Finding a Cellular Phone that is Compatible with Your Hearing Aid

Hearing aids and mobile phones have not always gotten along as well as they do today. The complex electronics in both products often triggered static, lost words or screeching interference noises. Thankfully, advances in technology and new government regulations have made the question “Will this cell phone work with my hearing aid?” simpler to answer. To help consumers shop for the right hearing aid compatible cell phone, the new regulations include a standard rating system and labeling requirement.

The first thing you need to understand is that hearing aids operate in two different modes – microphone or “M” mode, and telecoil or “T” mode. In M mode, the hearing aid uses the internal microphone to detect sounds and amplify them. 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 two modes – M and T – are each rated on a scale of 1 to 4 where 1 is the lowest sensitivity and 4 is the highest. To be labeled as hearing aid compatible (HAC) a cell phone must carry a minimum rating of M3 or T3.

Hearing aids themselves also carry M and T ratings to indicate their sensitivity and ability to block interference in each mode. When shopping for a phone, to determine its compatibility with your hearing aid, simply add its M and T ratings together with those of the phone to create a combined rating. A combined rating of 6 or more is considered excellent, a hearing aid/phone combination that would provide highly usable, interference-free performance. A combined rating of 5 is thought of as normal, and suitable for most people. If the combined rating is 4, this is thought of as acceptable but not very usable if you make a lot of extended phone calls.

This combined rating system makes it easy to shop for a mobile phone online, because it easily allows you to determine how compatible it will be with your hearing aid. If you are able to shop in a store that allows you to “try before you buy” and actually use the phone you want while wearing your hearing aid, that is of course a better idea.

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