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My Hearing Aids Set Off Store Security Alarms

Thomas A. Powers, PhD

April 17, 2006

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Question

I have been a hearing aid wearer for 15 years. I am currently testing some new models that communicate wirelessly from one ear to the other. I have noticed that a couple of brands have set off the shop lifting security alarm at the entrance/exit at a couple of stores. (Mervyns, Barnes and Noble and Target) How can I prevent this from happening? Are some brands more susceptible to this? It happened when I was using testing the ACURIS E2E and also the Rexton Calibra 2. Can you help explain why this is happening?

Answer

The ACURIS and Calibra hearing aids share the same wireless technology and they have been evaluated extensively for issues related to wireless interference with other devices.

While I do acknowledge that the store alarms may have been going off, it is very unlikely that it was due to an interaction with your hearing aids. Security systems used in retail stores typically work with "coded" wireless transmissions. They are looking for a specific code that is in the theft detection tags that are placed in or on various products in the store. This code prevents the security system of one store from picking up transmissions from other wireless devices, it is a "unique" identifier for that system. Otherwise the security system could potentially be picking up all kinds of wireless transmissions resulting in false alarms. ACURIS and Calibra have a similar coding system to prevent interference from other wireless devices. It is extremely unlikely that the code in the security system (especially across several stores) is the same as the one used in your hearing aids.

Even if the security system was working at the same wireless frequency of the hearing aids, it would be more likely that the hearing aids would stop working when standing in the middle of the security system detectors than actually setting off the detectors themselves.

The only explanation that we can come up with is that these are very old security systems that are not using a unique code to protect against interference. These older units pick up that there is a wireless transmission and are set off. If this were the case, any mobile phone, pocket radio, wireless car remote or other wireless device would set off the alarm.

We would suggest that you try this experiment. Go to a store and when the alarm goes off back up and then take out your hearing aids and turn them off by taking out the batteries. Let the security system reset and then walk through again. If the alarm goes off again it is not the hearing aids but something else. You may want to talk to the store manager before you do this! If you are able to test the alarm system and the issue is your hearing aids, please bring them back to your hearing care professional so that we can look into this further.

For More information about Siemens Hearing Aids, visit www.siemens-hearing.com

Thomas A. Powers, Ph.D. is currently Chief Research Officer for Siemens Hearing Instruments. Powers received his B.S. from the State University of New York at Geneseo, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Audiology from Ohio University. His primary areas of expertise include hearing instrument technology, outcome measures and directional microphone technology.


thomas a powers

Thomas A. Powers, PhD


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