Community Audiology Services
11120 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20904
Hearing Aids and Cell Phones
If you or someone you know wears a hearing aid, you are most likely aware of problems that can arise in the use of cell phones, as a result of interference. This interference is often the result of a combination of radio frequency and electromagnetic radiation, given off by cell phones and other types of digital devices. Such interference can take the form of humming, buzzing, or whistling noises when you hold the device up to your hearing aid, making normal telephone conversations difficult, if not impossible.
Radio Frequency (RF) and
Electromagnetic (EM) Interference
Cell phones use RF technology in the transmission of all calls to cell towers or base stations. The farther you are from a cell tower when making a call, the more RF emissions your phone must generate, which can create interference. How much interference caused depends to a large extent on the transmission technology used. The three major types of transmission technology in use in the United States are
CDMA- used by Verizon and Sprint PCS
iDEN – used by Nextel
GSM.- used by AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile
RF emissions are different for each technology. CDMA is considered the best for compatibility with hearing aids while GSM is considered the worst.
The Ratings System
In the last few years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated that cell phones be rated to properly determine how much interference they may cause to hearing aids. Hearing aid compatible cell phones must be explicitly labeled on the package and include detailed information in the package or product manual. The FCC defines Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC) for cell phones in terms of RF emissionsthe microphone (“M”) rating, and the telecoil (“T”) rating. The rating scale ranges from 1 to 4. The four possibilities are M1 or T1 (poor), M2 or T2 (fair), M3 or T3 (good) and M4 or T4 (excellent).
Shopping for a New Phone
Wireless service providers are required to allow consumers to test hearing aid compatible handsets in their owned or operated retail stores. Things to consider when shopping for a compatible cell phone
Although a cell phone may be rated as hearing aid compatible, it does not guarantee performance. Try different brands and models to see which phone works best in tandem with your hearing aid.
Make certain that the cell phone has an HAC rating of M3/T3 or M4/T4 when using it with the microphone or telecoil of a hearing aid.
Look for cell phones that have an easily accessible volume control.
Consider cell phones or accessories that provide some physical distance between the hearing aid and the components that create RF or EM interference. The greater the distance between the hearing aid and these electronics, the less chance there is for interference.
Check the stores return policy when purchasing a cell phone, as well as the service termination policy.
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