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!