Shopping for a Mobile Phone that Works with Your Hearing Aid

Hearing aids have not previously always worked well with cellular phones, because of electronic interference between the 2 devices that caused static, whistling or squealing noises, or lost words. Fortunately, improvements in technology and new government regulations have made the issue “Will this cell phone work together with my hearing aid?” simpler to answer. The regulations mandated new labeling requirements and ratings that help you to easily find a cell phone that works well with your hearing aid.

Understanding the rating system requires a bit of knowledge about the modes that hearing aids can operate in. There is an M mode (which stands for microphone) and a T mode (which stands for telecoil). When your hearing aid is in M mode, it uses the built-in microphone to pick up audible sounds from around you and amplify them to make them easier for you to hear. In T mode, the hearing aid uses telecoil technology instead. The hearing aid is able to pick up the electromagnetic signals from inside the phone directly. Currently, approximately 60% of hearing aids sold in the U.S. have a telecoil or T mode.

The rating system for these two modes of hearing aid operation uses a scale that ranges from the lowest sensitivity (1) to the highest sensitivity (4). To be sold in the United States as hearing aid compatible (HAC), a mobile phone or cordless handset must have a rating of at least M3 or T3.

In addition, many hearing aids (and cochlear implants) have a similar M and T rating to measure their sensitivity and their resistance to radio frequency interference. If you know the M and T ratings for your hearing aid, to determine its compatibility with any mobile phone, just add the two sets of ratings together. A sum of 6 or more makes a solid pairing. That hearing aid and mobile phone combination should work well for you. If the combined rating is 5, this combination is considered normal and suitable for most regular phone use. A sum of 4 is considered acceptable, but if you are a heavy cell phone user, you may be disappointed or frustrated with this choice.

If you are shopping for a mobile phone online, you can usually use this combined rating to determine how compatible the phone you are interested in buying will be with your hearing aid. A better approach, of course, would be to go to a store that allows you to “try before you buy,” and actually use the phone you want while wearing your hearing aid, in both M and T modes.

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