Preferred mode for the hearing impaired

as a newcomer to SOTA feedback on the best voice mode for activations would be appreciated. Given that the operator is outside in a potentially noisy environment (e.g. windy) does FM provide improved readability when compared with SSB or even AM? My hearing is not so good these days (and yes I know that CW would be ideal but achieving proficiency is a goal that remains out of reach).
I am hoping to activate Mt Cloudmaker (VK2/CT-015) in September using an FT-818 and am inclined to go with 2 metre FM simplex as the safest option at least initially.

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By far the most popular mode/band is 7090 kHz LSB. Unless you are line-of-sight
to Sydney, 2 mtr FM is likely to be a fizzer. Some say, even with Sydney in your sights :slight_smile: Either way, be sure to post an alert on SOTAWATCH the night before, and read VK2GPL’s account of his aborted activation: Mount Cloudmaker VK2/CT-015 –

Happy trails!
John VK4TJ

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Hi Mark,
Welcome to SOTA activating.

I suggest joining ozsota list on as that’s where discussions on conditions, activations, Q&A occur for VK events.

To deal with acoustic noise for the operator, headphones or earbuds will make a big difference, whatever mode you use.

It will help if you have a shelter to use. I use a three sided shelter that I can carry to a hilltop for protection from the wind, sun or rain.

2m FM should work on many CT summits but most are a long way to Sydney over rough terrain and it is far from line of sight to the city from most of them. I have failed to make any 2m fm contacts from Mt Canobolas, for example. You may need to stir up the locals using a repeater, asking people to move to simplex frequencies. 146.5 is the default standard and there is really so little activity there is usually no need to QSY to another simplex frequency to make the contacts.

There is a lot of useful info in activator blogs. See (run by VK3ARH) for a list of currently active VK and ZL blogs. It will help you plan your activation, for antennas, batteries, weather protection etc. Most blogs also have lists of other blogs.

Hope this is helpful, and see you on the next summit.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

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Hi Mark,

You say voice mode but of course the easiest modes for the hearing-impaired are the ones you don’t have to hear at all, e.g. data modes.

If you are a hearing aid user you will find a big improvement is possible if you can get the radio audio directly into your hearing instruments. Many nowadays have some sort of RF link for this. I haven’t had any with Bluetooth built in to know if these might even connect directly to Bluetooth-enabled handhelds (I wouldn’t bet on it), but I find the 2.4-GHz system used by mine (with a separate TX connected to the radio) extremely effective. There is always inductive coupling to fall back on (using a neck loop - build your own if need be). If your aids provide a loop-only setting you can completely eliminate that wind noise, but you will feel a bit cut off when any summit visitor tries to talk to you!

If you don’t use hearing aids I’d say optimization of your radio-to-ears connection is still the main thing to work on. Get yourself some nice headphones or a headset. Again, this could help cut down wind noise too.

As for voice modes, yes I agree that FM is a little easier, for me at least, to process than SSB. Not by very much though. What for sure is harder, for me anyway, is DV (my experience is with C4FM, but I think others are much the same). This depends on the voice. A few people come through nicely, occasionally even sounding better than FM. But for most the slightly slurred sound that results from the processing is kind of like the way my hearing loss messes with sound to start with, so it’s a bit of double whammy!

Good luck with your activations.


Hi all
thank you for your advice and welcome to SOTA. Addressing each point in turn:
John, thanks for the advice re using 7090 kHz and the link to VK2GPL’s attempt, Cloudmaker is not easy to access which is part of the allure! I’ve been lost in the Kanangra-Boyd National Park on a previous hiking trip there, fortunately this time I’ll have a GPS unit. Recent rains will alleviate the water situation. Unfortunately I’ve just discovered that most of the park remains closed after the bushfires so it looks like the attempt in September will not proceed.
Andrew, thank you for the links and resources. 7090 kHz seems to be the way to go so will plan accordingly but take 2 metres as a backup. BTW I enjoyed thoroughly reading on your blog your walking the Camino last year.
Simon, I’ve contemplated the digital modes but the extra weight is a negative. Thanks for the tips re improving the radio-to-ears connection. A headset makes sense so will acquire same and try it out on some easy to access summits prior to attempting Cloudmaker. This will also allow testing of the rig and associated gear as well as familiarisation with ‘SOTA Spotter’.

Hi Mark,
I am acoustically challenged these days with the right ear down 20 dB on ideal and the left ear 20 dB more.

I have adjusted the receive audio in my transceivers to have max treble boost. A cheap pair of headphones with excess treble suits me very well. Some ops have poor speaking voices and it really shows on phone for me.

You can learn CW in 6 weeks if you try. Most can’t get to square 1. No application or will power

CW is the preferred mode for the hearing impaired. You can adjust the tone in your best spot.

Of the digital modes FT8 is probably the best but getting VK/ZL contacts is not easy.

Most FT8 ops seem to think that unless you are 8,000 km away you don’t exist, especially if they have worked sometime on that band since the mode was launched. Wkd B4!

It also requires carrying extra kit up the hill. Young blokes like Tom the Guitar have had great success with this mode in the UK. So it isn’t all nettles.

Just go and try a few activations.
Have fun.


There is a neat online hearing test that you can do here as a starting point for setting up audio equalisation.

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I’d have assumed this was the case, but find it not to be true. I am often called by IK4LZH on my FT8 activations and I don’t think he’s a chaser. If I call stations I’ve previously worked, including non-DX, they all seem happy to work me.

This can be offset by leaving unnecessary items like the microphone, clock and paddle at home.

Never heard of him.

Tom M1EYP (over 50s bass player)

I understand that hearing loss is an occupational hazard for musicians. Certainly they have trouble with “it’s your round” in a noisy pub environment.


Very kind of you. I’ll have another one of these please.



If deafness gets worse there is always SSTV to fall back on!

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Hi Tom,
Things are different here. I can only advise a fellow VK based on my experience. I have to work 2,500 km to work anywhere except VK. And it’s further in most directions other than East. Where you are, that covers a bunch of countries and 10 times the number of operators. Just by chance some of those will enjoy saying hi more than once in a lifetime. Luxury lad luxury.

50 is young Tom. You have 20 years before your warranty expires. After that, YMMV.

Good luck.
73 Ron

Swings and roundabouts Ron. All your points are valid - but don’t overlook the fact that a VK call prefix is many times more desirable in most parts of the FT8 world than a G (M) call.

If 50 is still young, please explain the sudden delige of junk mail selling funeral plans I have received since 4 weeks ago :frowning:

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Worry not, I’ve been getting them for over thirty years!

Don’t go out this evening, Tom, we have a thunderstorm (again!) and its creeping your way!

Thank you all for the various suggestions. Ron, Morse remains on the ‘to do’ list and is the obvious choice. I’ll review progress at the 6 hour mark!
Richard, thanks for the hearing test website, results about as expected. I may be able to improve things a bit by optimising the settings in the Wolfwave.
It appears that FT-8 is worth a go even with the extra weight. If all else fails it looks like it will have to be SSTV!