If you’re using or considering purchasing a hearing aid with a telecoil function, you might be curious about what it does. This tiny coil of wire may seem simple, but the advantages it can provide to individuals who use it are manifold. This short article explains the fundamentals of what a telecoil is and how it operates to improve your hearing ability.

Telecoils inside hearing aids detect magnetism. Standard microphones and amplifiers in hearing aids amplify all the sounds that they encounter, but a telecoil only transfers magnetically created sounds. The telecoil was first introduced to enhance listening ability on the telephone. Older telephones used highly effective magnets in their speakers, generating magnetic signals that telecoil-equipped hearing aids could pick up on. Modern phones don’t naturally create these signals, but many are equipped with supplemental electronics that make them telecoil compatible.

The telecoil feature isn’t just used in phones. Many public places, including auditoriums, stadiums and movie theaters, are equipped with Assistive Listening Systems that employ telecoil technology. You may find that a venue will offer you a headset to assist in transmitting these signals. Users often say that the clarity of the sound they pick up magnetically surpasses the sound quality transmitted through the air acoustically.

The way you use your telecoil will vary depending on the age, type and size of your hearing aid. The telecoil function is more prevalent in larger hearing aids, including those with a case that fits behind the ear. Older hearing aids can be switched between telecoil and non-telecoil modes using a physical switch on the device. Newer models are often pre-loaded with program modes, allowing the user to switch on their telecoil by pressing a button on the device or on a remote control.

You may have learned about interference when using a telecoil: it can happen, but it’s uncommon. You may notice a buzzing sound that grows louder the closer you get to a CRT computer monitor, old fluorescent light, or another cause of interference.

The rare interference is the only downside to telecoils. They are really wonderful additions that offer many added benefits. Telecoils are generally inexpensive and well worth including in any hearing aid.