Your hearing aid may be equipped with a telecoil, or you may be considering a model that has a telecoil built in. As the name suggests, a telecoil is a tiny coil of wire. It sounds simple, but it significantly improves the functionality of your hearing aid. This article explains the fundamentals of what a telecoil is and how it operates to improve your hearing ability.

Telecoils inside hearing aids detect magnetism. Unlike conventional microphones and amplifiers, which amplify all sounds they encounter, a telecoil will only transmit sounds that are generated magnetically. Initially, the number one use for this function was to better hear phone conversations. The speakers in older telephone handsets included strong magnets. The telecoil-enabled hearing aid could therefore provide a clear transmission of only those sounds arriving through the telephone. Modern telephones no longer use magnets in this way. However, because the telecoil function is so popular among hearing aid users, many contemporary telephones contain supplemental electronics to make them telecoil compatible.

The usage of telecoils began with the telephone, but now they are used in many other ways. Many public sites, including movie theaters, stadiums and auditoriums, are equipped with Assistive Listening Systems that employ telecoil technology. These venues will commonly provide headsets or receivers that the hearing impaired can use with their own hearing aids to pick-up the signals. Users often say that the quality of the sound they pick up magnetically surpasses the sound quality transmitted through the air acoustically.

The age, type and size of your hearing aid can impact the way you access and use your telecoil. Telecoils are more commonly found in larger hearing aids, such as behind-the-ear models. A small switch that allows the wearer to swap into telecoil mode is most common on older hearing aids. Digital hearing aids will have programs for telecoil and non-telecoil modes. Alternating between modes can be accomplished by pressing a button on the hearing aid or on a remote control.

On rare occasions you might encounter some interference when using the telecoil setting on your hearing aid. The interference typically originates from fluorescent lights in the room or equipment such as CRT monitors. It will sound like buzzing which becomes louder as you get closer to the source of the interference.

The occasional interference is the only downside to telecoils. They really are fantastic additions that offer many added advantages. The price of a telecoil-enabled hearing aid is only slightly higher and well worth the additional capabilities.