Q: I need some help with my mom’s cell phone. She is having trouble hearing using the cell phone, and she now wears hearing aids along with a mask to protect her from the pandemic. She doesn’t have a smartphone, so we aren’t able to be wireless. I was told by the audiologist what we could do, and, honestly, I was overwhelmed with trying to keep her safe. Could you please review cell phone use with hearing aids for those who don’t want a smartphone?
A: Sure! I know many people have the same question, and this is more important than ever with many of us unable to go out and about as we could before the coronavirus epidemic. I’ll be happy to list the cell phone accessories for the hearing aids. First of all, the FCC now requires that cell phones be compatible for hearing aids and meet strict guidelines to make it easier for hearing aid users to have a better experience with cell phones. The accessories and devices that connect to the phones can make the phones even more compatible with the hearing aids.
Most of the hearing aids have telecoils, and a number of cell phones are compatible and able to connect through the telecoil. The telecoil is available in over half the hearing aids, which makes it easier to connect to assistive devices such as Bluetooth accessories, which are then able to send a signal to the telecoil through such things as a neckloop or earhook silhouette. The neckloop is a wire that connects to the hearing aid and is worn around the neck to the telecoil. The neckloop generates a magnetic signal and is amplified through the hearing aid via the telecoil. The earhook silhouette is almost like the neckloop in that it is also able to create the magnetic signal that is recognized by the telecoil of the hearing aid, but instead of wearing a neckloop, it hooks over the ear.
It is beneficial for those who don’t have smartphones to use hearing-aid-compatible accessories for many reasons. One benefit is you don’t have to worry about the distance between the hearing aid and phone, which decreases the ability for feedback to occur. Also, you have the benefit of using the cell phone hands-free, just like those who use smartphones.
Having said all this, I would encourage your mom to invest in the new technology of a smartphone. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Not only are you able to speak hands-free and hear in stereo, but you can also adjust the volume of the hearing aids, change the direction of the hearing aid microphones, or even stream books on tape or music directly into the hearing aids.
We have learned a lot during this pandemic. It’s vital to stay connected, and we’re increasingly using telemedicine to communicate with healthcare professionals, making it even more important to stay up to date on our cell phone abilities.
Stay strong, safe, and healthy, and please feel free to contact our office with any questions or concerns. We are ready to serve your needs and have implemented measures to protect against the coronavirus.
Randa Mansour-Shousher, AuD, CCC-A, is a Doctor of Audiology with Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic, located at 1125 Hospital Dr., Suite 50 in Toledo (419-383-4012) and 1601 Brigham Dr., Suite 160 in Perrysburg (419-873-4327).