hearing aids. He gave a great speech (impromptu) about his hearing aids to his class, even taking them off and letting the kids see them up close, dirty earmolds and all. His teacher has been wonderful. She uses the sound field FM system regularly and the kids even know how to use it and do so regularly as well. The other kids also say if they can’t hear and that reminds the teacher.

    When the kids are speaking without the FM system such as during math when the teacher is wearing it at the front of the room, it is very hard to hear their questions or comments. I wish there was a happy medium where everyone could be heard and understood at the same time as I do believe he misses out on tons of information. Our school audiologist, who has been incredible, would have no problem with the personal FM system if we asked for it. I am just not sure if that is the direction to go.

    The real problem I have is this… Reid has to sit near the speakers, one of which is at the front of the class, right next to all the other kids she needs to keep a close eye on. This usually means the kids who are the lower achievers or can’t sit still and do their work. More than anything I think that makes it hard for him to focus. I spoke with her and said he was having trouble hearing her and she finally put him next to the quiet, hard working kids.

    Reid is a pleaser and as much as I would like to think he stands up for himself a lot, I think he just melds with the crowd. He is a good student thanks to a lot of effort. He comes home totally exhausted from a day full of trying to hear and understand. (Two totally different things!) I don’t think he would mind using the boots, but I agree that they still miss out on a lot with them. It is great to hear everything the teacher says, but there is more to a classroom than just the teacher speaking.

    I worry about his junior high/high school years as well. He does not like to make waves. Fortunately for him, he can have a designated note taker in all of his classes. I realize that it doesn’t make up for not hearing everything in the classroom, but at least the information will be getting to him that way as well. All classrooms in our district have the sound field FM system and are trained to use it by the audiologist. Not every teacher wants to or will use it, and some use it incorrectly. I always thank every teacher I see wearing the microphone.

    We are contemplating moving him and his 5-yo sister to private school as our class sizes are swelling considerably. He says he does not want to go to a “better education school” because he feels connected to his school and his friends. He is meeting standards in every area, but we want him to have every advantage he can.

    Life with hearing loss has definitely been a journey for all of us. We have learned a lot about ourselves, our community, and mostly that we need to be the ones speaking up for ourselves and our son, all the while teaching him to do so. Two great organizations that helped us a lot are Listen and Talk in Seattle, and Family Conversations through Children’s Hospital in Seattle. Listen and Talk even has a preschool and kindergarten that kids all over the area can go to. Districts will bus their kids to it if they don’t feel they can support the child’s learning in their schools. I know that one of the directors at Listen and Talk travels around the state helping school districts and families learn more and implement programs to help HOH kids succeed.

    Where we really need the FM system is at home. He seems to not be able to hear me at all when I say “stop wrestling with your sister” or “clean your room!”

    • Brenda,
      Thank you for the comment…. and my apologies for the late response. We tried the sound field system at first, and thought it might work better for similar reasons you mentioned. However, unless he sat right next to the speaker, it didn’t help him as much as a personal FM system could, and so we wound up switching to that. That way, it didn’t matter where he was sitting – the teachers voice went right to his ears. He did well with that for several years, but in recent years started not wanting to use that either. His new hearing aids do work a lot better than his older ones, and have programs built in that can help him hear better. It even came with a com-pilot, and mic, – which serves much like the personal FM – directly synching with his hearing aids… We COULD use that at home if we wanted to – but, truthfully, rarely do. He does sync his hearing aids with his phone, ipod, or the TV, though, and that works great. Of course he still has difficulty hearing me tell him to clean his room, etc. too =)

  7. Hi! I have moderate hearing loss, and I used the FM for awhile. Instead of it being just for me, every classroom had one in the elementary school starting from about 2nd grade. It rarely worked right, squealed, and took up class time. I didn’t like it, because with my hearing aids I can hear pretty well as long as I’m facing the person talking. In 1st grade, I had boosters on the back of my hearing aids that took sound directly from my teacher, to my hearing aids. It was horrible because whenever the teacher was talking, I couldn’t hear anything else. If she was having a private conversation or was working with a different group, I couldn’t work because of the extra noise. I really like just my new hearing aids because now they can be put on different modes for me to hear on different levels with, so if I need to hear more, I would just switch programs. Thanks!

