FM system is the name given to ‘radio aids’. FM stands for Frequency Modulation (FM) – the same as for radio stations.
With a FM system the sound is wirelessly transmitted by radio waves. The frequency bands used by a FM system are free and don’t require a licence.
FM systems are not installed into buildings in the way that infrared systems and hearing loops are. They are small portable devices that involve a small transmitter (typically a microphone worn by a speaker) and a receiver (typcially a device worn round the neck of the user).
FM receivers work in one of three ways:
Headphones or ear buds are plugged into it.
A neck loop is plugged into it, which directs sound straight into the hearing aids. To use a neck loop, your hearing aids must have a T-setting. If you’re not sure, ask you audiologist or hearing aid supplier to make it available on your hearing aids (it is typically easy to do).
The FM receiver is one that is compatible with your type of hearing aids so the sound goes straight into them without the need for a neck loop or headset.
FM receivers and your hearing aids
If you want the sound to go straight from the FM receiver into your hearing aids then you’ll probably have to purchase your own FM equipment (or borrow from a sensory loss centre) so it is the sort compatible with your hearing aids. It is a bit like mobile phones and different accessories – you have to use the ones that match the make and model of the hearing aid you have.
Your FM transmitter will be set up to send a signal only to your receiver. However, it is perfectly possible for multiple FM systems to work in the same area. It is also possible for a single FM system to serve multiple people. For example, a tour guide might attach your FM transmitter (i.e. the wireless microphone that sends a signal to your 'receiver') and at the same time also attach a second one that belongs to the tour company that sends a signal to others who use the tour company's receivers attached to headsets or neck loops.
Owning an FM System
By purchasing your own FM system, you can take it with you wherever you go and can make use of it in lots of situations.
How it works
- Lend the FM transmitter (i.e. microphone) to whoever you want to listen to (e.g. a tour guide or lecturer).
- Keep hold of the receiver.
- Sound goes into the transmitter ... across to your receiver ... into your hearing aids (nice and clearly).
The drawbacks to FM Systems
Users have to borrow the equipment from the venue, which requires additional time and effort.
To have the sound go straight from the receiver to the hearing aids, users must purchase their own FM system and must ask the venue to make use of it for their personal use.
There is the issue of wearing a listening device, which might be conspicuous (although some devices can be hidden under light clothing without a problem).
If using an FM system supplied by a venue, either a neck loop or a head set must be used. The user has to borrow the equipment from the venue, which requires additional time and effort. There is also the issue of wearing a conspicuous listening device and potential hygiene concerns over shared headphones or ear buds.
Advice & training
Use the Rate & Reivew Access Tool to discover how other people are getting on when they visit public venues and establishments.
You can share your own experiences too.
Ideas for Ears will encourage service providers to read what’s said and to take action based on the reviews you leave.
This is simply a thin cable that is used to hang the FM receiver round your neck. It passes a signal directly to hearing aids so long as they have a T-setting.
Possible problems to watch for: the neck loop may not pass a strong enough signal to make it effective. Or the position of the telecoil in the user’s hearing aids may mean the neck loop doesn’t work unless it is held very close to the hearing aids.
Telecoil and T-setting
A telecoil is a tiny device placed inside most hearing aids to receive the signal given by a hearing loop or by a compatible telephone. Most hearing aids have a T-setting to allow the telecoil to be used.
Not sure if your hearing aids have a T-setting?Ask your audiologist or hearing aid provider. It’s usually very easy for them to get this set up for you.
Got a T-setting but not sure if you can use a neck loop? Try one and see if your hearing aids pick up the sound. Lift the loop up close to your ears and see if the sound you hear alters. If it does, explain this to your audiologist or hearing aid provider and ask for advice. If you hear nothing, the neck loop or the T-setting in your hearing aids could be faulty.
Advice & training
If you are a venue, facility or service provider, Ideas for Ears can:
- Assess and advise on hearing needs of customers and staff
- Install and maintain assistive listening systems
- Train staff in the use of equipment and provide them with skills and confidence to engage effectively with people who have hearing difficulties
For your personal use
To find out more about the sorts of technologies, gadgets and equipment you might wish to have for your own personal use, see Solutions for You.