Over the last few years, we have had more and more of our patients who not only are using cell phones, but who are getting rid of their traditional land-line phones and using their cell phones as their primary means of phone communication. Until recently, this has really been an issue for those with hearing loss. However, recent changes in FCC regulations and cell phone technology have made this a much less problematic issue.
Most hearing aids sold in the last few years have features that work well with hearing aid compatible (HAC) cell phones. The trick, then, becomes finding the right phone for you and your hearing technology.
So, how do I find out if a cell phone will work for me?
(The following information is from the American Speech and Hearing Association.)
Look at the label. To find out if a cell phone is hearing aid compatible (HAC), look for the label in one of these places:
- On a card next to the phone on display at the cell phone store
- On the cell phone package
- In the cell phone users manual
If you cannot find the label in any of these places, the phone is not HAC.
Rate your phone. Cell phones that work well with hearing aids will have a microphone (M) rating of M3 or M4. This means the cell phone will work with the hearing aid in the microphone position. A higher M number means the phone will sound clearer.
If you have a hearing aid or cochlear implant with a telecoil, look for a phone that has a telecoil (T) rating of T3 or T4. A higher T rating will make your conversations clearer.
Rate your hearing aid. Hearing aid makers will use a similar rating system to let you know how well their hearing aids work in the microphone or the telecoil mode. Hearing aids using the microphone mode will be rated from M1 to M4. A higher rating means you will hear less noise and have a better connection. The rating for the telecoil will be from T1 to T4. A higher rating means you will be able to hear better in the telecoil mode.
Add up the M- or T-ratings for the cell phone and the hearing aid.
- Combined rating 6: Considered “best” or “excellent.” This rating would provide highly useable, excellent performance.
- Combined rating 5: Considered “normal.” Acceptable for normal, regular phone use.
- Combined rating 4: Considered “usable.” May be able to complete a brief call, but not an acceptable quality for normal, regular phone use.
Most new hearing aids will have an M2/T2 rating. Ask your audiologist about the rating of your hearing aid. The rating system is not required for cochlear implants.
What other features should I consider?
You may want to look at other features and options that make cell phones usable and convenient. These cell phone features include:
- Volume control. Most phones have an adjustable volume control.
- Display and keypad lighting control. This is important because the lighting is a source of noise for telecoil users.
- Vibrating alerts or vibrating accessory.
- Flashing screen to alert to a call.
- Different ringer volume and tones.
- Text messaging services and ease of use on the phone device.
- Speaker phone. Using a speaker phone may reduce interference by putting distance between the phone and the hearing aid.
- Teletypewriter (TTY) or other assistive device connections. Make sure the phone has “TTY Mode” or “TTY Option” in its menu system. Look for the TTY symbol on the phone’s package or user manual.
- Video streaming.
(This information may be found on the ASHA site )
What else can I do to hear better on my cell phone?
Many hearing aids, even in lower technology levels, now come with available “streamer” or “remote connection” devices. These devices are either worn around your neck or put in your pocket and “talk” to the hearing aid via Bluetooth technology. Most cell phones also are Bluetooth ready, which means that these streaming devices essentially use Bluetooth as a bridge to help your hearing aids and your cell phone to work together. These devices have become more and more user friendly and are highly recommended by our audiologists.
Our last bit of advice seems simple, but is often disregarded. Because the visual element of communication (lip reading, body language) is missing on a phone conversation, talking on the telephone is more difficult for everyone. If you have a hearing loss, it is always a great idea to ignore the temptation to “multi-task” while talking on the phone. Those who focus 100% of their energies on the conversation at hand will find themselves much more successful in understanding what is being said. (That goes for all of us, even those with normal hearing!)
If you have questions about cell phone / hearing aid compatibility, please give us a call at 801-770-0801 and we would love to answer your questions!