I do a lot of school visits in which I see how teachers are working with children with hearing loss in their classrooms. One of the major things I get to look at is how they are using the remote microphones. Today I attended a book group meeting in which there was someone with a hearing loss who used a remote microphone. She was asking people to pass the mic around. I am constantly amazed by how poorly people use remote microphones so here is my 2 cents on the topic.
Lets be clear. A child with a hearing loss does not hear well in a noisy place without a remote microphone system. We need to make this work.
If the microphone is not in the right place
When I am trying to explain to teachers, or today in my book group, I try to demonstrate what happens if the microphone is not being used correctly. The way I do this is by demonstration. I talk in a comfortably loud voice so listening is easy, and then I drop my voice to very soft, and everyone leans in and struggles to hear. I then tell them that this is what it sounds like when a person tries to listen without a remote microphone. They get it, for a minute. But they don’t always remember to do what is needed.
How to use a remote microphone
A remote microphone works best when it is within 6 inches of the talkers mouth. If the microphone is more than 6 inches from the talkers mouth speech will not be loud enough. If you clip the microphone on the left side of your shirt, and you turn your head to the right, you are too far from the microphone. Ideally, the microphone should be right in front of the talkers mouth – like a telephone operator or some TV reporters. That way the mic is always in the correct place.
How to use a pass around microphone
In a classroom, the teacher wears a microphone, hopefully with the correct placement, close to the mouth. But how is the child with hearing loss going to hear other kids in the classroom? Ideally, every child in the classroom would have a microphone which turned on when s/he spoke so the child with hearing loss could hear everything. That is not possible for lots of reasons. The possible solution is the use of a pass-around microphone. It could be used like a talking stick, with only one child speaking at a time. In my book group today, we have the same kind of pass around microphone. In both situations it only works well when the microphone is used correctly.
Both in schools and in adult situations, you need to have the microphone placed appropriately. In both schools and in adult situations I watch microphones misused. The talkers hold the microphone, but not near the mouth. Almost no one holds the microphone appropriately. Some wave the microphones around with their arms to make a point. Some may hold the microphone but speak very softly.
What can we do to get the microphone in the right place?
We need to find a way to make people understand how to use the microphone. Adults are benefited from a demonstrated. Kids benefit from demonstration too. Both adults and kids need to get repeat demonstrations. Someone needs to be watching to make sure that the remote microphone is being used well and, if not, they need to be reminded. Someone needs to be constantly monitoring the use of remote microphones or they will not be used well.
A video about FM use
A few years ago I worked on a video to help teachers understand why FM is needed. It is a useful demonstration that is helpful for schools and also for other groups. Enjoy!