Cell phones are often treated as one of the basic requirements of modern life. Spending a day without a cell phone appears almost impossible once you are used to it.
Buying a cell phone for most of us is usually straightforward. We check out the model, its features and whether it fits into our budget. People using hearing aids have to check for one more feature – whether the phone is ‘Hearing Aid Compatible.’
What are Hearing Aids?Hearing aids
are small devices placed within or just behind the ear that are used by people who have hearing loss
. A hearing aid consists of three main parts, a microphone
that receives sounds from the surrounding, an amplifier
that amplifies the sound, and a speaker
that directs the amplified sound into the ear.
Hearing aids operate in two modes, with a switch that permits shifting between the modes.
In the acoustic coupling or microphone mode
, the microphone of the hearing aid is on. In this mode, hearing aids amplify all sounds in the surroundings, whether desirable or undesirable. Thus, if a patient is at a party and trying to listen to a particular person, it may not be so easy since the voices of all the people around will also be amplified. The same thing will happen when the person is trying to listen over the phone. If there is a loud sound in the background, for example, if the TV is on, both the sounds will get amplified, and the person will not be able to understand either.
The telecoil coupling mode
, on the other hand, allows the hearing aid to pick up certain sounds from an electromagnetic field, for example from cell phones, public sound systems, and auditoriums without picking up unwanted background sound. Thus, if the person is in an auditorium watching a play, he will be able to hear the performance more clearly in this mode. This mode is also ideal while talking over the phone. It must be remembered that not all hearing aids have telecoils.
Why should People with Hearing Aids be Cautious while Buying Cell Phones?
People with hearing aids using cell phones can experience problems while using a wireless device. They may experience audio disturbances due to interference from radiofrequency waves from digital cell phones. The interference results in a buzzing sound that makes it difficult and irritating for the person to hear.
However, this does not occur with all cell phones. Nowadays, several cell phones are compatible with hearing aids and cause minimal or no buzzing sound.
Are there any Ratings for Hearing Aid Compatibility for Cell Phones?
There are two ratings for cell phones to be compatible with hearing aids:
- The M rating, which is used when the hearing aid is in microphone mode. A higher M rating indicates that the chances of experiencing interference are less, and therefore, better for a person with a hearing aid.
- The T rating, which refers to the telecoil mode. A higher T rating is better for a person with a hearing aid.
A minimum of M3 and T3 is necessary for the phone to be compatible with a hearing aid.
The ratings of the cell phone and the hearing aid can be added together to assess maximum compatibility between the two, and therefore, best experience for the patient. A cell phone-hearing aid combination rating of 6 indicates the best performance in the particular mode.
What are the Features that a Person with a Hearing Aid Look Out in a Cell Phone?
A person with a hearing aid will hear best from a cell phone if both the hearing aid and the cell phone are compatible with each other. Once a person with a hearing aid decides to buy a cell phone, here are some of the features to look out for:
Are there any ways that a Person with a Hearing Aid can reduce the Disturbance over a Cell Phone?
- Look at the label of the product and the product manual – it should clearly mention that the phone is Hearing Aid Compatible. Details may also be available on the product website, which can be checked in advance. If there are some features like Wi-Fi that have not been tested with hearing aids, the manufacturer should mention the same.
- Look for the rating of Hearing Aid Compatibility. The M rating should be M3 or more while the T rating should be T3 or more. However, the rating does not guarantee that the person will be able to hear extremely clearly since the compatibility should be between the particular phone and the particular hearing aid.
- The phone should have good volume control.
- It is extremely necessary to test the cell phone before purchase. The phone should preferably be checked outside the store as well for the disturbance. It is also important to check the terms and conditions for returning the piece in case it is not compatible. Adequate after-sales support should be available with the particular dealer.
Some tips that may be followed to improve the performance of a cell phone in people with hearing aids are:
- The phone may be required to be kept slightly behind the ear rather than on top of it to hear the clearest.
- Using a device that increases the distance between the hearing aid and the phone can reduce the disturbance. For example, a speaker phone may be used. Neck loops are also available, which connect to a mobile phone kept in the pocket. The hearing aids are put in the T mode, which perceive the sounds from the neck loops.
- If you do not mind text messaging instead of speaking, use this option more often.