Hearing Aids & Cellphones


Just because you have hearing loss doesn’t mean you aren’t as attached to your smartphone as everybody else! Cellphones are an incredibly convenient way of life for most of us; apps have streamlined our lives, increased our productivity, and given us something to do while standing in line at the grocery store check-out. Maybe you simply enjoy talking on the phone. That works, too! It seems our phones can do everything but pour us a glass of wine or give us a back rub after a hard day. With the way technology is advancing, we’re sure those will be standard features in another year or two!

Hearing aid manufacturers aren’t oblivious to the fact that we love our phones. Most of today’s models are fully compatible with smartphones and include options that help improve the quality of life for those with hearing loss in Simi Valley and across the U.S.

Hearing Aid-Compatible Cellphones

man holding a cellphone

For those with hearing loss, many simple things most of us take for granted prove difficult. Talking on the phone is a great example. Background noise can be distracting, and a poor connection can make understanding conversations almost impossible. With this in mind, the Federal Communications Commission the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988, which required all telephones to be compatible with hearing aids by the year 2003. This was prescient given that the only mobile phones back then were roughly the size of a football and only the wealthy could afford them. The idea that they would one day be ubiquitous was pretty farfetched.

The FCC’s legislation resulted in phones that were either acoustically coupled (requiring the user to place the telephone receiver next to the hearing aid microphone) or featured a telecoil, a tiny device built into the hearing aid that picks up electromagnetic signals such as those found in induction loop systems in many public places. Wireless phone providers must ensure at least half of their devices can be compatible with hearing aids through acoustic coupling, designated by an M3 or M4 label on the phone. One-third of phones must be compatible with telecoil coupling; these are labeled either T3 or T4.

Hearing aid manufacturers use a similar rating system to let consumers know how well their products work in both microphone and telecoil mode. Their ratings range from M1-M4 and T1-T4, respectively. To determine how well your cellphone and hearing aid will work together, add up the ratings for both and consult the chart below.

  • Combined rating 6: This is considered best. This rating would provide excellent performance.
  • Combined rating 5: Considered “normal.” This is acceptable for regular phone use.
  • Combined rating 4: Considered “usable.” You may be able to complete a brief call, but the quality is unacceptable for regular phone use.

Nowadays, thanks to the proliferation of Bluetooth® technology, many smartphones are directly compatible with hearing aids and you don’t have to worry about microphone or telecoil ratings. You do, however, have to sync your phone with your hearing aid. As iPhones are most popular with hearing aid manufacturers at the moment, we’ve included instructions for syncing your hearing aids with your iPhone.

If you have any other questions about cellphones and hearing aid compatibility, your audiologist in Simi Valley can help you out!

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