Which Hearing Aids Work Best with Cell Phones?
With so many people glued to their cell phones today, one of the chief concerns people with hearing loss have is making sure that their cell phone will work alright with their hearing aid. There are a few ways that hearing aids can work with cell phones (using a few different technologies), and this post will touch base on the pros and cons of each. The way that the majority of hearing aids work with cell phones is through a hearing aid feature which is usually referred to as “auto-phone” (though all the manufacturers name it a little differently). The goal with auto-phone is to offer the most seamless cell phone experience, and here’s how it works.
You may be familiar with the concept of “programs” or “memories” in hearing aids. A hearing aid program is basically a preset amplification algorithm, designed to amplify sounds differently for different environments. So you may have a background noise program, or a music program, which will make the hearing aid sound different in those environments and enhance your ability to hear- per that specific environment. Well, on most hearing aids, one of
these programs that can be set is the telephone program. This program makes it easier to hear on the phone. Essentially, when you answer the phone, you will hold the phone up to your ear as you normally would, the hearing aid will recognize there is a phone there, and will automatically switch in to telephone mode (hence the name auto-phone). Now, programs or memories are usually switched manually by pushing a toggle button on the aid itself. In some cases, you will have to manually push that button to hear properly on the phone, but in most cases it is an automatic feature.
Having said all that, some people don’t even need to use a telephone program, they will hear the phone just fine in their “normal” or “universal” program. For folks that can’t use their normal program, and telephone mode doesn’t work very well for them either, often times, the telecoil feature is an option. Note: This is usually an add-on to a hearing aid and will cost a little bit extra. The telecoil is often referred to as the “t-switch” or “t-coil.” So normally, a hearing aid “listens” with it’s microphone, and then amplifies what it hears. With a telecoil, the hearing aid actually picks up a magnetic signal from the phone which represents sound, and allows for a much clearer listening experience. When you answer the phone, you’ll usually have to press a small toggle button on the hearing aid to activate the t-switch. If you want to play it safe and ensure you’ll hear okay with your cell phone, you want to use a phone which is “hearing aid compatible (HAC).” Iphones and many other smart phones now have this feature, and what that means is that a hearing aid with a telecoil can “hear” the magnetic signal the phones put out.
Lastly, a third and little less popular option but still very viable, is to purchase an additional accessory with your hearing aids that acts as a bluetooth streamer. With this device, you will actually use the streamer to answer the phone, and then the conversation will be channeled directly into both of your ears, allowing for surround sound. For a lot of people, this is a great option. Hearing the conversation in both ears really helps improve the clarity in speech and drown out background noise. Because you do have to purchase an extra accessory to use this (and carry it around all the time), it’s not as popular as the two options above. In addition, that extra accessory is usually in the neighborhood of $500, so it’s certainly not a cheap addition- but can be well worth it for the right individual. For a look at some of the best hearing aids today that offer this bluetooth capability, check out this post.
The bottom line is, getting your hearing aids to work right with your cell phone can be a bit of trial and error, but with the technology available today it shouldn’t be too big of a problem to find a solution that will work for you. By the way, all of the above features will also work for land lines as well, whether they be at work or home.
If you’d like a free phone consultation with a licensed hearing provider, please feel free to call us at 800-731-6794.