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  1. Hearing Aids

Hearing Aids and Cellphones

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What is the buzzing noise in my cellphone?

People who wear hearing aids or have implanted hearing devices may hear a buzzing noise while using a cellphone. The noise is interference due to radiofrequency (RF) emissions from your phone. RF interference does not occur for all combinations of digital wireless phones and hearing aids. However, when interference occurs, the buzzing sound can make it difficult to communicate and understand speech, and may make the cellphone unusable for the hearing aid user.

The compatibility of cellphones and hearing aids is improving. Some cellphones have lower radiofrequency emissions or use different technologies that can reduce the unwanted effects on hearing aids.

What should I look for in a cellphone?

Rules set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) make it easier for you to choose a cellphone that is right for you. The FCC requires cellphone manufacturers to test their wireless handsets' hearing aid compatibility using the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)/American National Standards Institute (ANSI) C63.19 standard. Compliance of both the hearing aid and the cellphone with the 2019 version of C63.19 should lead to reduced interference for the hearing aid user. Earlier versions of C63.19 called for Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC) ratings for both the hearing aid and for the cellphone. These ratings give an indication of the likelihood that a hearing aid can be used with a cellphone such that interference is at an acceptable level. For the 2011 version of the standard, the higher the rating, the less likely the cellphone-hearing aid combination will experience undesired interference.

Labeling on the outside packaging of cell phones can tell you if they are hearing aid compatible. Hearing aid users should read and understand this information when choosing a cellphone. For more information, see Hearing Aids and Cell Phones.

What do the ratings mean?

According to the 2011 version of C63.19, cellphones that are rated good or excellent for use with hearing aids set in microphone (M) mode will have a rating of M3 or M4. The higher the M rating, the less likely you will experience interference when the hearing aid is set in the microphone mode while using the cellphone.

Cellphones have also been rated with hearing aids or cochlear implants that have a T coil. Those rated good or excellent for use with hearing aids set in T-coil mode will have a rating of T3 or T4. The higher the T rating, the less likely you will experience interference when the hearing aid is set in the T-coil mode while using the cellphone.

Hearing aid manufacturers also have used a rating system from the 2011 version of this IEEE/ANSI standard. The hearing aid ratings and the cellphone ratings were combined to help identify combinations that will provide you with a positive experience. A hearing aid rated M2 and a wireless device rated M3 with a combined rating of 5 will likely provide normal use. A rating combination of 6 would likely provide excellent performance. Every individual's hearing aid technology and settings are unique.

The HAC ratings do not guarantee performance. You should try different brands and models to see which cellphone works best for you. Also, be sure to closely examine the return policy for the device and the service provider's policy on early termination of contracts before signing up for service.

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