Wednesday, December 6, 2023
HomeIssues2019 - Fall EditionBACK TO SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY: Assistive Listening Devices

BACK TO SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY: Assistive Listening Devices


Now that school is back in session, the amount of listening students are expected to do on any given day is substantial.

In fact, more than 80% of the day is devoted to listening to lessons and instruction in the classroom. Is it any wonder that after all that dedicated listening we are exhausted, and maybe even a little grumpy? Listening is tiring. It is especially exhausting for those with receptive language delays and auditory processing difficulties; but listening doesn’t have to be that taxing. Today’s technology can help offset the exhaustion and make listening easier, even for those of us who have normal hearing.

The use of an assistive listening device can help enhance listening, especially in the presence of background noise. Not only is this an excellent option for students, but there are many adults who find it difficult to filter out background noise too. Background noises can override a person’s voice in busy situations or on the phone, making it extremely difficult to hear and understand what is being discussed.

One of the most common assistive listening devices used to combat these challenges is called a frequency modulated (FM) system. A microphone is either built-in or attached to the transmitter which picks up the speech signal and broadcasts it to the FM receiver, worn by the recipient (person listening). An FM system improves the signal-to-noise ratio (i.e., the speech signal becomes more pronounced than the background noise). Many hearing aid wearers feel there are several advantages to wearing an FM system paired with their hearing aids for added benefit in situations where they continue to struggle with background noise. However, those with typical hearing (i.e., no hearing loss) can benefit from FM systems as well. Imagine not having to strain to hear above background noise, or being able to comfortably listen to a speaker’s voice without ambient noise.

Widespread use of FM systems has been implemented with school age children to give them a ‘listening boost’ in the classroom. As technology continues to develop, smaller, more discrete FM systems are being offered for children and adults to wear on a regular basis. FM systems provide significant advantages in giving clients the ability to receive spoken messages in a number of difficult listening situations, and have many applications in daily use. For example, FM systems are particularly helpful for hearing in the following situations:

  1. Noisy restaurants
  2. Group conversations or meetings
  3. Car rides
  4. Cocktail parties
  5. TVs, stereos, iPods, and cellphones
  6. Guided tours and travel groups
  7. Sports and extracurricular lessons
  8. Lectures, speeches, and educational settings
  9. Places of worship

Demonstrations of FM systems are available at the HearSay clinic. If you have further questions regarding the advantages, uses, and function of FM systems, call the HearSay Speech & Hearing Centre and speak to one of the audiologists on staff at (905) 875-3345.

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