EMF Health-effects Research

Impact of CDMA wireless phone power output and puncture rate on hearing aid interference levels

Fry TL, Schlegel RE, Grant H,

Biomed Instrum Technol 34(1) :29-38, 2000

Interference between digital wireless phones and hearing aids occurs when the radiofrequency bursts from the phone transmission are demodulated by the hearing aid amplifier. The amplified interference signal is heard as a "buzz" or "static" by the hearing aid wearer.

Most research and standards development activity has focused on worst-case scenarios with the phone operating at its maximum power. Since this power level is often not typical in urban and suburban settings, it is of value to determine the impact of lower power levels on the overall level of audible interference.

Using a frequency analyzer, and several hearings aids and code division multiple access (CDMA) phones, the audio frequency spectrum of interference was recorded for each phone-aid combination and for a range of power levels producing from no interference to maximum interference. As phone power is increased, the interference signal becomes distinguishable from the ambient noise level and a linear response region is observed in which a specified increase in power output results in a proportional increase in the overall input referenced interference level (OIRIL). As power is increased beyond the linear region, the hearing aid enters a saturation region where an additional power increase results in a reduction or no increase in the OIRIL.

The numeric differences in interference documented in this study were used in conjunction with the results of a previous study by the authors to determine the impact of reduced power on speech intelligibility and annoyance. The amount of improvement for a given power reduction depends on the radiofrequency immunity of the hearing aid and is substantial for hearing aids with poor immunity. For high-immunity aids, the level of audible interference remains low even at high phone power levels.

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