How to Buy Hearing Aid Compatible Cellphone

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

Hearing Loss Becoming an Epidemic in Canada

Hearing loss is becoming an epidemic in Canada, researchers warn. “People are starting to lose their hearing 20 years earlier than in the past,” said Heather Ferguson, president of the Hearing Foundation of Canada in Toronto. “I believe we’re on the verge of noise induced hearing loss becoming a Public health crisis.”

Due to the prevalence of noise in today’s society, the number of people with hearing loss is expected to grow faster than the rate of increase of the senior population itself.

A Canadian Hearing Society Awareness survey indicated five years ago that 25 per cent of people with hearing loss are under 40, and 70 per cent are under 60.

The average age of those experiencing hearing loss was 51. And 16 per cent of 6 to 19 year olds have early signs of hearing loss at the range most affected by loud sounds. And it’s only going to get worse. Victoria McLeod, an audiology manager with ReSound Canada in Toronto, said she is seeing a definite change in the numbers. “Ten years ago most people coming in were in their 70s. Now it’s people in their 50s and 60s – some are even in their 30s.”

She added that studies have indicated that untreated hearing loss can also lead to a number of long-term side-effects, including depression and accelerated dementia.

The fact is, listening to any sound at 85 decibels or higher for a prolonged period of time can cause permanent damage to hearing. The maximum safe exposure time to 120 decibels is eight seconds. The problem is there is a raft of activities in our everyday lives that exceed those noise levels.

For example, an average conversation takes place at around 60 decibels. Standing on a downtown street corner in rush hour, you’re probably exposed to about 85 to 90 decibels. While using an electric hair dryer or pushing a gas lawnmower, you’re well into the danger zone at 90-plus decibels. At peak levels, iPods can hit volumes of 120 decibels, which is louder than a chainsaw or jackhammer. Music in dance clubs can peak as high as 150 decibels. Ian Murray, a hearing instrument specialist at the Robillard hearing Aid Centres in Ottawa, said that even 30 seconds at a venue at 100 decibels – well below the level created by a single leaf blower, let alone a stack of high-powered speakers – can cause permanent hearing loss.

Since avoiding noise is not always an option in this day and age, what can people do to stop the spiraling trend to high frequency hearing loss? It’s all pretty easy, said Murray. Plug your ears. If you’re working with a skill saw, lawn mower or leaf blower, just go to your local hardware store first and buy a $15 pair of cheap sound-blocking ear protectors, said Murray. “You might just be doing a few cuts, but with hearin g loss, the damage is cumulative. Each half hour of extreme noise adds up.”

As Ferguson notes that when it comes to earplugs, there’s a disconnect between what we know, and what we are willing to do. “Musicians on stage will be wearing specially designed earplugs, but the fans aren’t. A parent will wear hearing protection in an occupational setting and then use a leaf blower or go to a concert and not wear a thing.” When you’re using an iPod or other personal music player, keep the volume levels reasonable. The informal rule of thumb is the 60/60 rule: volume should be at no more than 60 per cent for more than 60 minutes at a time.

Make sure children are appropriately protected from nearby sounds, too. The effects are cumulative for them, too. Also, don’t be afraid to get your hearing checked regularly. There are now retail outlets and kiosks that provide hearing testing services. If you find an infection is affecting your hearing, get to a doctor right away. In some cases, a steroid treatment can fix the problem before hearing loss sets in.

And if you are diagnosed with hearing loss, don’t wait years to get hearing aids. Murray said it can take people years after diagnosis to take the plunge. But given the slick, new high-tech hearing devices that are now available – including Bluetooth-enabled headsets that allow you to use cell phones and music players – there are no more excuses for not hearing the world around you properly.

You can visit the Medindia website at: www.medindia.com.

Reprinted from: MedIndia, May 30, 2007. All rights reserved

Understanding Hearing Loss

by Hugh Hetherington

To begin with, hearing takes place in the brain. The ear itself is a mechanical-electrical device not unlike a microphone. It receives the sound vibrations from around us and converts them via a multi-stage process into electrical signals that are conveyed to the brain via the auditory nerve. It is a complex system that works synergistically with all of our other senses and provides us with the ability to interpret the world around us.

This complex process, even in the most difficult listening situations give us remarkable abilities to suppress noise, focus on sounds of interest, recognize voices of people we know, and identify an humongous catalogue of sounds that have been filed away in our brains beginning from the time we were born and perhaps even before. It does all of this in fractions of a second.

Unfortunately, hearing loss impairs some of these abilities and affects individuals differently depending upon many factors. Hearing loss can happen at any age and from a wide variety of causes. Congenital hearing loss in children can delay the development of speech and can result in social and educational difficulties. Hereditary hearing loss can show up at any age as can other causes, such as, excessive noise exposure, head trauma and inner ear damage from infections or taking ototoxic medications.

When hearing loss occurs relationships can begin to suffer. There is frequently a misunderstanding about hearing loss, not only by most hearing persons, but by those who suffer from the disability. It is often interpreted as being rude, unfriendly, or even a sign of mental confusion or dementia. It can be called an “invisible disability” and, as such, family, friends and co-workers do not understand the impact it has on the life of the hearing impaired individual. Consequently, they do not know what is needed to make communication easier. To complicate the matter further, many in the early stages of hearing loss fail to recognize what is happening. They are said to be in denial. Can you deny something you don’t know you have? Just asking! The problem generally becomes noticeable at work or when a family member or friend complains about the difficulty in communicating.

Common misconceptions are that hearing aids restore normal hearing or that louder is better. In cases of mild hearing loss this may be partially true, however, in the moderate to severe cases of sensorineural hearing loss, cochlear damage has taken place and making them louder does not restore the missing sounds. Clarity is the issue and appropriately fitted hearing aids along with the right attitude, learned coping strategies and use of other assistive listening devices can help to manage the hearing loss and improve the quality of life for the hearing impaired person and those around them.

How a person feels about their hearing loss and how well they manage their needs are the keys to being successful. The first step is acceptance that there is a problem. This needs to be recognized by all concerned. Communication is a two way process. Patience and understanding are necessary. Certain accommodations are also necessary. Don’t try to communicate from different rooms. Get the attention of the hearing impaired person before beginning to speak. Ensure that you are facing each other. When necessary, make sure that the environment is conducive to good communication by getting away from noise and ensuring adequate lighting. Courtesy, patience and understanding on both sides will lead to less stress and a more enjoyable life.

Reprinted from North Shore Newsletter, June 2007 Edition. All rights reserved