Using an FM Microphone

preschoollearning11I 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!






About Jane Madell

Jane Madell has a consulting practice in pediatric audiology. She is an audiologist, speech-language pathologist, and LSLS auditory verbal therapist, with a BA from Emerson College and an MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin. Her 45+ years experience ranges from Deaf Nursery programs to positions at the League for the Hard of Hearing (Director), Long Island College Hospital, Downstate Medical Center, Beth Israel Medical Center/New York Eye and Ear Infirmary as director of the Hearing and Learning Center and Cochlear Implant Center. Jane has taught at the University of Tennessee, Columbia University, Downstate Medical School, and Albert Einstein Medical School, published 7 books, and written numerous books chapters and journal articles, and is a well known international lecturer.


  1. Well done and very true.
    I am a senior. I use a Roger fm mic and in a noisy environment I now find the speaker needs to hold the mic right up close to his/her mouth. It used to work well at 8″ distance on a lanyard but primarily in a quiet room where you are bridging distance. I agree that at meetings one really needs two mics. One for the primary speaker and one as a pass-around mic. Having the speaker repeat the comments from the floor is a great idea. i will start asking for this.
    On the plus side – having a fm system is great. Without this, going to a number of events was no longer possible.

  2. I use remote mikes often, and go back to the plug in cord days with DAI in my hearing aid(s). The newer wireless devices are divine, but still, that mike must be used correctly. Had an interesting experience last weekend with the Roger Pen device. Roger is great in cocktail party atmospheres when I can rove around and talk to one person at a time. All I have to do is point! Around a table with a lot of background noise, not so much. Five of us caught a bite to eat in a very noisy place, after one or our grandkid’s events. I had Roger along, but find the device does not work well in this type of setting. I made the decision to focus on my oldest granddaughter. She is a performer who knows how to use a microphone. I gave ‘Roger’ to her. It took her about 2 minutes to figure out she could point Roger at the 2 people sitting next to her so I could hear them. It almost became a game of sorts. But it made such a difference for me. I could not have reached across the table from where I was sitting, and putting it on its stand in the middle of the table was not effective, so her assistance was joyful…and she enjoyed being able to help me. I’ve been putting microphones from different equipment in front of my granddaughters since they were toddlers. I’ve let them use headphones that allowed them to experience what I was experiencing. They learned well! I am so thankful for these technologies and for my wonderful progeny who ‘get it’ about what their grandmother needs to be included. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! Be thankful for all we can use to hear in this day and age!! And, use it!

  3. I have three sons that wear hearing aids and we just moved from Ca to Idaho. In Ca they had personal fm systems provided by our district. Idaho wants to equip them with a fm t coil loop system. i am against this for numerous reasons. Do you have any data that you can share with me because research says that the loop system is not meant for classroom use. this is an up hill battle and i have no support on the iep team.

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