Can You Hear Me Now?

phone1 phone2There are over 36 million Americans with significant hearing loss and the numbers are projected to continue to grow.  One of the significant signs of hearing loss is difficulty communicating on the phone.   Popular slogans for phone companies have leveraged this fact.  It could be the cell phone, a landline phone, or both.  Some individuals who have hearing loss have no difficulty on the phone.  Others do.  It varies from person to person.  This is not an exhaustive list, but here are six telephone solutions:

  1.  Use a telephone with an amplifier or volume control.  Most of us have the volume at the maximum setting on our cell phone even if we have normal hearing.  Sound quality on cell phones varies, sometimes based on the location of the caller, proximity to a tower, or quality of the phone.  Many landline type phones have volume controls too.
  2. Use the speaker phone function.  The biggest advantage speaker phone use provides is binaural hearing.  When we use both of our ears instead of just one, we can hear better functionally.  This is especially true for the hearing impaired.  Using speaker phone minimizes the risk of annoying feedback (squealing) from a hearing aid.  Just remember, speaker phone sounds great on your end, but not always so great for your telephone partner.  When using speaker phone, eliminate background noise as much as possible.  Make sure to project your own voice into the phone microphone.  Don’t talk to a phone laying on the table or desk.  It is difficult for the listener on the other end.
  3. Consider a captioned phone.  Captioned phones work like closed captioning on television or movies.  The audio signal can be heard, but a visual text of the audio is also displayed on a screen.   The captioning can be sent to a mobile device or available in a web browser.  Internet service is required.  CaptionCall and CapTel are two types of captioned call services.  Captioned Telephone Service (CTS) is a federally funded program administered by the FCC as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  4. Work with your audiologist re: programming your hearing aid for the phone.  Consider using the telecoil feature on your hearing aid.  Telecoils eliminate the risk of annoying feedback on the phone by connecting through an electromagnetic signal.  Some of my patients have more than one phone program or setting on their hearing aid.  Some individuals communicate on the phone for work and that might create different demands than personal phone use.
  5. Consider an assistive device.  This could be a neckloop that works with the hearing aid telecoil and provides listening through both aids simultaneously or it could be a Bluetooth connector.  These additional hardware pieces have been very popular with consumers the last three to four years.  Most hearing aid manufacturers have their own version of assistive devices for connecting.
  6. Today’s newest technology syncs directly with one’s hearing aids through apps on smart phones and tablets.  Currently those apps work on iPhones with new model hearing aids.  Android platform apps are on the horizon.  The development of new technology is encouraging and the range of options provides many different solutions.

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