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If you’re wearing or interested in buying a hearing aid with a telecoil feature, you may be curious about what it does. As its name implies, a telecoil is a small coil of wire. It sounds simplistic, but it greatly improves the functionality of your hearing aid. This article explains the basics of what a telecoil is and how it works to improve your hearing ability.

Telecoils inside hearing aids detect magnetism. Unlike standard microphones and amplifiers, which amplify all sounds they encounter, a telecoil will only transmit sounds that are created magnetically. Initially, the main use for this function was to better hear phone conversations. Since older phones used magnets in their speakers, telecoil devices could provide a clear transmission of a phone conversation. Modern telephone technology has done away with these magnets, but many phones will include electronics that allow them to communicate with telecoil devices.

Phones are not the only use for a telecoil. Many public sites, including auditoriums, stadiums and movie theaters, are equipped with Assistive Listening Systems that utilize telecoil technology. The venue may loan you a receiver or headset that will assist your hearing aid in detecting these signals. Users often report that the quality of the sound they acquire magnetically surpasses the sound quality transmitted through the air acoustically.

The way you use your telecoil will vary depending on the type, size and age of your hearing aid. The telecoil function is more common in larger hearing aids, including those with a case that fits behind the ear. A tiny switch that allows the user to swap into telecoil mode is most common on older hearing aids. Digital hearing aids will have programs for telecoil and microphone modes. Switching between modes might be achieved 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 generally originates from fluorescent lights in the room or equipment such as CRT monitors. It will sound like buzzing which gets louder as you get closer to the origin of the interference.

The possibility of interference is a small price to pay for the many benefits offered by telecoil-equipped hearing aids. Telecoils are generally inexpensive and definitely worth including in any hearing device.