Cochlear Implant update: tips for choosing and using FM Systems

Here at BRITE, we’re noticing an increase in equipment loan requests for students who use cochlear implants (CI), so it seems like a good time to revisit this topic and to share some new tips. If you’d like to know what a cochlear implant is and how it works, this previous blog post on Cochlear Implants and FM Systems outlines the basics and provides links to more detailed information.

As noted in the earlier post, CI users will benefit a great deal from using FM systems (also called radio aids) to improve the quality of speech sounds, especially in a classroom setting. For a general overview of FM and personal loop systems, visit the technology section of the FACE for Deaf Students website, which contains images of some of the technology discussed here.

Last week, I visited the Scottish Cochlear Implant Programme clinic in Kilmarnock where I picked up a number of handy tips on using FM systems with CI, some of which I’ve shared below. To find out more about CI and the clinic visit the SCIP website. The staff there are extremely helpful and generous in sharing their expertise with education staff.


The first thing to do when selecting a suitable FM system for a CI user is to find out which model of CI and speech processor they use (the processor is the part that fits behind the ear and looks a bit like a traditional hearing aid). If the student is unsure, contact the implant clinic. If the student was implanted in Scotland, it will be the SCIP mentioned above.

The Scottish Cochlear Implant Programme uses three different models of CI: Nucleus by Cochlear, Harmony by Advanced Bionics and Opus by Med-El. All of these CI processors can be used with Phonak Smartlink transmitters and MicroLink receivers (members of the BRITE Equipment Loan Bank can borrow these systems to evaluate in college).

MicroLink receivers can plug directly into the Harmony and Med-El models. Students with a Nucleus CI need to use a dedicated receiver called a Phonak MicroLink Freedom.

It’s important that FM systems are properly set up, so seek advice. Useful sources of help are: one of the clinical scientists from the CI Clinic; the student’s audiologist; a technician familiar with FM; or a representative from the company which supplied the device.

CIs can also be used with loop systems when the processor is switched to the T position. This means that CI users have the option of using portable neckloop systems like the Contego (also available from the BRITE EqLB). Some students who are less confident with technology prefer these neckloop systems, as are very easy to use. Although the quality of sound is generally higher and more reliable with FM.

When connecting receivers or cables to a CI, switch the processor off and on again to make sure it recognises that something has been attached.


If you have questions about supporting students in Scottish Further Education who are Deaf or who have a hearing loss, contact us. Also let us know if you would like BRITE to facilitate an awareness or training session about CI or Deaf education.

One thought on “Cochlear Implant update: tips for choosing and using FM Systems

  1. Pingback: Technical Support for Students Using Cochlear Implants « The BRITE Blog

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