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Summer FM Servicing

itinerants, there are many things we’re thinking about as the school year comes
to a close. I have multiple IEP meetings, in-services for some of my students,
transition meetings and June progress reports. My planner is a rainbow of
color-coded appointments and due dates! In addition, it is a priority to make
sure all of my students’ FM systems make it back to the audiologists for summer
servicing. I’m fortunate to work for Clarke where our audiologists manage many
of the students that I work with. and In those cases, I know the summer
servicing will happen. For students managed by other audiologists, I reach out
to them, as well as my school contact, to ensure that this important aspect of
FM management takes place.

    Summer servicing of FM systems (sometimes
called Remote Microphone Hearing Assistance Technology or Remote Mic. HAT) is
an important component of amplification management. Over the course of the
school year, cords can deteriorate and fray, batteries weaken, pieces chip and
bend, and connections between audioshoes and boots can loosen from wear. Even
if equipment is working fine now, proactively servicing the FM system can
prevent the student from having to go without it at the start of a new school
year if something should break then. Summer is the perfect time for an overhaul
since students typically do not use their FM systems during the summer. When
students do require FM for summer school or related activities, it is still
critical that all equipment is inspected by a managing audiologist before the
start of the new school year.

Ensure Delivery to the Audiologist

with your team to decide how the FM system will get to the audiologist for
summer servicing. Some students have an educational audiologist on their team
and that person is responsible for picking up equipment at the end of the year.
Sometimes this job falls to the special education liaison, and sometimes I pick
up and deliver the equipment myself when my students are managed by Clarke
audiologists. Most importantly, I do not assume someone else will handle the
delivery –I want to know for sure who will be held responsible for each of my
students! Some schools require me to sign a responsibility form when picking up
and delivering FM system for summer servicing, so be sure to check with your
contact at each school so that you understand the expectations. Additionally,
some audiological contracts include summer servicing; for others, this is an
additional cost. Be sure to communicate with your team and your student’s
managing audiologist so no surprise bills arrive at the school.

Comprehensive summer servicing should

Replacement of rechargeable batteries

Replacement of any frayed cords

Repair or replacement of any pieces with loose
or worn connections

Cleaning of all of the components

Full testing of the FM system to ensure all
components work properly together

*An appointment for your student for FM
verification (transparency) and a functional listening test with and without
their equipment should occur before the start of the new school year

    An appointment for FM verification is an
aspect of equipment management that I find is too often overlooked by school
systems and their contracted audiologists. Just
as it is important for an audiologist to verify and program the FM and fit it
to each child when it is ordered, it is an essential step in annual service.While some audiologists verify
the equipment according to the American Academy of Audiology pediatricguidelines as part of their protocol, many skip this
step. They imply take the pieces from the box and put them on the student,
which I unfortunately see too often in the field. When this happens, the
student may not be getting optimal auditory input through the FM system and their
specific hearing aid and/or cochlear implant settings. This means that the FM
signal may be too soft preventing optimal access, or too loud, which decreases
their access to peers.  In either case,
when the FM is not transparent, the student may reject the equipment as it
either does not seem beneficial or negatively impacts their ability to hear and
learn from other students in the classroom. I remember seeing a student for the
first time a few years ago at the start of the school year. Her teachers
reported that she used her FM consistently and never reported any trouble with
it. While meeting with the student, I asked her how she felt about her FM. She
commented that it was fine but didn’t really know what it did for her or why
she had to use it. When I listened through her hearing aid, the signal from the
FM was so soft I could barely hear it! No wonder she didn’t see the benefit!
After speaking with her audiologist and getting her parent involved, the FM
system was verified, the volume of the FM was increased appropriately, and the
student then had access through her FM.

you are unsure if your student’s FM system has been verified, speak with the
managing audiologist and ensure that this is part of the student’s management
plan. As verification often requires the student to go to the audiologist for
an appointment (unless the audiologist has portable verification equipment),
work with families to set that appointment now before it gets forgotten in the
hustle of the fall and the start of a new school year. Part of the planning
will be knowing for sure who will be designated to pick up the FM in the fall
and return it to the school. Sometimes families bring the FM after the
verification appointment, sometimes it’s me (the teacher of the deaf/hard of
hearing), and sometimes it’s a designated school staff member.  It is also a good idea to start planning for
next year in terms of trainings. If possible, schedule the in-service for the
fall where relevant staff can be trained in how to use the FM in order to
maximize access for the student with hearing loss. With some advanced planning,
students, families and schools will not have to worry about the functioning of
amplification next fall. J

Hear Me Out

The Hear Me Out blog provides unique resources for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. It's a forum for itinerant teachers of the deaf to share their experiences as they grow as professionals! It is produced by Clarke's Mainstream Services team as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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About the Hear Me Out Blog

Itinerant teachers of the deaf (TOD) provide direct services to children with hearing loss in mainstream schools, consultation to their teachers, and professional development to school staff. Itinerant TODs travel to a child’s neighborhood school to provide one-on-one educational support, foster listening and spoken language development, and help children build social and self-advocacy skills. They also act as a liaison between the family and their mainstream school. Hear Me Out provides a unique forum for these special teachers to share their experiences as they grow as professionals.

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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Hear Me Out Blog

About the Author

Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A) received her master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 2006 and a graduate certificate in Children, Families, and Schools (with a concentration in research methodology) from the University of Massachusetts in 2012. In addition to her many years of experience working with children with hearing loss who communicate using listening and spoken language, Heather has also worked as a preschool classroom teacher.

Heather has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to mainstreaming students with hearing loss and is a contributing author to Odyssey magazine. Heather currently works as an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at Clarke Mainstream Services, a program of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.

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