To determine whether digital signal processing (DSP) hearing aids produce conducted radio frequency interference that can affect the use of personal FM systems, to quantify the nature of any such interference, and to discuss practical remedies.
Sixteen DSP hearing aids were used. Measurements were made of the spectral characteristics of any conducted radio frequency interference produced by each aid with FM shoe and 40 cm direct audio input (DAI) lead when the DAI facility was enabled. Measurements were made with the aid, shoe, and lead inside an electrically screened chamber. The effect of DAI lead length was also investigated with one of the hearing aids. Finally, some subjective listening tests were carried out by using different FM systems coupled to a number of the aids.
All but four of the DSP hearing aids tested produced readily measurable interference, with some much worse than others. Levels of interference were high enough with some hearing aids to be likely to significantly impede signal perception when the radio frequency of the interference coincided with the radio frequency of the FM system. This usually occurs intermittently as a result of the processor design of most DSP hearing aids. The listening tests suggested that when personal FM systems are in use with some DSP hearing aids, the interference would be audible, unpleasant, and detrimental to audio quality.
DSP hearing aids without low electromagnetic interference processors should not be fitted to clients if personal FM systems are expected to be used. Manufacturers of DSP aids should be encouraged to use low electromagnetic interference processors in their DSP hearing aid design. Meanwhile, FM systems should be used with DSP hearing aids in such a way as to ensure high received radio signal levels, and FM receivers should be switched off when not in use.