    • Hi Cargal. Thank you for your input. You are making a lot of the same points as my son did. He also seems to be doing very well, so far (knock on wood!) with just his new hearing aids… but, I still worry… it’s a Mom thing… ;)
      Thanks again.

  8. Hi. I can not imagine anyone throwing away a valuable FM system!
    Sound field is a good tool, but it does not deliver clear sound direct to the user’s hearing device the way an Assistive Listening Device does.

    The key to assistive technology like the FM, is that the teacher speaks into a microphone transmitter, the background noise and reverberation are eliminated and the speech clear and understandable. The problem results when someone else is speaking; they are not given a microphone! And yes, it’s very hard to hear that someone without the microphone! Most hearing aids have a M/T(telecoil) setting that would allow the user to hear sound from the FM transmitter (microphone) as well as ambient sound (a nearby classmate) to be heard. Dialogue spoken across the room would still remain inaudible. Not all audiologists automatically make that change for the student when they reach the middle school years. Today’s programmable are remarkable in their capabilities. New telecoil features can be adjusted to best meet a particular user’s audiogram!

    Why are hearing loops not used in the schools? Why can’t we ask both teachers and students to use a microphone as we do at a town hall meeting? We can! It’s all about creating habits and change! We can all learn how to properly use a microphone so that the resulting sound is clear, crisp and free of distortion. We can either pass a microphone or take a turn at a stand microphone and further encourage 1 speaker at a time. These are excellent civic skills to be developed and taught to our children. We have set this up for a teacher who wears hearing aids at a Seattle private school. She speaks into a lapel mic so she can hear her voice on telecoil and there are 4 microphones placed around the tables, Her high school students are respectful and embrace taking turns speaking into the microphones.

    Plus, all these classrooms become accessible to more than just the few students who wear hearing aids, they can serve the community as accessible meeting rooms and can double as emergency shelters if need be. It’s time we stop stigmatizing individuals with hearing loss by asking them to seek out and wear a separate device when clear crisp sound can be delivered direct to their own personal hearing device. It’s time to create the infrastructure and start addressing the needs of the population with hearing loss; that’s almost 50 million Americans,65% who are under 65!

    By the time kids reach the middle years, many just want to be like their peers and wearing a different device or sitting away from friends contributes to that feeling of being different. Yes, listening all day is hard work that’s made even more so by careless microphone management and people who don’t understand hearing loss.

    I know; I too jumped at the chance to sit in the back; until I needed to pass.

    I applaud the school system for implementing Sound field in every classroom. Though a small step; it’s a good effort to address both classroom noise and the prevalence of hearing loss.

    • Hi Cheri. I’m not sure if your comment was more directed at my original post, or some of the other comments… but either way thank you for your very informative post. In my son’s case, he had the personal FM, where the teacher wore a mic, and he had “boots”/receivers that went on hearing aids. He only used a sound-flied system in elementary for 1/2 a year…. before we decided it wasn’t really working for him. They never did install them in all the school rooms around here. He used the “personal FM” system for several years but, last year started saying he thought he’d do better without it. He complained because it often didn’t work right, and because he couldn’t hear other people/classmates… just the teacher… etc. As others pointed out, his new hearing aids seem to work much better than his old ones too, and have features that allow him to hear better.

      As you know, with hearing loss… there are so many variables. Everyone hearing loss is different. What works for one person, might not be the best thing for another person. It’s hard to know what is the right fit. For us. we though AC was old enough to start making some of his own decisions. For now, he’s choosing not to use the FM system.

      He just started 11th grade now… and, so far so good. He’s in advanced/AP classes – and, has almost strait A’s so far. He’s also still playing cello, and in cross country/track. He finished up last year with good grades. So, we can’t complain. We are actually very proud of him.

