Talking on the phone is one of life's little pleasures. It helps to keep you in contact with friends and family, and allows you to maintain an active social life. However, if you are living with hearing loss, you may find it difficult to understand phone conversations. It's important to keep up relationships with family members and friends for your health and wellbeing as well as your safety if you are living by yourself. Hearing aid compatible phones make it easy for people with hearing loss to hear the voice on the other end of the line without any buzzing, humming or whining noise.
The Federal Communications Commission created the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988, which requires telephone manufacturers to be compatible with hearing aids. This means that hearing aids can operate in two different modes: Telecoil or acoustic coupling.
If you have a hearing aid with acoustic coupling, this means that sounds that are around the user are received and amplified. People who have issues with hearing in loud situations may not choose a hearing aid with this type of amplification because it picks up both the sounds that are intended to be picked up and those that are not, such as ambient or background noise.
People with severe or profound hearing loss will generally have a hearing aid with a telecoil because it blocks the unwanted noise and only amplifies the desired sounds, such as the person on the other end of a telephone. A magnetic field sends signals to the hearing aid created by compatible telephones.
Although a traditional household telephone usually won't generate a high level of interference, digital or wireless phones are much more prone to this. Since electromagnetic energy is transmitted through these types of devices – through the antenna or a backlight – it can cause issues in hearing aids. To determine the best possible phone, the FCC created a rating system that gives the phone and hearing aids a score. These two scores should be added together to find the best possible hearing aid compatible phone.
If the sum of the telephone rating and hearing aid rating is four, the telephone is usable, and if it has a rating of six or higher, the phone will have an excellent performance with a hearing aid.
Phones with hearing aid capabilities should not be hard to find, and the FCC requires that phone manufacturers and wireless providers have a minimum amount of compatible phones. Each provider is also required to release or update their list every year. Phones must have a different level of functionality and features so people with hearing aids can find the one that best suits their needs.
Inductive coupling: Every wireless provider is required by law to offer at least one-third, or 10, phone models with a T3 rating or higher. Additionally, manufacturers must have one-third of handset models with the same rating.
Acoustic coupling: Wireless phone providers must have at least an M3 rating for 50 percent, or eight handsets, for each digital air interface. This rule is applied to both nationwide providers and local or regional service providers.
People with hearing loss may also want to consider different features offered in hearing aid compatible phones so they are able to properly use the device.
Volume control: Many phones on the market have volume control, and this is an important feature to consider when looking for a hearing aid compatible phone. This allows you to change the volume easily since people on the other line of the phone may have different settings. Volume control is also important to consider when it comes to the ringer. You may benefit from having a variety of ring tones available, since many people with hearing loss will find it more difficult to hear high-pitched noises.
Other alerts: Some phones can flash or vibrate when someone is calling, so you don't have to only rely on hearing the noise. Lighting or flashing can be a great feature so you do not miss calls if you are otherwise watching television or listening to music.
Speaker phone: This feature can actually help people with hearing aids because it can reduce the interference between a phone and the hearing aid. Most phones on the market will have speaker phone, but it may be helpful to ask someone how to activate it when purchasing the device.
Speech-to-text: These telephones make it easier for people with hearing loss to comprehend speech because you are able to follow along on a screen while you are listening to it. Also known as captioned telephones, similar to closed captioning on a television, these devices are great for individuals who are on the phone often. You may also want to consider a telephone with a large screen so you can read text easily during a phone call. People with hearing loss may also prefer to text others, so you'll want to make sure that you have a proper device that makes this communication simple.
Hearing aid compatible phones are available through many different providers, and you can check your specific service's website for the best phones. Cell phone companies, like AT&T and Sprint will have a list of phones that are best for individuals who wear hearing aids. It is also best to make sure that you can try the cell phone before investing money into it, because interference can change depending on location and it is very possible to have to try several models before deciding on one. The highest rating you can find is M4/T4.
This content was last reviewed on: July 22nd, 2013