Online (also called "recursive" or "adaptive") estimation of fixed model parameters in hidden Markov models is a topic of much interest in times series modelling. In this work, we propose an online parameter estimation algorithm that combines two key ideas. The first one, which is deeply rooted in the Expectation-Maximization (EM) methodology consists in reparameterizing the problem using complete-data sufficient statistics. The second ingredient consists in exploiting a purely recursive form of smoothing in HMMs based on an auxiliary recursion. Although the proposed online EM algorithm resembles a classical stochastic approximation (or Robbins-Monro) algorithm, it is sufficiently different to resist conventional analysis of convergence. We thus provide limited results which identify the potential limiting points of the recursion as well as the large-sample behavior of the quantities involved in the algorithm. The performance of the proposed algorithm is numerically evaluated through simulations in the case of a noisily observed Markov chain. In this case, the algorithm reaches estimation results that are comparable to that of the maximum likelihood estimator for large sample sizes.