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

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 telecoils, and mobile phone compatibility.

Positioning a cell phone for hearing aid users

If you’re experiencing sound levels that are too low while using your cell phone, you might not be holding the phone correctly. The traditional way of holding a phone is directing the speaker towards your ear canal. But, if 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.

Hearing aid telecoils

A telecoil (also known as a t-coil) is a type of technology that serves as a wireless antenna. It 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. In addition to cell phones and TVs, telecoil technology can also be used in amphitheaters, movie theaters, concert halls, churches, and other similar 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.

A telecoil does the same thing with cell phones. It acts as an antenna for the signal from the cell phone, linking up to your cell phone’s audio. This switches off the microphone so you are only hearing the sound you want to hear – your phone conversation. 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.

Finding a cell phone that will work well with your hearing aids

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 phone model as you are shopping, on the package, or in the cell phone’s user manual. While researching, you’re looking for its M-rating and its 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 do not account for individual hearing aid designs and technology. Hearing aids will also have M-ratings and/or T-ratings. A good way to determine compatibility is to add up the cell phone’s rating and the hearing aid’s rating (only use like ratings, so add only M-ratings together and T-ratings together):

  • A combined rating of 6 is considered “excellent,” so you can expect highly useable performance and clarity out of the cell phone and hearing aid.
  • 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 “useable,” 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.

There are other factors at play, however, that you may want to consider when purchasing a cell phone that will work with your hearing aids, such as your own standard of “acceptable quality,” which may differ from the system described above. As a result, you may want to “try before you buy” and ask a store associate to demonstrate the phone. This way, you can find out how your hearing aids interact with the phone you are interested in purchasing and how you like the compatibility.

Choosing your hearing aids with your needs in mind

Your hearing aids should fit you, your budget, and your lifestyle. Cell phone usage, battery life, comfort, affordability, and versatility are all factors you should be considering if you are looking for a new pair of hearing aids. MDHearingAid offers affordable hearing aids with a range of features so you can find hearing aids that fit your lifestyle and your budget, including our MDHearingAid AIR, which includes a telecoil mode built right in and a T3 rating, and all of our hearing aids have M3 ratings. Check out our line of hearing aids to find the one that’s right for you or read our customer reviews to discover why people love our products.