Thursday, June 3, 2010

Starting the Process for Obtaining a FM Sytem

Hearing in a noisy environment

Background noise is a real difficulty for children with hearing loss. The average background noise level in a classroom is somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-60dB. Considering Nolan's average hearing ability is at this level, picking the teacher's voice out amongst the din can be a difficult chore. Essentially, the signal-to-noise ratio is not high enough for Nolan to hear the teacher above the background noise.

For children with normal hearing, background noise is a problem. Many schools have placed sound field systems in classrooms to help raise the teacher's voice above the general noise level. For children with pre-existing hearing losses, a personal FM system is more appropriate. The FM system works with Nolan's hearing aids to give a much better signal-to-noise ratio. The teacher wears a wireless mic, which sends her voice directly into Nolan's hearing aids- it is as if she were only inches from his ears, rather than across the room.

Originally, we had planned on waiting until universal pre-kindergarten to request the FM system. Watching Nolan in his preschool classroom, however, shows that he is not hearing well in a group setting. He is disinterested in the stories during circle time, and wanders randomly. When a visiting youth pastor came to read a story, his loud, booming voice kept Nolan's attention. For the first time since starting preschool, Nolan was on the edge of his seat, listening to the story. For the first time, he could hear the story.

We decided to lobby for the FM system for next year. It won't be easy- it can be hard to convince school personnel with budget constraints that this equipment is necessary for Nolan to have equal access to the curriculum.

Our speech therapist wrote about background noise issues in her recent report on Nolan's language scores. I spoke to our audiologist, and she sent us a letter in support of the Phonak Inspiro FM System (which works with Nolan's brand of hearing aids).

We have our first CPSE meeting in two months, and we are hopeful the documentation trail will support our request for the FM system!


EmmaVerdona124 said...

that's good
I have the Phonak Inspiro and got this 3 months ago!
I had gotten this on March 18 of this year atfer I traded in my old fm system which is the Phonak Campus S AND it gotten very old on me lol
I had Campus S since 4th grade
BTW, 1 week atfer I got it sounds great

Julia said...

Good luck with that. Nolan is a little older than Ben, so he's probably old enough now to self-advocate if an FM system isn't working properly -- that's something you should probably coach him on. As you know, I was all fired up to ask for an FM system off the bat, but the NYU team convinced me that it's better to wait a year for those self-advocacy skills -- you don't want an unknown malfunction (e.g. static) to cause an aversion to using it. So we're going to wait 6 months or a year and see how he does. Now we're just waiting on our IEP meeting date!

Herding Grasshoppers said...


You're absolutely right that Nolan will benefit from an FM system. It's been a huge help to Tate, all these years. We don't need it for homeschooling (when we're at home, anyway), but use it for many activities, like trips to the science center, zoo, field trips (like the noisy Navy Base last month!) and soccer games (he can't hear the coach calling in instructions). It's been invaluable for family bike rides, too. (In fact, there are times I wish I had one for each of my boys!)

I'm sure it will be a boon for Nolan. It must be really frustrating at preschool, especially since many women have soft voices that get drowned out by the ambient noise.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, though, what you're asking for. Or maybe your system works differently than ours. Are you hoping the school will provide an FM for personal (outside of school) use?

Our district provided one for Tate when we enrolled him in the district's preschool (and it followed him to elementary), but it never left the school grounds. It was always their property.

We (with help from Children's Hospital) acquired our own FM to use outside of school. Definitely worth it, in the long run :D


leah said...

Julia, with hearing aids we're able to listen to the FM system to verify if it is functioning properly or not (with a stethoset), so it makes troubleshooting a little easier. I've heard FM systems with CI's are a little more difficult because you can't listen to the FM every day to verify proper functionality...

Nolan is also a "good reporter," so we're going for it. He hears almost nothing in the classroom, so the possibility of static outweighs not using it. We've had the benefit of observing him for a year in a classroom with 10 other children to see how he operates in a classroom environment- we can tell that he can't hear during circle time, etc. We also have a preschool very willing to work with us with the FM system, which makes a difference!

leah said...

Julie- if we get an FM system now, the school district doesn't cover it- the county does. Even though he'll be three and is technically under the school district, the county still covers the funding for all assistive devices and services until the child enters kindergarten. The benefit of this is that we get to KEEP the equipment, under the physically handicapped children's fund (PHC- a NY state program).

If we wait until kindergarten and have the district purchase it, we won't have the use of it outside of school hours (though there are some families that have signed a liability waiver to use one at home).

leah said...

We primarily want the FM for preschool, though. We may consider purchasing an FM later on, as Nolan gets into sports, etc.- I wouldn't want to use his school FM for that, anyway, just in case it got broken!

The county covers the funding for assistive devices, because children in preschool don't attend the main school campus (therefore, the equipment MUST leave the school campus for the child to use it- in Nolan's case, it is being used at a private preschool). I'm trying to get a TOD on board to help oversee the use of the FM, but I have a feeling we'll be the "instructors" of the use of the FM.

The Wednesday Poet said...

Keeping my fingers crossed for you! Glad you are making this move. I so hope you are able to get approval for the system.


Herding Grasshoppers said...

Wow, Leah, that's great that they'll do that!

We kept Tate's FMs totally separate... one at school, one at home.

We have some funny stories about teachers using the FM, but it's really not very complicated.

Keep us posted :D


leah said...

Even if we get to "keep" this one, we'll probably only use it for school, anyway. It would be disastrous to have it broken and not working for school- so we'll probably just leave it at the school. It's $3000, though, so not something we can afford to purchase on our own right now! Especially if we have to purchase a Bi-Pap machine for Nolan this fall (we're really hoping that Central Apnea disappears). Insurance doesn't cover Bi-Pap machines, and they don't cover FM systems. Breathing > hearing, so if we have to make a choice, the Bi-Pap comes first.

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

It makes such a difference. Julia is much more engaged when speakers are using the FM.

Go get 'em!

Ericka said...

I hope you get the fm system! We are at the same place as we were with Olivia. Even though they see how much the personal fm system benefits Olivia, they still are going to need to "evaluate" to see if Miles needs one. They are claiming "least restrictive environment". It gets me soo mad because I don't see how the personal fm system is restrictive in the least. What is more restrictive, having to struggle to hear or wearing a tiny little boot on his hearing aid?
Good luck!

leah said...

Ericka, I think your district wants to substitute "cheapest" for "least restrictive!" Sheesh.

Our audiologist wrote that the purchase of an FM system will allow Nolan to continue to allow Nolan to be the aural/oral child that he is. In other words, oral kids NEED access to sound, and in a classroom environment, that means an FM system.

Our only debate has been based on his age- some three year olds are not "good reporters" about malfunctioning equipment, but Nolan is very good about this. He's extremely attached to his hearing aids and sound, so he shouldn't reject the FM system. We are also very aware that the fight with the school district could take over a year to obtain one- so we decided to start the process now, rather than waiting until he's in UPK. I don't want to wait and then have him in kindergarten without one (this happened to a local boy, now in 4th grade)!

Heather said...

My son uses this FM at school. He was able to get it while in the preschool through our school district. He was 4 yrs old. The audiologist sent in a request when he was 3, knowing it could take 1-2 yrs and hoped it would be ready by Kinder. So we were happy when it was approved and ready for his second year of preschool. It is owned by the school, so we do not have access to it outside of school... I wish we could afford one for home use! He just completed Kindergarten, and it has been such a great benefit. Elementary schools are SO loud!! He still has a very hard time hearing friends in the cafeteria during lunch, and on the playground for recess, but I don't know of a way to improve that.

Good luck with your request!