Hearing equipment and interference from mobile phones

In 2017, Ofcom are planning to auction new radio frequencies to mobile phone companies. This could seriously impact on hearing devices that support deaf children and adults across the country.

Radio waves operate on a spectrum, so whether you are watching TV or using wireless internet, your equipment will be using waves to receive and transmit signals.

The frequency that Ofcom is planning to sell, 2.35 – 2.39GHz, sits next to the range (2.4 GHz) used by many hearing aids, cochlear implants and radio aids.

This new frequency could interfere with those devices.

How does this affect hearing equipment?

Mobile phones using the 2.3GHz frequency could affect the wireless connections between devices. For example, if a deaf child is using a radio aid to amplify their teacher's voice, the link between the radio aid and hearing aids could be broken or the quality of sound impacted.

Tests carried out so far, have found that interference can occur when hearing equipment and mobile phones are close to one another. As over 90% of adults in the UK own a mobile phone interference could become a regular issue for deaf people if the 2.3GHz frequency is sold to mobile phone companies.

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What is the impact?

We don’t currently know the impact or likelihood of interference with hearing equipment – this is why we are calling on Ofcom to carry out more tests. Previous tests suggest that interference causes a reduction in range, complete loss or slowing down of a signal.

The possible  impact on deaf children is concerning. In the classroom, interference could translate to a child missing the words of teachers and classmates, or experiencing sound out of sync with the lip patterns of the person speaking. Young children are also unlikely to know that there is a problem or may not be able to tell an adult.

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What has happened so far?

We have met with Ofcom and the Government Minister responsible, Matt Hancock MP, to discuss these issues and a new round of testing will be carried out in January 2017, prior to the auction.

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What happens next?

  • We will work with Ofcom and manufacturers of hearing devices to ensure that testing is thorough.
  • We will continue to ask that the auction be halted until we know more about the impact of interference.
  • If interference is found, we will ask Ofcom to set out their plan to resolve any interference issues before the mobile spectrum is sold.

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What can I do?

We may ask for your support to challenge Ofcom and the Government if we are not happy with the testing or their plans to stop the impact of interference on deaf children.

If you would like to be kept up to date with this campaign please join the Campaigns Network.

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