by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
I was shocked to discover that “acoustic t-coils” are not t-coils at all–but are a deceptive practice to make you think you are getting real t-coils when you’re not.
T-coils, sometimes referred to as telecoils, t-switch or audiocoils, are tiny coils of wire in your hearing aids that pick up inductive (magnetic) signals from devices such as telephones (hence their name), neckloops, Music Links, silhouettes, room loops, etc.
To use a t-coil, if you have an analog hearing aid, you physically move a switch from the “M” (microphone) position to the “T” telecoil position. If you have a digital aid, you typically just switch to the program (memory) that is programmed to make your t-coils active. If you have one of the fancy new autocoils, you just hold the phone up to your ear and the magnetic field in the phone switches your hearing aid into t-coil mode automatically. (At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.)
Note: if you have autocoils, you cannot use neckloops, room loops, etc., because the magnetic field is not strong enough to engage the magnetic switch. Thus I recommend you never purchase hearing aids with autocoils unless they come with a manual override switch so you can physically switch them into t-coil mode for listening on room loops, etc.
These above devices are all real t-coils. Now comes the deceptive part. At least one manufacturer has resorted to calling their latest invention an “acoustic t-coil.” Acoustic t-coils are not t-coils at all. In actual fact, they are just one memory in the hearing aid that is specially optimized to work best on the phone using your hearing aid’s microphone. (If you were really thinking, that word “acoustic” should have sent up a red warning flag, since real t-coils are inductive, not acoustic.)
What’s the problem. First, these acoustic t-coils don’t work as well on the phone as real t-coils do, according to one person who has tried both. Second, acoustic t-coils don’t work at all with room loops, neckloops, etc. since there is no actual coil to pick up the induced signal.
Therefore, if you are buying hearing aids, make sure you get real t-coils (and make sure they work on a neckloop (or equivalent) before you leave the audiologist’s office.
If you don’t, you may be shocked to discover that when you finally try to use a room loop (like one man discovered yesterday), your fancy hearing aids with acoustic t-coils can’t hear a thing. To add insult to injury, the manufacturer assured him that his hearing aids cannot be retrofitted with real t-coils. Since he did not discover this deception until 6 months after he purchased his hearing aids, he can’t return them for a refund. So beware of such deceptive practices. You’ve been warned!