A auditorium full of people listening to a woman speak, some with hearing aids and radio frequencies connecting their hearing aids to the speakers microphone

Will Your Hearing Aids Interfere with Other Radio Frequencies?

Have you ever wondered if hearing aids and radio frequencies influence each other? To answer the question, we’ll first take a look at modern hearing aids. 

A modern hearing aid is a device that not only amplifies sound, but helps you to stay connected by wirelessly accessing Bluetooth devices, or streaming phone calls and music to your ear. It has become easier to connect to your TV, apps, or assistive devices by using the wireless or Bluetooth options that are available in modern hearing aids. Problems relating to being able to hear in noise a noisy environment and over a distance can also be managed with wireless devices for hearing aids. Nowadays there is even the possibility to track your hearing aids via your mobile device should you have misplaced or lost them! 

Although all these additional options are very handy to help us stay connected, many people are asking questions about safety and how hearing aids may interfere with other devices and radio frequencies. Hearing aid users also seek tips and precautions when flying or getting other medical treatment. The following section will help you to understand hearing aid connectivity.

Hearing Aids and Radio Frequencies

Hearing aids when jogging, listening to music, or connecting

In the past hearing aid users struggled to access personal audio devices such as mobile phones and music players. If you liked to listen to music while jogging or at the gym, you would have had to remove your hearing aids to use headphones. Today various wireless options are available in hearing aids so that you can connect with personal electronic devices and stream signals directly to your hearing aids. Connectivity has become one of the top added benefits of hearing aids and most people like the additional features of being able to use their hearing aids like wireless headphones. They’re able to amplify sound according to their own needs and based on their hearing abilities.

There are different wireless features in hearing aids that enable us to communicate without direct cable connections. Here are some everyday examples of hearing aids and radio frequencies. 

Different wireless features or options in hearing aids: Bluetooth, telecoil, FM

Wireless feature: Symbol: What it does: Where do you use it:
Bluetooth: Bluetooth is a type of radiofrequency that operates at about 2.4GHz and is a wireless method of pairing different technologies and exchanging data over short distances. It uses short-range ultra-high-frequency radio signals for linking devices. A wide variety of products incorporating Bluetooth connectivity, including mobile phones, music players, headphones, audio devices, computers, tablets, and televisions. Many hearing aids now have Bluetooth so that you can connect to other devices while using your hearing aids.
Telecoil: A telecoil is a small coil inside most hearing aids that works as a small antenna that can pick up sounds from a loop system that acts as an electromagnetic field. A telecoil program can be created in many hearing aids. Loop systems are commonly installed in public places for hearing aid users so that they can link up their hearing aid with the sound system in a church, theatre, bank, and taxi. Look out for the telecoil symbol in public places.
FM (frequency modulation) system: FM  Low powered radio signals sent wirelessly from an external microphone to improve the speech signal from a speaker. The speaker wears a transmitter and the hearing aid user has a built-in or external receiver that links with the hearing aid. It is almost like having a personal “radio system” for your hearing aid.  It is mostly used in educational settings for hearing impaired children at schools, students in lectures, at meetings, small gatherings, and at noisy restaurants to improve hearing in noise and over a distance.

Staying connected with my hearing aids

Information about your device will hopefully help to put you at ease when using your hearing aids for better hearing and connectivity. Most hearing aid users wear their hearing devices for about 8 to 16 hours a day and are encouraged to wear them all waking hours to enhance hearing abilities and to get better at listening.

For most people, their mobile phone is within arm’s reach and part of their essential belongings. Mobile phones are used to link to the internet, check emails, read the news, browse social media, and keep in touch with other people and loved ones.

We use our primary senses, our eyes, ears, and hands for touch to gather information. It makes sense that your hearing aid should then support connectivity to essential items such as your phone or other devices. This is where hearing aids and radio frequencies come in. Wireless and Bluetooth technology was therefore designed so that easy communication from one device to another is possible.

Should I worry about wireless radiation when using these features in hearing aids?

