Sound Advice: focus on technology to assist hearing aid users

We’ve got a number of news items relating to hearing and linguistic access to report, so it seemed sensible combine them into one bumper post! Below you’ll find news and links to resources on topics including:

  • Best practice in supporting deaf students in Scottish FE
  • Online and face-to-face tutorials looking at radio aids and cochlear implants
  • Alternatives to headphones for students with hearing aids

FACE welcome pageThe FACE Group (Furthering Access to College Education for Deaf Students) is comprised of a number of professionals working in further education and in organisations providing services to students who are D/deaf or who have a hearing loss.

The group collated a wealth of information that is useful to colleges looking to actively include deaf students and the resulting website has recently had a complete design overhaul. As well as information about technology, there is guidance on using communication services, ensuring the learning environment is accessible and tips on preparation for study.

Have a look at the site here If you spot any omissions, errors etc, please drop me a line at and that information can be used in subsequent updates.


FM Systems

Some of the most popular items in the BRITE Equipment Loan Bank are radio aids (also called FM systems) which enhance the quality of sound for students who use hearing aids. There is lots of information about such listening technology on the aforementioned FACE website. Additionally Phonak, manufacturers of hearing technology, have an informative presentation in the iLearn area of their website which explains what a radio aid does and why it is helpful, particularly in educational environments. The tutorial comprises of a slide show accompanied by a presentation by an audiologist. The tutorial has chapters (like a DVD) so you can skip to sections that interest you most.

Radio aids are also useful to students who have Cochlear Implants (click here for an introduction to what a Cochlear Implant is and does). As more and more students with implants are entering FE, we’re noticing more enquiries about suitable technology that is compatible with C.I.

If you are supporting students who have cochlear implants, you may be interested in a forthcoming course at the Scottish Sensory Centre in Edinburgh entitled ‘Trouble-shooting Cochlear Implants: Day-to-day management including FM systems’. This is a one-day course on Wednesday 27th February 2008.

The course will provide hands-on experience with the entire range of C.I. processors available including practical advice about their day-to-day management in the classroom. Using FM systems (radio aids) in conjunction with these processors will be covered. All the major implant and FM system manufacturers will be available and there will be practical workshops throughout the day. The cost to attend is £80. To book a place, contact the SSC by telephone on 0131 651 6501 or by fax on 0131 651 6502.

Headphone alternatives

Increasingly, colleges are creating and using multimedia resources, particularly in their virtual learning environments. Multi-sensory delivery can be both engaging and inclusive, but if a student uses hearing aids, accessing the audio might be difficult. Ideally, audio content should be available in text format too, but often a student may wish to access the audio directly.

Standard headphones are not suitable for a student who wears hearing aids as headphones will likely be uncomfortable and do not provide the kind of audio output the hearing aid needs. Instead, the student should be provided with a personal inductive loop that can be connected directly to the headphone jack in the computer (thus these loops can also be used anywhere you can use ‘personal-stereo’ type headphones). The student wears the loop around the neck (or hooked on the ears, depending on the model of loop) and switches their hearing aid to the ‘T’ position. The audio from the computer is then directly input to the hearing aid(s).

These personal loops are relatively inexpensive at around £30. You can get a more detailed explanation of how the loops work and an idea of prices on the Connevans site.

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