by Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Staff

There are so many cellphones on the market these days, it can be overwhelming when it comes to finding a phone appropriate for you. Following are some tips on what to look for in a cellphone so that it will be hearing aid compatible.

Look for a Cellphone with a rating of AT LEAST M3/T3

In the US all cellphones are tested for hearing aid compatibility. The M# represents how well the cellphone will work with a hearing aid in microphone mode. M1 is the lowest rating and is an indication of high interference. M4 is the highest rating and indicates low interference.

The T# rating represents how well the cellphone will work with a heairng aid in T-Coil mode. Again T1 is the lowest rating and T4 is the highest..cellphone1

The whereabouts of this information differs with all cellphone manufacturers. Commonly it can be found on the display card next to the device, on the product packaging, or in the phone manual. Some websites such as PhoneScoop maintain a database of this information. (note: when you go to the website, type in the name of the phone in the Jump to a phone box – top right of main screen. When the phone information comes up scroll down to features and click on ‘show missing features’. You will find the M/T rating under Accessibility, Hearing Aid Compatible)

Choose a Provider that Uses CDMA rather than GSM.

In Canada, both Telus and Bell operate on the CDMA network. Rogers, Fido and all other carriers operate on the GSM network. Phones connected to the CDMA network will interfere less with your hearing aid.

Choose a “Flip” Style Phone

A cellphone’s antenna is a significant source of interference. Generally speaking, the antenna on a flip phone will be positioned farther from the speaker than on a candy bar phone. Be wary of phones with no visible antenna.

Find a Phone with a Smaller LCD Screen

The screen is also a significant source of interference. Often phones with very large or multiple LCD screens (such as iPhones etc)will have low M# ratings. Look for a phone with one small screen.

Be Mindful of the Cellphone’s Outer Casing

There is a growing trend towards manufacturing metallic phones. The idea being that a metal phone is stronger when dropped than a plastic phone. While this is all well and good, metal phones will not work as well with your hearing aid.

Try Before You Buy

In the US it is mandatory that all phone retailers have a ‘live’ phone in store for you to try. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Canada. Still, many retailers will have working phones to demo.

Test that the volume is adequate, and that you can hear clearly on microphone and T-Coil modes.

Know the Return Policy

In store testing is no substitute for the real world. Be sure to try the phone in a variety of listening situations: at home; in the car; at a noisy restaurant etc.

Usually the return policy is based on both days and usage. Ensure that you have adequate time to do your own testing, and can exchange the phone if it is unsuitable for your needs.

Look for a Headset Jack and Bluetooth Connectivity

There are several accessories designed to assist you in hearing on a cellphone. Almost all of these rely on either a 2.5mm headset jack or Bluetooth connection. If your phones has these useful features, you will have a lot more options to assist you.

Two of the most common accessories that you can plug into the 2.5mm jack are:
1. Silhouette cord – a small thin piece of plastic is worn behind your ear, beside your behind-the-ear hearing aid. It emits a magnetic field and transmits the signal from the phone to your hearing aid when the hearing aid is on the t-coil setting. The silhouette cord has a microphone for handsfree operation.
2. Neckloop – a ‘necklace’ style cord you wear around your neck. The neckloop emits a magnetic field and transmits the signal from the phone to your hearing aid while the hearing aid is on the t-coil mode. The neckloop as a microphone for handsfree operation. Note custom hearing aids with t-coils are not always stong enough to use with a neckloop – you may have better success with a silhouette cord in these cases.

Reprinted from WIDHH’s Blog – http://widhh.blogspot.com/2008/09/how-to-buy-hearing-aid-compatible.html