This issue of The Hearing Review concentrates almost exclusively on FM hearing systems. Wait! Before you leaf nonchalantly through the magazine thinking, Well, I dont deal much with kids, or FM doesnt have anything to do with my patients, think again. The fact is that FM does have the potential to help many of your clients today. And in the near future, FM technologyalbeit in many different formswill almost certainly have a huge impact on how you fit hearing instruments.
Certainly, FM soundfield technology has been a popular way to improve signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) and the academic performance of children who have special needs (eg, hearing loss, CAPD, English as a second language). Likewise, the potential for FM and hearing aid (FM+HA) use with adults and its integration with hearing instruments is as great as it is certain. In this issue of HR, private practice audiologist Mark J. Sanford, MS, provides a field study (page 24) that involves 28 patients wearing high-performance hearing instruments, 73% of which were directional aids. Overall, the patients rated the FM + HA system as superior to the hearing aid-only system (using the same aids) in nine different listening tasks, and 20 of the 28 subjects elected to purchase the FM system. It should be acknowledged that FM technology is not for everybody; it is still pricey and it probably appeals most to those patients who are really having significant trouble hearing in a variety of challenging environments. But the FM + HA option appears to be excellent for those clients who feel they need some more help in noisy environments.
For the same reasons that have prompted a gradual movement toward directional hearing instruments, FM technology will continue to play a larger role in hearing care. The Directional Renaissance of the past 5 years came as a result of the fact that directional hearing instruments were shown to have the ability to improve SNRs by 2-8 dB. When one points out that FM technology can enhance SNRs by 15-18 dB, there is a good reason to believe that we may see a revolution in FM + HA technology in the future. Whether this comes in the form of detachable mics, remote mics, or some other innovation, the future of FM + HA systems appears promising. Dispensing professionals who are looking to distinguish their businesses from other competitors and get a head start in understanding future FM applications might do well to start considering the use of this technology. John A. Nelson, PhD, offers a tutorial (page 14) on how to fit FM + HA systems, and explains the ins-and-outs of using FM systems in conjunction with high-performance instruments that use various compression and noise-reduction strategies.
On a more personal note, long-time hearing industry publisher Pauline Davies leaves The Hearing Review at the end of this month after serving almost a decade as the publisher of this magazine, and almost an equal amount of time at Hearing Instruments. Pauline is a person who has touched the lives of so many people in the hearing health care field, and her work has been invaluable in making this magazine a success. All of us at HR will miss her. Thank you, Pauline!