  9. Sounds like you are an amazing mom! We are just starting our journey with our little guy (2 years old) and my wife has been just amazing with how she has advocated for our little man. I have many worries but ag the same time feel we/he will be ok. He keeps his older brothers on their toes to dah the least :). Thanks for sharing your story! Truly made me hopeful!

    • Thank you Nolan. It’s great that you know already, and can advocate as you go along… right from the start. You and your little guy will be just fine. =)

  10. hi all,

    my son is in first grade and will begin using his FM system shortly. the teacher called today to see if it was OK for her to read a book to the class about the systema nd having hearing aids so he doens’t get 20 kids bombarding him with questions. is this a good idea or not? i want him to feel comfortable and not to feel out of place or socially awkward about it. what is the best way here? any advise would be welcome. thanks!


    • Carrie,
      I’m sorry I haven’t been on this blog and didn’t respond sooner. So, what ended up happening? I think so much depends on your child and what THEY are comfortable with. AC was always a little shy… didn’t like attention being drawn to him… but, in first grade, kids are pretty accepting… just curious. So, I can see why it might be a good idea to just get it out there too. If you can, let me know how it went. Thanks, and take care.

  11. Hey! I first started using FM in the third grade. I thought it was a great device because I can only hear my teacher’s voice and not the background of chair screeching and such, but I also forgot to set it up. I had to set the FM every morning and and after school. I also thought my third grade teacher was very annoyed using it because I could still “hear.” In the end, I just gave it up and continue to wear my hearing aids and read lips.

    • Christine,
      You are probably long gone by now, but I just realized I never responded to your comment which made some very good points. Teachers can really make or break the FM experience for a kid with hearing loss… and, we had our share of teachers thinking AC could hear “just fine”, or “well enough”.. and didn’t like using the FM. When I explained to them that reading lips and with his HA’s alone, he could be missing up to 40% of the conversation (according to how he tested with background noise, etc and his Audiologust report), they would seem very surprised. I asked them if they thought only listening to 60% of their lesson was “good enough”. Very frustrating. In the end as AC became older, he has learned many ways to compensate. He doesn’t use the FM anymore (he’s a senior this year), but he always wears his HA’s and is less shy about asking for things to be repeated, for captions on videos, for written directions, etc. He is doing very well, and we are very proud of him. I hope you are doing well, yourself! And, I hope you stop back and see this. Take care.

  12. I fully understand this situation. My daughter is deaf with bilateral cochlear implants. She is in grade 9. She has been using the FM system since she was a tot, but has recently stopped using the FM system at school. I think it is easier for the kids when they have one teacher, but when they have to go from classroom to classroom with the equipment, it is less palatable. Her marks are high and I am good with her not using the FM if she keeps her marks up and compensates in other ways (like asking for assistance when she didn’t hear something). In the higher grades, the kids are better behaved than in middle school and there is less cross talking and noise, which is what the FM helps with. Of course, I prefer her to use the FM, but at what point does one stop using the FM? Is she going to use it in university, or sit at the front?

    • Hi Diane. A belated thank you for your comment, and sharing your experience. How did your daughter make out with the rest of 9th grade? With AC, once he stopped using the FM system, we had a few times when I was worried he should still be using it…. but, overall he managed very well. Now that he is done with high school (STILL can’t believe THAT!), I am glad we let him take more control when we did, and make more decisions for himself on what he needed. However, I am also glad we had the condition that he could do so IF he was able to manage to keep his grades up, and did not seem to be struggling without it.

      • Hi Deb, I’ve been meaning to get back to you! My daughter did fine when she stopped using the FM system. It’s really hard to tell completely, but her marks are the same. We have been interested in the new feature on the Cochlear Nucleus 6 (minimicrophone accessory), but my daughter is quite adamant that she’d prefer using an FM system vs the accessory. Anyways, we’re waiting to see what Nucleus 7 offers before we upgrade. Generally, the feedback I’m getting is that she’d like some assistance with amplification, maybe at university, but she would prefer to be entirely in charge of it. With the high school, she had to have access to a certain room to charge it up everyday and store her equipment. Sometimes it was locked, or it was quite a distance from where her first class of the day. If she had had the equipment at home, she could have looked after it better for her routine, but with it being purchased by the school board, that was the arrangement they wanted for the equipment. I hope these discussions are helpful to others!

