Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • May 2016
Written by 

Time for a hearing aid? Don’t forget the telecoils!

You live in Wisconsin where it’s cool a good share of the year. Would you buy a new car without air conditioning because it was smaller and cost $40 less than one with AC? Probably not.

You ask, “What does that have to do with hearing loss and hearing aids?” Consider the choices we make when we purchase consumer products. Most of us do research on what we want and need before we buy high cost items. We ask questions and expect to get answers. We all want the most we can get for the money we spend.

A single modern digital hearing aid costs between $1,500 and $3,500. Most people need two. Do the math! You will want to be sure what you buy has every option that will help you hear better in all situations. Be aware that after a mandatory 30-day trial period, these devices are rarely returnable.

While hearing aids are prescribed and programmed by experts in the field, they are rarely covered by insurance, and are specifically excluded by Medicare. They are marketed to potential customers like consumer products. Today’s hearing aids are worth their price, but it pays to do some homework before you buy, and it helps immensely to talk to other people who use hearing aids to find out about their experiences.

A hearing aid without a tiny internal component called a telecoil, is like that car without air conditioning. While you won’t use it all the time, you will be glad it’s there when you need it.

Seventy percent of hearing aids today have built-in telecoils. However, they must be computer activated and programmed. Don’t assume your provider will automatically do that, or that they will explain or even recommend it. Proactivity matters. Ask for it. If the dispensing professional tells you this is “old technology” or that you don’t need it, go elsewhere.

Telecoils were originally developed for use with hardwired landline phones. However, they also connect with newer technologies and are the key to connecting hearing aids to the Hearing Assistive Technologies (HAT) that are mandated by the Americans with Disabiities Act.

To use a telecoil, the hearing aid user simply pushes a button on the aid to turn off the external microphone and focus on sound coming directly from a specific source. When programmed correctly, you will hear that sound with increased clarity, and no background noise.

Telecoils connect to sound systems in large venues where hearing clarity is necessary for participation and enjoyment. HAT can improve your understanding of dialogue at work, in meetings, in theaters, at performing arts centers, at church and in other places where clear hearing is needed to participate. Often people use telecoils at home to listen to television while keeping the volume down for the comfort of others. Face it, when you cannot hear well in these familiar settings, it is a very lonely world.

In all instances, the best configuration involves a hearing loop system of some kind. With FM and infrared systems that are installed in some places, it means connecting a personal neckloop to a receiver that is compatible with the transmitter being used.

On the other hand, if a room sized hearing loop is installed in a venue, one only has to push the telecoil buttons on their hearing aids to clearly hear what is coming through the sound system. Since the desired sound passes directly from microphones to the hearing aids, it bypasses all the ambient noise and reverberation that makes hearing in a large room difficult. It’s like having binoculars for your ears!

Wisconsin is a frontrunner in the installation of Hearing Loop Systems. A list of looped venues can be found at:

You can learn much more from members of Fox Valley Chapter of The Hearing Loss Association of America. Meetings and discussion groups are looped. Meetings are open to anyone interested in learning. Let’s talk about it! HLAA’s mission is to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss, through education, information sharing, and by providing peer support. Education is the key to living well with hearing loss. For more information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Julie Olson

HLAA Fox Valley Chapter is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. It has no staff or office space. Meetings are held monthly from March-December, except for the month of August. For information about the organization, please visit or call Lorna at 725-2579.

Julie Olson, a Neenah resident and freelance writer, is a retired educator and human service case manager. She is a charter member of the chapter. Julie has lived with adult onset progressive hearing loss herself for years, and uses both a hearing aid and a cochlear implant to remain in the hearing world.

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