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Hearing Aid Compatibility

Some mobile phones are measured for compatibility with hearing aids. If the box for your particular model has “Rated for Hearing Aids” printed on it, the following explanation applies.

When some mobile phones are used near some hearing devices (hearing aids and cochlear implants), users may detect a buzzing, humming, or whining noise. Some hearing devices are more immune than others to this interference noise, and phones also vary in the amount of interference they generate.

The wireless telephone industry has developed ratings for some of their mobile phones, to assist hearing device users in finding phones that may be compatible with their hearing devices. Not all phones have been rated. Phones that are rated have the rating on their box or a label on the box.

The ratings are not guarantees. Results will vary depending on the user’s hearing device and hearing loss. If your hearing device happens to be vulnerable to interference, you may not be able to use a rated phone successfully. Trying out the phone with your hearing device is the best way to evaluate it for your personal needs.

M-Ratings: Phones rated M3 or M4 meet FCC requirements and are likely to generate less interference to hearing devices than phones that are not labeled. M4 is the better/higher of the two ratings.

T-Ratings: Phones rated T3 or T4 meet FCC requirements and are likely to be more usable with a hearing device’s telecoil (“T Switch” or “Telephone Switch”) than unrated phones. T4 is the better/higher of the two ratings. (Note that not all hearing devices have telecoils in them.)

Hearing devices may also be measured for immunity to this type of interference. Your hearing device manufacturer or hearing health professional may help you find results for your hearing device. The more immune your hearing aid is, the less likely you are to experience interference noise from mobile phones.

Hearing Aid Compatibility with Mobile Phones Frequently Asked Questions

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines HAC for wireless devices in terms of two parameters; radio-frequency (RF) emissions and telecoil coupling. Cell phones are tested to see if they comply with the FCC’s definition of hearing aid compatibility.

Information about whether a wireless device is rated for HAC can be found in three places: 1) on information near devices in service provider operated retail stores, 2) on the packages containing wireless devices, and 3) in the product’s manual or packaging insert. HAC rated devices will be labeled with an “M” and/or “T” and a rating number. Only devices that are rated for HAC will be labeled in this way. If you see an “M3”, “M4", "T4” or “T3” label on the display card or packaging then the device is HAC compliant. If you have questions about the rating of a wireless device, ask the service provider or device manufacturer for more information.

“M” refers to the device’s RF emissions level, and means the device is intended for use with hearing aids in microphone mode. The higher the “M” rating number on the device, the more likely you will be able to use the device with your hearing aid on the microphone setting.

“T” refers to the device’s telecoil coupling ability, and means the device is intended for use with hearing aids in telecoil mode. The higher the “T” rating number on the device, the more likely you will be able to use the device with your hearing aid on the telecoil setting.

A telecoil is a small device that is built into some hearing aids for use with the telephone as well as assistive listening devices. To use the telecoil, generally either the hearing aid is switched to the “T” position or a button on the hearing aid is pushed to select the telecoil program. Some newer hearing aids will automatically switch to telecoil mode when using a phone. The telecoil picks up magnetic fields generated by telephones and converts these fields into sound. Telecoils are particularly useful for telephone communication because they permit the volume control of a hearing aid to be turned up without creating feedback or “whistling,” and background noise can be reduced especially when using cell phones in noisy places. To determine whether your hearing aid contains a telecoil and how it is activated, ask your hearing health professional.

Using the same measurement standard that wireless devices use to test for HAC, hearing aids can also be tested and rated for compatibility. This standard measures and rates the hearing aid’s immunity to the typical electromagnetic outputs from wireless devices. An M1 or T1 is the poorest immunity rating, and an M4 or T4 is the best immunity rating. Your hearing healthcare professional may assist you in determining if your hearing aid has been rated.

If your hearing aid is rated for HAC like many wireless devices are, then there is a method for prediction: just add the rating of your hearing aid to the rating of the wireless device. A hearing aid rated M2 and a wireless device rated M3 combine to a give an M rating of 5 and would likely provide “normal” use. An M rating combination of 6 would likely provide “excellent performance.” The same would be true of T ratings. The higher the combination, the better the user experience is likely to be. Every individual’s hearing loss is unique so ratings do not guarantee performance.

Quite possibly. The FCC requires that wireless devices be rated for HAC specifically for hearing aids in telecoil mode. These devices are labeled with ratings of T3 or T4.

Wireless devices that are rated for Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC) should improve usability for hearing aid users. However, because of the highly individualized nature of hearing loss and hearing aids there is no guarantee.

Yes, it is advisable to try a wireless device with your hearing aid in the store before making a purchase. It’s best to try several devices before buying to find the best match with your hearing aids. Visit a full service carrier store and ask to try devices that have been designated as “hearing aid compatible.”

All major handset manufacturers are required to offer HAC-compliant devices and may also offer hands-free accessories to improve usability.

No.

Cochlear implants are not regulated by the FCC and therefore are not rated. However, devices rated for HAC may make it more likely that a cochlear implant user will be able to use a cell phone with minimal interference either on the M or T setting. The same rule of thumb applies though – try before you buy. It’s best to try several phones before making your purchase to find the best match with your hearing aid.

No, the range of features and functions of wireless devices will impact the price, but hearing aid compatibility will not. Service provider owned and operated stores will offer a range of devices with varying features and prices.

You can check with your hearing healthcare professional to determine if there is a hearing aid option for you that may work better with wireless devices. Some telecoil users may find that accessories such as neckloops may further assist with their use of wireless devices.

Many states now require “hands free” driving while using wireless devices. If you use a telecoil, you may be able to use a neckloop. If you use the microphone mode in your hearing aid, you may be able to use the speaker phone function available on some wireless devices. If there is a Bluetooth accessory for your hearing aid, it may be able to work with Bluetooth enabled wireless devices. Remember safety first while driving.

The information is courtesy of the CTIA–The Wireless Association® and ATIS Hearing Aid Compatibility Incubator.

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