  13. I just recently found your blog and it was quite an interesting read. I personally have a hearing loss in both ears and have worn hearing aids since I was 6 and I couldn’t help but notice some of the similarities between AC and me (aside from hearing loss) which made it quite easy to relate to. Your blog also gave me a better insight into the experiences of my mother so I thank you for that too.

    Anyways, in regards to the FM I didn’t start using it until 6th grade as I’d been in a private school prior to then. The first year I was pretty good about using it, but about halfway/three quarters of the way through 7th grade is when it dropped off to sporadic use until I officially ceased use of it in my Sophomore year of high school. (My parents made the same deal you ended up making with AC.) My biggest distaste was in the ‘boots.’ They made my hearing aids stand out and I’ve never been one to really want to draw attention to them. (Frequent ‘What are those things in your ears?’ when I was in elementary school have even made a staple in how I like my hair in that the top of my ears are always covered.) I was used to my hearing aids but the bulky boots felt unnatural and of course hearing the teacher directly in your ears is never something one gets used to. They did make it easier to hear the teacher I will admit but as I got good grades and lectures often have an accompanying slideshow, I’m not really sure exactly how much benefit they really gave.

    In regards to teachers, I ended up finding that they usually didn’t mention the FM at all which made it easy to get away with not using it. There were only a couple of teachers who ever made a few passing remarks about it, though most would usually say something along to the effect of “Ah, we’re still using this.” whenever my mother would find out about my non-use of it and get on my case.

    I’m not sure if AC had this problem in your family, but one thing for me personally with the FM system is that I lost parts with relative frequency. Over the course of 5 years I ended up losing 2 receivers (ie what the teacher wears) and 2/3 boots. As someone that rarely loses things that’s a significant statistic for me so I think my subconscious was saying ‘If you don’t have the FM system, they can’t make you use it.’ I didn’t like that I was losing it, but I seemed to never really develop the same feelings towards the FM that I associate with my hearing aids in terms of importance and usefulness.

    When I think about it there never really was a fully logical reason for me to not want to use the FM system but more the desire to not be seen as different. Anyways, this all just my two cents. Thanks again for the blog.

    • Hi Matthew,

      Thanks for the nice comment, and info. It’s always interesting to me to hear from those who have been there, and done that. I’m not sure how old you are now, but hopefully you are doing fine and not using the FM worked out for you. With AC starting college this year, I’m a little apprehensive on how things will go. However, he is going to one of the best colleges, especially for anyone who is Deaf or HOH, so I am thinking he will do just fine.

      AC insisted his not wanting to use the FM was more of a technical thing and that he didn’t feel like they were helping. Your comments are more along the lines of what I suspected to be true, though (that he just didn’t like feeling different). Your comments on loosing some things, perhaps subconsciously, also rang true. AC was very good with his hearing aids, but he did loose a boot or two… and, I did have to wonder if it wasn’t at least partly because he was not wanting to use them.

      Of course, it doesn’t help when the teachers do not seem to notice, or encourage the use of the FM. That part does bother me a bit. In fact, more often than not I got the impression they really did not want to use it. One teacher, was afraid of germs (because it was shared between teachers). ugh. I often felt like I needed to get on AC’s case… as well as some of his teacher’s case over the years. It’s a fine line, eh?

      This year, in college at RIT/NTID, AC will have a roommate that is also HOH and has several other common interests. I think this is so cool… after years of trying to hook him up with other HOH kids to no avail. He never seemed to really care, but, I am thinking it will be nice for him to not have to be the only one wearing hearing aids in class, etc. There are many HOH/Deaf people on this campus. Perhaps, there he can better focus on what technology is really helpful or not, vs what makes him feel different. They seem to have a lot of options there. I hope he takes advantage of them.

