Learning to use a cell phone with your hearing aids can be a very frustrating and difficult transition, with practice, patience, and a bit of knowledge, it will get easier. Many people can experience interference in the form of a pulsing pattern or a buzzing sound when using a cell phone with their hearing aids. This interference can be caused by the cell phone’s radio-frequency, which creates an electromagnetic (EM) field around the phones antenna. Another form of interference can come from the cell phones electronics such as keypad, backlighting, display, battery and circuit boards.
The most important thing to know is the rating of your particular cell phone and this can be found in three places: 1) on the display cards next to devices in service provider operated retail stores, 2) on the packages containing wireless devices, and 3) in the product’s manual or packaging insert. If none of the above is available to you, then contact your provider’s customer service department.
What do you need to know when trying to purchase or use a cell phone? You need to find out the Hearing Aid Compatibility or HAC of the particular phone you plan on purchasing. The packaging or display card will be labeled with an “”M” and/or “T” and a rating number. Only devices that are rated for HAC will be labeled this way. If you see an “M3”, “M4T4” or “T3” label then this device is HAC compliant. “M” refers to the device’s RF (Radio-frequency) 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 aid on the telecoil setting.
Importantly, it is advised you try a cell phone with your hearing aid in the store before making any purchase. Also, try more then one device with different HAC ratings to find the one that gives you the clearest signal without interference or static. Be sure to understand the return policy and any early termination fees before signing up for cell phone service. Since a cell phone’s RF emissions can change depending on your location, be sure to fully evaluate your listening experience outside the store during the return period. Stay informed and be your own advocate, let the cell phone retailer know you are looking for a HAC device; they are there to serve you.