An FM system is comprised of a transmitter and microphone (worn by the person talking) which sends the sound signal to a receiver, worn by the listener. Unlike hearing aids, the microphone of the FM system can be placed close to the sound source (i.e., the person speaking) using tiny microphones, often worn on a lapel or shirt collar. Many hearing aid wearers also rely on an FM system paired with their hearing aids for added listening benefit, particularly in large groups or noisier environments.
Widespread use of FM systems have been implemented with school age children (both with and without hearing loss) to give them a ‘boost’ in their listening within the classroom environment. As a result of newer technology and more discrete, smaller sized FM systems, more and more adults are trying an FM system as well. FM systems provided a significant boost in the ability to receive spoken messages in a number of difficult situations (lectures, noisy restaurants, places with excessive background noise). FM systems will improve speech perception in difficult listening situations and have many applications in daily use. Situations include:
- Noisy Restaurants. A personal FM system is ‘made to order’ for this situation. Rather than leaning over the table, struggling to make sure conversation is understood an FM system can make conversation in the presence of background noise much easier and less strained.
- Group Conversations/Meetings. In these situations, the FM microphone is placed in the most strategic location, as close to everybody as possible where the microphone will pick up all speakers voices and transmit the signal directly to the listener. Dinner with a large group of people, or at a party or noisy social event makes listening much easier by way of the directional microphones in the personal FM technology.
- Car rides. When driving, visual and facial cues are diminished due to the fact that safety takes precedence and our eyes need to be on the road. By speaking into an FM microphone, both driver and passengers can talk without needing to direct their attention away from the road or the need to have visual cues.
- Social Events and Parties. At such events, people are often standing, talking, and milling around. All one needs to do is place the microphone as close to the conversational partner as is feasible in order to receive the speech signal while in the presence of excessive amounts of ambient/background noise.
- Bluetooth Wireless Connection to Digital Technology. FM technology by way of bluetooth or a direct audio input (DAI) connection allows the sound from digital sound technology such as smart phones, television, computers and MP3 players to stream directly through the FM receiver. This can also be paired with closed captioning.
- Mask-Wearing & Social Distancing. There has no greater need for FM technology than during the global pandemic when mask-wearing and social distancing has been required which impacts the ability to hear and process important information, instructions and discussions. An FM system allows for the listener to receive the sound signal (from the speaker) despite not being able to see their face and lips moving. Not only used for those with actual peripheral hearing loss, the FM is becoming more popular for those experiencing auditory processing difficulties as well.