Sometimes patients come into our office unable to hear or to communicate effectively. What’s more, they are scared. As their hearing has deteriorated over the years, they and their loved ones fear that they are going completely deaf. These patients and family members come to us hoping and praying that we can help them. Working with such patients puts our professional knowledge and talents to the ultimate test.
Sometimes when we fit these patients with hearing aids, they are suddenly able to hear. The amount of improvement they experience is huge. Family and friends express strong emotions and use words like “incredible” and “spectacular” to describe what they have witnessed.
If you have been in this field for some time, you have seen miracles. When hearing is suddenly restored, patients and their families may weep with happiness. It is a joy to see this transformation from no hearing to functional hearing.
THE FM SOLUTION
Unfortunately, in some cases, even the best fitted hearing aids alone do not bring about this kind of transformation. My topic for this week is another tool, an FM system, that can greatly improve patients’ word understanding and, in doing so, relieve their fears.
Why, you might ask, if FM systems have the capacity to provide huge improvements in word understanding, are they not more popular? Why don’t more hearing aid fittings include FM?
FM hearing systems have long proven very effective in improving word understanding. FM technology has inherent advantages that far exceed those of traditional hearing aid amplification. The problem was that, until fairly recently, using FM systems was complicated and took considerable effort.
FM SYSTEMS HAVE COME A LONG WAY
Thirty years ago, an FM system came with six different switches and two or three different volume controls that you had to put into the correct position. All that is history.
Today’s FM systems have the capacity to pick up a distortion-free and noise-free signal from a speaker (e.g., the patient’s husband) and transmit this signal (to the wife, who has hearing loss) via an easy-to-use, patient-friendly package.
In effect, the FM system brings the human voice and human ear close together. Think of it this way. Joann has a profound hearing loss in both ears, and without her hearing aids it is very difficult for her to understand her husband, Tom, even if he is only six feet away. But when Tom moves very close to Joann and positions his mouth just four inches from her ear, if he speaks in a normal voice his wife will probably hear him very well and understand everything he says.
Well, decreasing the distance between the “voice” and “ear” is essentially what FM does. The microphone on the transmitter is clipped to the top of the speaker’s shirt, and it transmits a strong, clear, distortion-free signal from the speaker’s mouth to the patient.
In many cases, the results are spectacular. It is high time that more audiologists and hearing aid specialists consider recommending FM to patients who are not well-served by hearing aids alone.