• 7/17/2013 11:43:40 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    Cell phones compatible with hearing aids


    We live in a remarkable time where no one goes without a cell phone and when cell phones are used for almost every practical purpose from banking, checking out at local supermarkets to checking in on line for travel.  People with hearing loss have a wide variety of cell phone options.

    These options however, could be a bit more  complicated as these individuals require more amplification to first hear/understand  the explanation of the different models available and then  find a cell phone capable of delivering,  whatever the circumstances,  as there could be added requirements for their existing hearing aid or implant to be effective like  visual means of communicating reception.

    Thanks to FCC regulations and ever improving technology, people with hearing loss have excellent cell phone options once  you  know what to look for.  The Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988 gave the FCC authority to require that all ‘essential’ telephones be hearing aid compatible. Nevertheless, mobile and wireless phones were not part of that original regulation.  In 2003, the FCC determined that the exemption for mobile and wireless phones could severely limit accessibility for individuals with hearing loss and began establishing rules for hearing aid compatibility for digital wireless phones.

    Why the fuss?  Cell phones use radio frequency –RF, waves to communicate with cell phone towers and satellites.  But the RF waves  can produce a buzzing sound in hearing aids.  Fortunately recent regulations led to  efforts by cell phone and hearing aid manufacturers to minimize the RF interference in hearing aids.

    Acoustic coupling works best when there is minimal background noise in the environment, such as on a busy street or while other people are talking.  To achieve optimal acoustic coupling the cell phone speaker must be held as closely as possible to the hearing aid’s microphone

    Another method uses a different electronic part in the hearing aid where the microphone is temporarily turned off while the electronic part. The telecoil (also called a T-coil) is turned on.  Telecoild can be used with certain personal and public assistive listening devices such as hearing loop systems.

    To learn whether your hearing aid has telecoils and how to operate them, consult with your hearing healthcare professional or check your hearing aid instruction  manual.  They may need to be activated and/or programmed.  Some of the newer ‘invisitble hearing aids may not have a telecoil because of size limitations.

    To better understand the ratings given for these devices,  there are a few considerations to be made for compatibility with a prospective cell phone. M-ratings refer to the microphone and  involve hearing aids that do not have built-in telecoils or have telecoils not turned on.  The FCC requires that hearing aid -compatible cell phone providers indicate a quality measure (or rating) of how much ‘RF emission’ (interference) is produced by the cell phone device with M1 having the greatest interference (least compatible) and M4 having the least interferene (most compatible)  T-ratings refer to the telecoil and  involve only those hearing aids with built-in telecoils.  Similar to M-raqtings T1 are the least compatible and T4 the most compatible.

    Even when telecoils are beneficial for use with hearing aid-compatible cell phones and other audio devices, they may not be immune to other sources of interference in the environment.  For example, certain fluorescent room lighting, computer monitors, theft protection systems and even cell phone backlighting can cause radio-frequency RF emission buzzing.  Solutions could be as easy as moving to a different location but the problem may be due to malfunction of the other devices mentioned or even of the circuitry of the hearing aid itself.

    Keep in mind that M- and T-ratings for hearing aids are not regulated by the FCC,  Any reporting of these ratings for hearing aids in currently voluntarily offered by individual hearing aid manufacturers.  The FDA regulates hearing aids and it is possible that over time we may come to see increased reporting of these ratings.  The American National Standards Institute provides standards that call for a simple formula to determine the overall quality of hearing aid compatibility with cell phones.  All these variables, including ratings mean that it would be best to try before you buy.  Most cell phone providers will allow in-store trials using a live phone but you will have to ask about the store’s merchandise return or exchange policy if you want to take a cell phone to try it in other listening situations.

    Other considerations include, vibration, volume control, font size, speakerphone, Bluetooth streaming, video chat, senior mode, clamshell flip, text only plans, external microphones and various apps that make life easier for people with hearing loss.  Caution should be exercised when using apps that raise the volume, particularly when wearing earing ear buds.

    Extract from hearinghealthmag.com 




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