When people hear the word “radio frequency” they often think about radiation. There are, however, different types of radiation, those that are safe for everyday use and on the other hand radiation for medical examinations and treatment that is very different. It can be summarised as follows:

Ionizing radiation:

Non-ionizing radiation:

Ionizing radiation is a type of energy released by atoms in the form of electromagnetic waves or particles. It is higher frequency energy.

This type of radiation is used during x-rays and scans for medical diagnosis. One should not be exposed to this radiation daily and it is performed under strict medical supervision and very handy for medical diagnosis and treatment.

Non-ionizing radiation refers to any electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy to ionize atoms or molecules (can’t remove an electron from an atom or molecule). It is lower frequency energy.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are classified as non-ionizing radiation. This type of radiation doesn’t pose a health risk and won’t cause harm when exposed to it. Slight heat may be generated during use. A mobile phone will for instance consume and use much more power and produce non-ionizing radiation compared to a hearing aid. There will be a minor risk for a hearing aid user. If you are still worried, it would be better to get rid of your phone than your hearing aids.

It is important to remember that a hearing aid is a strictly regulated medical device and classified as safe to use. Any device with wireless and Bluetooth connectivity is required to meet governmental wireless communication standards making hearing aids and radio frequencies a safe combination. The word “radiation” unfortunately has a strong negative connotation and it shouldn’t overshadow the benefit that hearing aid users have to connect to wireless and smart devices. Maybe it is time to “rewire” this connotation and enjoy the benefit of being more connected with people around you and technology that ease daily activities.

Here’s a fun fact about the name “Bluetooth”

Did you know that the name “Bluetooth” comes from a Scandinavian king, called Harald Bluetooth. He was good at getting people to work together and managed to unite his land during the 10th century. His initials form the iconic Bluetooth symbol that we all recognize and use today.

The take-home message for hearing aid users is to remember that Bluetooth in hearing aids was introduced so that you can unite your aid with other devices and technology to better “rule” over them and have access to more hearing options and improve your hearing ability!

Traveling with hearing aids

It is important to remember that hearing aids are tuned specifically for your hearing loss and consistent hearing aid use can help to keep your hearing abilities sharp and delay the effects of the natural progression of hearing speech over time.

Many hearing aid users are worried that they may not be able to travel by air with their hearing aids or have easy access at airports, due to the wireless signals that they can send. The good news is that you can safely travel with your hearing aids and most countries have statements for supporting people with hearing loss when traveling. Devices like hearing aids and pacemakers are exempted because they don’t emit signals that might interfere with aircraft controls when flying. It is therefore not necessary to remove your hearing aids when flying or when at an airport security checkpoint. The hearing aids should also not be affected by x-ray inspection or when you walk through metal detectors, but it would be advised to also check with a specific manufacturer depending on your device.

If you are concerned, you may ask for a full-body pat-down inspection. You can also show your device to the officer for visual and physical inspection and inform them of your hearing disability. Some countries provide hearing aid disability identification cards that can be worn when traveling for peace of mind.

Take note: Cochlear implant users should take note that different safety recommendations apply for going through security checkpoints and magnetic resonance exposure and can be confirmed with their implant center.

What to do when you travel with hearing aids

Do’s

Don’ts

Do wear your hearing aids as it is good for your hearing and listening. It is safer to hear than not to hear! Don’t leave your hearing aids at home!
Put your hearing aids in a safe place that you can easily access should you need to take them out. Don’t hide your hearing loss – inform staff, flight attendants, security officers, or others about your hearing aids.
Pack your dry aid kit, drying tablets, and cleaning tools to keep hearing aids dry and clean. You are required to turn off hearing aids or their wireless features on a plane.
Take extra batteries and hearing aid case. If you use rechargeable batteries make sure about power supply and connections. Don’t put them in your luggage – it is better to have them in your ears or in your bag that you take with you.
Carry your extra hearing aid supplies, accessories, chargers, cables, and connections in your hand luggage so that they don’t get lost. Don’t forget to mark your hearing aid casings and accessories for easy tracking should you forget them somewhere.
Do ask the medical staff about hearing aid use during certain medical procedures or when going for surgery in case you can’t hear.

 

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