      At any rate, thank you again. I hope you are doing very well and enjoying the rest of the summer! =)

  14. Hi Deb,
    I’m not sure if you’ll read my comment, but I came across your blog as I was researching the generation of FM systems for an essay of mine and wanted to share with you my experience.
    You mentioned in a comment to someone else that everyone experience is different, and I agree with you. My parents found out that I had a hearing loss at the age of 4 like AC, it was shortly before I started Kindergarten, I have to say that the FM system was one of the memorable memories I had through out elementary school, and I had the chance to be apart of all the changes made within the FM systems.
    And when I say memorable, there were some funny and annoying moments with it.
    We did not have to fight to get the system in our school, the school I attended had a D/HH systems, and there was a huge group of us with a hearing loss.
    In kinder i started with the FM system that involved a BIG black box wrapped around my waist and had wired adapted to the edge of my tiny hearing aids. I have to say those were a hassle, every time we ran and our hands got caught between the wires, our hearing aids would come flying off.
    In second grade they upgraded to just bulky “clear white” adapters connected to the edge of our hearing aids that were wireless.
    later they made them smaller with an on and off switch and a nude color so that it’s does not “show.”
    I loved the FM system, I could hear everything more clearly and louder. Sometimes the teachers would leave the microphone on and we could hear their conversations and even the answers. We had fun with it. i used the system until i reached 7th grade (middle school). it started to become a hassle walking class to class handing the teacher the microphone, and then having to charge it the during the night to realized that by the time i arrived to school, i had forgotten it. in elementary school, we would leave them at school, but in middle school they provided our personal ones. eventually i got tired of it and moved on. It was not until recently when i came across a photo of my self wearing a big FM system and remembering all the memories. it’s an experience not many get to experience.
    I’m glad that your son AC is doing great in school, he should be about my age if he started in 2015. RIT is an amazing school, and was my second choice. Many of my friends currency attend RIT and love it, my advice to him is to get out of the NTID program, i had heard many things about it and how it keeps many of the D/HH in the program for a long time, that by the time they transfer to the main campus RIT, because NTID is considered a community college, many of their credit do not transfer because they were “basic” classes. Im assuming he’s a third year, so he should be transferring soon. I wish him the best and i hope you have a great day :)

    (sorry for the grammar, currently writing this at 2 in the morning)

  15. Amazing that you are such a supportive mom to your son. My experience with an FM system is that I wore it in elementary school.
    I originally liked wearing it because it helped and I thought it was cool. (But before I tried it on I was resistant because I thought I would be attached to the teacher. lol). But then in middle school I started to feel self-conscious about it. I was bullied (because I was shy and a nerd not because I was hard of hearing). I refused to wear it though because I thought it would make me “cool” and “popular” to be like everyone else. Like your son I did really well without it. My grades stayed the same. In high school I made honor roll without help. (I did always sit at the front though which made me an outcast for being a nerd again. But I couldn’t have gotten through school on my own without doing that.) However, in college I was told I could have a free FM system and the accessibility office encouraged me to try it for a week. (I read your blog and worked up my courage to put it on.) I did out of curiosity (mainly to see if people would treat me weirdly – they didn’t.). Everything was so clear! I could pick out background conversations AND focus in on the teacher! I was so amazed with how clear the sound was that I decided to keep wearing it. I forgot that I could listen to the professor lecturing WITHOUT concentrating on listening to the specific sounds. I can focus easier in class and I LOVE IT!

    So I would recommend the FM system because you don’t know what you are missing without it or how much more focus it is taking you to hear. But I also understand why kids don’t want to wear it (because I was that kid). Also, thank you. Your blog gave me the courage to retry my FM system. And I am so amazed that you (are/at one point were) learning ASL with your son. As a hard of hearing kid (who lost my hearing gradually in childhood) my parents just always chose to do English only. (Because I was born into an English speaking family and I did not have exposure to ASL before becoming hard of hearing.) Now I am slowly trying to learn ASL and learn about Deaf Culture. I wish my parents had learned about it and had me involved in Deaf Culture when I was younger because then I would not have been ashamed of my hearing status (and I could be bilingual!) Your son is so lucky to have you! :)

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