healthfaqs

Interference FAQ

The digital technology used by modern mobile phone services supports more users, a greater range of services and improved privacy for conversations. Mobile communications devices generally work well with other electronic equipment. However, there are situations where there are common questions about compatibility.

The on-off nature of digital signals may cause interference to some electronic devices. The potential for interference decreases rapidly as the distance between the mobile phone and the electronic device increases. Higher frequencies of operation and lower transmit powers also tend to reduce interference.

Newer electronic devices usually offer better immunity against such interference. The GSMA has supported research on this subject.

At short range, the radio signal from a mobile phone may cause interference with electronic medical devices. At distances greater than 1-2m the possibility is substantially reduced. It is possible for mobile phones to be used in designated areas of hospitals, however, you should obey any warning signs and the instructions of hospital staff. If you use electrical medical equipment in your home, we recommend that you seek the advice of your doctor or equipment supplier. GSMA has supported research on this topic.
Brands and models of cardiac pacemakers exhibit a wide range of immunity levels to radio signals. Therefore, people who wear cardiac pacemakers and who want to use a mobile phone should seek the advice of their cardiologist. If, as a pacemaker user, you are still concerned about interaction with mobile phones, it has been suggested by national health authorities that you:  
  • maintain a 15 cm (6 inch) separation between the phone and your pacemaker;
  • do not hold your phone to your chest, e.g. don't carry the phone in a breast pocket;
  • refer to your pacemaker product literature for information on your particular device; and refer to your phone product literature for the technical parameters of your phone.
 
Tests conducted by vehicle manufacturers show no interference effects on airbags, automatic braking or cruise control systems during normal phone use, despite some media reports to the contrary. It is possible that a mobile phone could cause an interference with vehicle audio and remote locking systems, but only if held close to the devices. See also the GSMA position on mobile phones and driving.
The original recommendation to turn off mobile phones on aircraft was due to concerns about possible interference to networks on the ground from mobile phones flying overhead. In addition, it is standard practice on aircraft to turn off all types of radio transmitters and certain other electrical devices unless they have been demonstrated not to cause interference to aircraft systems. Successful trials and commercial announcements have shown that of mobile phones can be used for voice, text and data on aircraft fitted with specialist equipment. It all times we recommend that you obey airline instructions regarding the use of electronic devices and to be courteous to other travellers. In 2008 the European Commission allowed GSM based systems to be used on airlines above 3,000 m and November 2013 that was extended to also allow 3G services. In October 2011 the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that they will lift a ban on the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices on aircraft as long as the phones are in airplane mode (mobile services disabled) and are not used for voice calls.
Most new models of hearing aids are immune to interference from GSM phones that are more than 2 metres away. Some are also immune when the phone is brought up to the same ear as the hearing aid. The result depends on the level of immunity designed into the hearing aid, the nature of the hearing loss and the type of mobile phone. Some older hearing aids may have problems. Should interference be experienced, there are several things that can be done which may improve the situation. If the interference is from a nearby phone user then move a short distance away if you can, this should reduce or remove the interference. Alternatively, politely inform the user that they are causing a problem with your aid and could they move a short distance away. In cases of interference during mobile phone use a number of options are available:
  • If possible use the mobile phone at the non-aided ear;
  • Use a different, more immune hearing aid;
  • Try different phones to to check for any improvements;
  • Use a hands-free accessory (either microphone or T-Coil mode).
The GSMA has produced a podcast on this topic and more information on mobile accessibility is available here.

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