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Pacemakers: hanging on the telephone

My brother has been fitted with a pacemaker. He was told that he should not use a telephone on the side of the pacemaker. Unfortunately, that side is the only side that he can hear on - he is nearly deaf in his other ear. He has acquired a hands-free phone, but he finds it difficult to use. I can understand a ban on cordless or mobile phones, but I can't understand how a conventional phone could interfere with a pacemaker.

Dr Fred Kavalier answers your health question:

Many public places, including hospitals, have signs warning people against using mobile phones. Occasionally there is a good reason for this advice. But more often, it is based on unrealistic fears that mobile phones will interfere with electronic equipment. The British Heart Foundation gives specific advice on the use of phones for people who have pacemakers: "Mobile phones can affect some pacemakers if they are held close to the chest. It is therefore best not to carry a mobile phone in a breast pocket. Providing you hold your mobile phone on the opposite side to the pacemaker, at a distance of 15-20cm, it is unlikely to affect you. The same guidelines apply to portable telephones in the home." Your brother has been given incorrect advice. There is no reason why he cannot use an ordinary telephone on the same side as his pacemaker.

Please mail your questions for Dr Fred to health@independent.co.uk. He regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.