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Tips for troubleshooting hearing technology at school

hearing technology at school

Over the years I have had a lot of experience with troubleshooting hearing technology at school. Sometimes it’s my own, and sometimes the FM system provided by the school requires attention.

Often times it can be difficult to explain how the technology isn’t working, especially when interacting with a typical hearing peer. I have discovered some tips and tricks that help make this communication more effective with peers, HI teachers, and professionals.

At times, I am the advocate and the bridge between the other deaf and hard of hearing students in my school and the staff. This is because I have learned over time what works best for me, and what doesn’t.


  • It’s always a good idea to ask if there have been any changes to the students’ personal technology.
  • To figure out whether it’s the FM system that’s not working or if it’s the students’ personal device, disconnect the student from the FM. If they are still hearing the problematic sounds, then you know that it’s their device not the FM. But if the sounds stop, then it’s an issue with the FM.
  • Let the student explain what they hear and how it isn’t typical.
  • If the student can’t fully articulate what s/he is hearing, ask specific questions like, “Are you hearing static?” or “Is the FM cutting in and out?” and so on.
  • Repeat the issue that the student has expressed to ensure that you really understand what s/he is saying. There can be some misinterpretations. It can be difficult to explain/understand when only one of you can hear what is/isn’t working.

What if a student needs to go without hearing technology?

If the FM system is not working properly and it needs to be sent in for a period of time to be repaired, help the student think of things they can do in the classroom to ensure that they are hearing as best as possible. Make sure that the teachers understand exactly what it means for the student to be without the FM system. It’s okay if you don’t know what’s wrong with the technology. Just reassure the student that you will look into it and do everything you can to help.

Other ways to help

Different ages may need more help from you. If a student is new to the technology and is still learning how to use it and what the sounds are, when troubleshooting you may need to guide the conversation. Ask more questions about what they are hearing and give examples. Remind the student that there is no wrong answer. After all, the student is the only one who knows what they are hearing.

Once the students are older and more familiar with the technology, give them a chance to explain for themselves what is happening. At this point, the constant interruption or assumptions of “This is what you must be hearing” might not be very helpful. This is not an extremely effective method of communication while troubleshooting.

Read more: Phonak Teen Advisory Board: Meet Emmy Cartwright

It’s also important to recognize and acknowledge that there may be some instances where the issues aren’t due to a faulty system, but rather the limitations of that FM system. One example is not being able to hear peers when the teacher is wearing the FM system. This microphone is directly on the teacher and does not have the ability to pick up sound from classmates too.

These are tips I have learned throughout all my years in school, I hope that the teenager perspective on this topic will benefit you as an educator!

What strategies do you use?

Author Details
Emmy is a Phonak Teen Advisory Board member and wears an Advanced Bionics Cochlear Implant and Phonak CROS.