Recently one of our hearing aid clients asked me if the radio waves emitted by his wireless hearing aids posed any health risk to him by wearing them daily. Of course, the big question is: Can wearing wireless hearing aids cause cancer?
If you consider that most hearing aids these day are likely wireless (Bluetooth) or wireless capable, this is information that we need to keep up to date on.
This past January I had the opportunity to track down and question the engineers (scientists) who develop wireless hearing aid technology at the Hearing Innovations Expo hosted by Starkey Hearing Technologies.
Following is the information that was shared with me by the engineers. It answered my questions and I hope it answers any questions you might have had about the possibility of risk.
Click on the titles below to reveal more information
Can the radiofrequency energy (RF) from wireless hearing aids cause cancer?
The likelihood of our wireless technology causing cancer is very unlikely. The RF (radio frequency) energy, or power output, of our wireless products, is more than 1000 times less than that of a common cell phone.
The US Food and Drug Administration has posted the following information on their website relative to RF energy.
Whereas high levels of RF can produce health effects (by heating tissue), exposure to low level RF that does not produce heating effects causes no known adverse health effects.The biological effects of radiofrequency energy should not be confused with the effects from other types of electromagnetic energy.
Very high levels of electromagnetic energy, such as is found in X-rays and gamma rays can ionize biological tissues. Ionization is a process where electrons are stripped away from their normal locations in atoms and molecules. It can permanently damage biological tissues including DNA, the genetic material.
The energy levels associated with radiofrequency energy, including both radio waves and microwaves, are not great enough to cause the ionization of atoms and molecules. Therefore, RF energy is a type of non-ionizing radiation. Other types of non-ionizing radiation include visible light, infrared radiation (heat) and other forms of electromagnetic radiation with relatively low frequencies.
The wireless hearing aid intentionally generates radio-frequency (RF) energy in order to communicate with the second wireless hearing aid in a binaural fitting, or to communicate with the wireless programmer during a programming session. However, the amount of RF energy generated by the wireless hearing aid is very low.
The relative amount of RF energy absorbed in the head of a wireless hearing aid user is given by the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires devices generating RF energy and used by the general population to have SAR levels no greater than 1.6 watts per kilogram. Starkey has tested the wireless hearing aid to the SAR requirements. The SAR level for the wireless hearing aid is 0.00142 W/kg. This is approximately 1125 times lower than the FCC limit.
Here is information that was provided by Starkey Hearing
Typically, RF power output is, as a general reference (without considering the “per Kilogram” etc. stuff” measured in Watts. It’s easy to get the whole “amps” thing mixed in with power output concerns, but it’s the Watts that give us the best relationship to commonly known specifications on devices that “transmit” as consumers.
To put that in perspective, let’s look at what kind of “Power output” Starkey hearing aid and associated devices have:
Hearing Aids: 2.5 nanoWatt or .0000025 watt
SurLink Media: 20 milliWatt or .02 Watt
SurfLink Remote: 0.5 milliWatt or .0005 Watt
SurfLink Programmer: 1 milliWatt or .001 Watt
As you can see they are all considerably less than ONE (1) Watt and in all cases are actually hundredths (1/100), thousandths (1/1000), or hundred thousandths (1/100000) of ONE watt.
A child’s toy “walkie-talkie” generally speaking, can put out up to 100 milliWatts or .1 Watt.
Typical cell phone power out is 1 (one) watt or less.
The output of Starkey hearing aids and accessories, being extremely conservative in our reference, is over 1000 times less than that of a common cell phone when measured as the FCC does its “per Kgm” measurement. That number is much larger when speaking in general or relative terms (1 Watt vs .0000025 Watt).