Transforming support for d/Deaf students

Innovations in technology and the vital role of skilled professionals

In May 2014, BRITE and Nated Scotland curated an international conference hosted at Edinburgh University, where 100 delegates came together to evaluate a range of cutting edge strategies to support d/Deaf students at college and university. Two key themes of the day were the potential of mobile and web-based technology to revolutionise the provision of communication services, and the vital importance of skilled professionals to manage and deliver support for students.

iPad photo_Edit The image shows a sign language interpreter at the University of Cincinnati communicate with a student. The student accesses live video of the interpreter on his iPad. He could be based elsewhere on campus, or even off-campus e.g. having an informal study session at a classmate’s home. This system provides students with a new level of flexibility in how they access communication services. Research into the implications of this mode of service delivery was the subject of our keynote presentation.

A summary of the presentations and key topics follows. To request a copy of the conference brochure, transcripts of the presentations, or copies of slides, please contact Kellie Mote at

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Technical Support for Students Using Cochlear Implants

Our latest technology seminar and recent enquiries to the BRITE Equipment Loan Bank have prompted us to remind readers that free, expert help is available to students in Scotland who use cochlear implants.

The Scottish Cochlear Implant Programme team at Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock provide advice and practical help to set up systems which improve the quality of sound entering a cochlear implant – so useful in potentially noisy learning environments.

The systems supported don’t necessarily need to be owned by the student. The team has set up equipment which members have borrowed from BRITE to enable students and colleges to “try before they buy”.

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Phonak FM Hands-on Workshops in Glasgow and Edinburgh April 2010

FM radio aid systems are valuable tools to help students with hearing aids or cochlear implants hear better in noisy college environments. However, the technology is moving at such a fast pace, it can sometimes be difficult to keep up!

Phonak is running some practical (and free!) Hands-on Workshops to help you to update your skills. The Phonak team can cover any topic that you wish and the itinerary is set by the participants. However, for those of you who are perhaps new to the technology or who aren’t sure what to suggest, here are some ideas:

  • FM Fault Finding
  • Balancing a Dynamic FM system
  • FM & Cochlear Implants
  • inspiro usage
  • Multitalker Network Setup
  • FM Successware
  • Phonak NHS hearing instrument overview
  • General questions & answers

Remember these days are yours – so feel free to ask the team anything you wish. Dates, venues, agenda and booking information follow.

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Latest developments in FM technology, plus FM training news

FM systems (also called radio aids) can be very helpful devices for hearing aid or cochlear implant users who have difficulty hearing in noisy environments.

A popular system in BRITE’s Equipment Loan Bank is the Phonak SmartLink transmitter, which can be used with a range of receivers. This sophisticated system has proved useful, especially where students are working in different noisy environments, including out of doors.

At last year’s Phonak Focus Day, Phonak announced some new features in the Smartlink (as well as ZoomLink and EasyLink), to further enhance the high quality of performance in these devices.

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Phonak Focus Day – 25th September in Stirling

If you have a particular interest in technology for learners who use hearing aids or cochlear implants, you may like to go along to this FREE one day event at Stirling Management Centre, looking in depth at the latest products from Phonak.

Phonak designs and develops high-end hearing aids and FM (radio aid) systems and are about to launch brand new versions of their advanced listening technology, including an improved Smartlink transmitter – a popular device with BRITE’s equipment loan bank users.

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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.

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Cochlear Implants and FM Systems

Increasingly at BRITE, we receive enquiries from college staff looking for technology to assist students with cochlear implants. A cochlear implant (CI) is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or very hard or hearing. As the CI is a relatively recent development, it is likely that in the next few years you may find yourself supporting more students with cochlear implants. Lots of information exists online about what a cochlear implant is and how it works. There are links to further resources at the end of this post.

A CI provides the student with access to sound, but does not restore, or simulate, natural hearing. Therefore a student with a CI will benefit from a combination of good classroom acoustics, inclusive teaching practice and possibly, also an FM system (radio aid).

You may be familiar with FM systems as a useful tool for hearing aid users, e.g. Phonak SmartLink and MicroLink. An FM system is comprised of two parts: a transmitter (microphone) and a receiver, worn by the student. The receiver inputs the sound from the transmitter/microphone directly into the hearing aid, thus minimising the effect of background noise and improving the quality of the speaker’s voice.

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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.


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