FM/RF & IR System-FAQ and Troubleshooting

Below are FAQ that pertain to FM and IR systems. For additional FAQ, please see:

Troubleshooting.

  • Technology throws hiccups, things change. Try to find a staff person who is trained, understands the system, and is willing to work with you.
  • Please don’t discount hearing assistance in such site and facilities, but rather check with staff to see that the system and devices are turned on and operating, much as wheelchair ramps need to be kept open.
  • However, if you’ve tried and still you do not have access to clear sound, try giving feedback, submitting a concern, or filing a formal complaint.

FM/RF and IR Systems – General

All FM and infrared systems require the user to borrow a receiver and then headphones or neckloop.*

  1. Stay home. That would be sad, but sometimes people choose to stay home because they are frustrated that they can’t hear when they are out.
  2. Don’t borrow and use the equipment. It’s true, many people do not wish to “out” their hearing loss by using the equipment, and thus will not use it – even though they will miss out on what is being said.
  3. Alter your clothing. You can wear dark colors, so the receiver, wire, and headphones (or neckloop) have less of a contrast.
  4. Don’t worry about it. Borrow the equipment and participate!

* In contrast, a user doesn’t need to pick up any equipment with a hearing loop  They can use their hearing aids as a receiver and discretely connect to the hearing loop, via a built-in telecoil.

Where required, all sites and facilities under Title II entities (state and local governments) and Title III entities (businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public) of the ADA, are responsible for having and maintaining their assistive listening system (FM, IR, or hearing loop).

Still, some places have staff turnover, get busy, or are unaware of their civil right responsibilities. 

So to prepare for your visit, you can

1. Check the website. Only Title II entities are required to put information on their website. However, it’s good business practice for Title III entities to include information on the website and other places.

2. Email or call ahead of time. Ask specific questions, such as “I read on your website that you have an FM system.  I just want to verify that you have working receivers and neckloops.”

3. Give yourself extra time. It takes time to find, checkout, verify the equipment is working.

Yes, you have no way of knowing if staff remembered to clean the earbuds after every use. A few options:

  1. You can ask the facility for their cleaning supplies and clean the earbuds themselves.
  2. You can bring your own alcohol wipes.
  3. You can ask the facility to consider purchasing headphones.
  4. You can bring your own wired headphones with a 3.5 mm plug.

Many users do not like them: only hearing from one ear and they are cumbersome to wear.

Ask the site if you can borrow headphones instead.

1. Try switching receivers with the staff nearby. You could have dead batteries.

2. Any assistive listening will not work. Find a staff member and ask them to check 1) the transmitter and emitter is plugged in, and 2) the switch is on. Staff may also consult their technical manual for aux-in levels, cords are connected, and other settings.

During your conversation you can ask them if they do a sound check with the system before EVERY event. Staff can use a receiver and headphones to check – it should take less than a minute.

As an option, you can also let the ADA coordinator know.  E.g., let the staff know at the performing arts center AND let the university ADA coordinator know you had a problem.

  1. Look at your equipment (transmitter or emitter) to find the manufacturer’s name and model number.  It’s helpful to take a photo on a smartphone to refer to later.
  2. Search for the make/model on the internet. Many Owners Manuals are available in pdf format.
  3. Visit the manufacturer’s website to find more information or contact the manufacturer. A partial list of vendors is available (this website)

There should be no echo caused by latency. Contact the management of the facility and ask them to troubleshoot and correct.

The sound you hear through the system should sync with lip reading. Contact the management of the facility and ask them to troubleshoot latency issues and correct.

FM/RF and IR Systems – Neckloops

  • Read Steve Frazier’s article:  The Neckloops Don’t Work- A Possible Cause (2023)
  • Neckloops must be compatible with receivers and preferably ordered from the same manufacturer that makes the receiver.  If neckloops are ordered retroactively – or of a different make as the receiver, there may be a mismatch causing the neckloops to be underpowered and thus not provide a strong enough magnetic signal for the telecoil to pick up, and when the user increases the volume setting on the receiver, it can cause distortion.
  • It’s best to put the neckloop as widely around the neck as possible, in a wide circle to give a stronger field; and having a tie clip to keep in place or to keep from dangling.
  • If nothing else works, try raising the neckloop to your ears, so the neckloop is closer to your telecoils.
  • Give feedback to the owner/operator about the weak signal you received.

Two tests:

  1. Use a receiver to test with headphones. If you can hear sound the receiver is working.  Use the same receiver, unplug the headphones and plug-in the neckloop.
  2. If the neckloop doesn’t work in #1, then unplug neckloop #1 and try a different neckloop.

The facility should have enough neckloops on hand. The quantity is based on the capacity of the room. At a minimum, every facility should have 2 neckloops. A facility with capacity of 650 will need 7 neckloops.

The ADA table is available at the bottom of the page: ADA Standards  (this website)

Or you can use the Online Receiver Calculator Receiver calculator Northwest ADA Center (webpage)

FM/RF Systems

For basic troubleshooting, there could be a couple of reasons.

  1. The receiver isn’t working right. Try exchanging receivers.
  2. It could be that the FM channel that the building uses is busy. Inquire with the operator/manager to see if another channel.

It could be that the facility “took the FM system channel” to use for other needs:  microphones, musicians, other AV needs.

Give feedback to the facility and/or file a formal complaint.

IR Systems

IR receivers need a direct signal from the IR transmitter. If the signal is blocked by you or someone else, even your hand or a purse, the signal will stop or you may hear intermittent static.

  1. First find or ask a staff member the location of the emitter. 
  2. Then try moving your receiver from your waist to shoulder height and ‘aim’ it towards the emitter, so it’s not blocked by you, those around you, or the seats.