What is an FM system (aka - auditory trainers)? All in all, they consist of a transmitter (that I would wear) and a receiver (that attaches to the hearing aid or CI). This allows for my voice to be directly transmitted to Aiden's hearing aids. Go here and here to read a quick overview. For more detailed info., search FM systems on the ASHA website to view studies, publications, and abstracts on them. There are also different types. This mom did a great job at explaining the three types. We are getting a personal FM system for Aiden, since it will be used at home or when we're out and about in places with a lot of noise.
Why an FM system? People with normal hearing can usually understand speech when there is background noise. Background noise, to people with a hearing loss, makes trying to hear that much harder. Hearing aids amplify all sounds. And in our household, with Aiden's older brother & sister (who both LOVE their music, have friends who "live" at our house, and are VERY loud in everything they do), background noise is a huge thing. But background noise, at home, is so much more than this too. It can be the washer or dryer running, the dishwasher, the air conditioner kicking on, the humming of any appliance, the water running as someone washes their hands, the tv from upstairs--noises, as a hearing person, I never was too aware of, until Aiden. Background noise is terrible too at places like a grocery store, the mall, anywhere there is a high traffic volume.
What an FM system will do is help drown out these "unwanted" noises and provide optimal listening capabilities, which will then in turn allow for optimal speech recognition. Some of these noises are great, as we do our listening walks throughout the house, but when we're speaking to Aiden they're not. (The FM system will work with his cochlear implants as well. Even though CIs have the capability of drowning out background noise, an FM system works to drown it out even more).
Distance is a major obstacle with hearing loss too. Right now, we are supposed to talk to Aiden within his "hearing bubble", which is six inches from his ear. Sorry, but I cannot have Aiden 6 inches from me at all of his waking hours ... I've tried, it doesn't work! An FM system will transmit whatever I say, from wherever I'm at, directly to his hearing aid and then on to stimulate that auditory part of his brain! So now, while I'm trying to get laundry folded, I can still sing "Wheels on the Bus", with him in the adjoining room, and hearing me. Ugh ... now that I say that out loud, I guess I'll really need to watch what I'm saying when I'm using the FM ... especially when I'm just in one of those moods! : )
How can you get one for at home use for your child?
- Start, by talking to your audiologist. They should have some ideas of where to start.
- Talk to Early Childhood Intervention/Parent Infant Advisor. Some states have an ECI program that automatically provides one to families, for home use, that have a child with a hearing loss. This is state by state though. I'd be interested to hear from you if your state does or does not provide this. I think they all should. Texas does not.
- School districts provide them for the classrooms and some allow you to take them home. From what I've read, a lot of districts do not want you taking them home. Again, why wouldn't we provide our children with the best possible resources at all times of the day?
- Visit your local Rotary Clubs, Elks Club, Masons Group, Lions Club etc. These clubs fund raise all the time to help children in need. There is a scholarship application you have to fill out (your audiologist should be able to help you fill this out).
We thank our wonderful audiologist for the constant encouragement to get the FM system, the education on the benefits of one (I never realized what they were all about), and for all of her follow up to help this happen! You are wonderful!