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Using Cell Phones with Hearing Aids: Positioning, Telecoil, and Compatibility

Last updated on Nov 9, 2018

Hearing aids can help bring you back into your social sphere. They can make conversations clearer and easier, so you don’t feel so out of the loop. However, some people still have trouble using their cell phones with their hearing aids, and phones are a key part of staying in touch in the modern world, like it or not. In some cases, people hear a whistling or a buzzing sound in their hearing aids when they try to use their cell phones. In other cases, the sound coming through the cell phone isn’t clear or loud enough. However, these problems can be solved with cell phone positioning, a special technology called hearing aid telecoil, and mobile phone compatibility.

What is telecoil?

A telecoil (also known as a t-coil) serves as a wireless antenna in some hearing aid types. T-coils can link up to a sound system–like a television, a public announcement system, or a cell phone–by acting as a receiver for a loop sound system. When you use your cellphone, the telecoil in your hearing aid switches off the microphone so you are only hearing the sound you want to hear – your phone conversation.

In addition to cell phones and TVs, telecoil technology can also be used in amphitheaters, movie theaters, concert halls, churches, and other acoustic locations. The telecoil receives the sound and amplifies it, without amplifying all the ambient sound or background noise along with it, so you can focus on what you want to hear.

The telecoil component is not found in all hearing aids, but some, like the MDHearingAid AIR, are equipped with telecoil technology. These hearing aids don’t rely on the microphone alone to receive sound from devices. Instead, they usually have a setting that activates the telecoil, allowing the link to occur. Check your hearing aids’ user manual to determine how your telecoil works.

Hearing Aid Compatible Cell Phones

Nowadays, most cell phones are likely to be hearing aid compatible (HAC). You can typically find this label either on the product information card next to the store’s phone model, on the phone’s packaging, or in the cell phone’s user manual.

As you research, looking for the phone’s M-rating and T-rating. The M-rating indicates how well the phone works with a hearing aid’s microphone. The T-rating, if it has one, indicates how well the phone works with a hearing aid’s telecoil. If it does not have a T-rating, it won’t work with the hearing aid’s telecoil. You will usually find phones with an M-rating of M3 or M4, and a T-rating of T3 or T4. The higher the number in the rating, the more compatible the phone.

However, these ratings alone do not account for individual hearing aid designs and technology. Hearing aids will have M-ratings and T-ratings of their own. A good way to determine compatibility is to add up the cell phone’s rating and the hearing aid’s rating (only add M-ratings together and T-ratings together):

  • A combined rating of 6 is considered “excellent,” so you can expect highly usable performance and clarity out of the cell phone and hearing aid together.
  • A combined rating of 5 is viewed as “normal,” meaning that the combination of the phone and hearing aid should have acceptable performance for normal phone use.
  • A combined rating of 4 is seen as “usable,” but the quality will not be acceptable for normal phone use. You’ll be able to complete brief calls, but it’s not suited for longer social calls.

That said, hearing aids work differently for each person’s hearing loss, and consider asking a store associate to demonstrate the phone for you. This way, you can find out how the phone interacts with your specific hearing aids.

Hearing Aid Users Cell Phone Positioning

Something else to keep in mind is how you’re holding your phone when using hearing aids. The traditional way of holding a phone is directing the speaker towards your ear canal. When you wear hearing aids, the sounds you hear first have to go through your hearing aid microphone to be amplified and then sent to your ear canal.

In order for the sounds of the phone to properly reach your ear, it is better to hold the phone slightly behind your ear and at an angle. You may have to try a few different specific positions until you find the best angle that makes the sound clearest for you. It’s a little awkward at first, but it’ll feel more natural as your calls get clearer.

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