Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Object of Envy: FM Systems and Distance Hearing

Tuesday afternoon, the boys and I took a trip to Buffalo to get Nolan's hearing aids programmed to accept the input from his new FM System. It was a trying afternoon (lots of fighting in the audiologist's office and one child bit the other), but well worth it. The new FM System is working brilliantly, though it is taking Nolan some time to get used to the set-up.

FM Systems have three modes:

Off: Nolan hears through his hearing aid microphones only- the FM System is not activated.

FM only: Nolan hears through the FM System only, and does not hear any noise through his hearing aid microphones. This means he can hear the speaker's voice very clearly, even over a large distance or in the presence of loud background noise.

FM + Hearing Aid Microphone: Nolan does NOT have this feature activated yet, but we will ask his audiologist if it is possible to do a 50% mix of FM and Hearing Aid Microphone when we see her again. Sometimes, hearing aid and FM system incompatibility cause issues with doing a "mix." Hopefully Nolan's Unitron hearing aids can handle this type of program.

Nolan's first reaction to the FM System was to hate it. "It's OFF! I can't hear! Turn my hearing aids on!" This was rather disappointing. I had hoped he would love it straight away. He found the location of his program buttons and learned how to shut my voice off in 0.05 milliseconds. He far preferred hearing all of the sounds around him as opposed to hearing only my voice.

There is a learning curve for the FM System- for Nolan and for me. Since he has the "FM ONLY" option, we are learning the appropriate places to use the system. Using it during group activity times is not really appropriate, because he can't hear his peers. Using it for Circle Time, speech therapy, and for distance hearing is appropriate.

We stopped at McDonald's on the way home from the audiologist, and I turned the FM System on before releasing Nolan into that Habitrail for children known as Playland. The FM System was awesome: I called his name when it was time to leave, and he came right out. The other mothers stared with envy- I'm pretty sure they all wanted a direct radio-link with their children at that moment.

Of course, Nolan came out of the Playland, looked at me, and said, "I turn you OFF!" Then he turned and ran back into the play structure. Barring his ability to turn me off, the FM System is awesome.

We're using it for about an hour per day now, and Nolan is adjusting beautifully to wearing it when we are doing structured activities. His distance hearing is pretty shoddy, since he is underamplified. Three year olds tend to run like crazy and have no concept of danger. Since not getting squished by a car is pretty important, his ability to hear outside of a 15 foot distance is vital. Here's an example of Nolan's distance hearing without an FM System:

As you can see, he doesn't hear at all in this environment as distance increases. This is why my blood pressure is generally through the roof as he approaches our street on his tricycle, and can't hear me yelling at him to stop. There is a lot of panicked running with a hard-of-hearing preschooler who can't hear cars coming.

In contrast, here is his distance hearing with the FM system:

His ability to hear over distance with the FM System is nothing short of amazing. He can hear us calling for him to stop or to be careful. We plan on using it at the upcoming Zoo Boo trick-or-treating event, so he can hear us in the extremely noisy and crowded environment.

Next Up: The FM System and the Letter S!


Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

We've never used the FM only mode on Julia's hearing aids. She always has access to sound through her hearing aids as well.

I always think I should bring it to the zoo and science center, but I've never tried it. I agree that most parents would like that direct microphone into their kids ear. I guess it's the one enviable thing we get to have!

Herding Grasshoppers said...

We also have never used the FM only. I can see how that would frustrate him, as he feels cut off from all the other sounds.

You know your kiddo best :D But you might think about trying the programming for both. That way, the teacher/speaker's voice will be amplified above the ambient noise, but Nolan can still here his peers and the world around him.

We still use the FM at times, but especially loved it when Tate was smaller - in situations like you mentioned (Joey). Also great for family bike rides, because he doesn't hear the traffic with the helmet blocking some sounds and the wind blowing. Also worked wonderfully on the soccer field, when he can't hear the coach calling instructions or - sometimes - the ref blowing a whistle.

rouchi said...

Congrats on your FM! I feel that he should be able to hear his peers too. Sometimes something happens near him , he wouldn't hear it.

Apraxia Mom said...

Just getting caught up here.

This is so freakin' amazing!!!! Love it and what it is doing for him!

Love his language, too! Good job, Mom!

tammy said...

okay, now I'm LMAO! That is hilarious how he told you he's turning you off! Oh my! What's yet to come!