Mobile phones, like hearing aids, come in a variety of different models and brands. If you’ve already gone through the process of choosing hearing aids, then picking a hearing aid compatible mobile phone might seem familiar to you. There are several variables to keep in mind when searching for the right mobile phone and understanding how these variables interact with different hearing aid models can help narrow down your options.
Hearing aids and mobile phones, when not compatible, can introduce issues such as interference, intruding background noise, and missed notifications. Although all smart phones are required by the FCC to be hearing aid compatible (HAC), some offer better features than others. For those with mild or moderate hearing loss, including tinnitus, this assures that all models of smart phones will be useable. But if you want less interference or have severe hearing loss, you may want to investigate M and T ratings.
The M rating in a phone refers to the microphone rating – the higher the rating, the better the compatibility. This rating ranges from 1 to 4, and most smart phones have the relatively high rating of M3. The T rating, referring to telecoil, also has a range of 1 to 4. Most smart phones have a rating of T4, but it’s still a good idea to check before committing to a specific phone model. There are also telecoils inside hearing aids, which have the option of being turned on or off. This allows the sound to be directed to the hearing aid’s processor without the use of the microphone and can reduce feedback.
Other variables to be aware of are vibration and volume control. Although most phones have an option for vibration so that you don’t miss notifications, you may want to find a phone with a strong vibration so that it’s easier to notice. Volume control is also important, because some phones models have higher volumes than others.
There are also specific data plans available that cater towards people who prefer to text rather than call. For example, Rogers offers a discounted plan to people who do not require voice services, Verizon Wireless has messaging only plans, and Sprint has a Relay Data Plan that can redirect expenses towards data rather than voice services.
If you’re interested in making video calls, you’ll also need to look for models with a front facing camera. Many apps, like Facebook Messenger or Facetime, can be used by any phone with an app store. There are even video relay services available that provide a sign language interpreter to help with video communication. Purple, Global VRS, and Sorenson are some options for this type of service. Additional services are available that will transcribe your voicemails direct to your device via text message.
Bluetooth hearing aids are another option to consider. Many hearing aid models can connect to smart phones and other Bluetooth devices, and are relatively easy to set up as well. By using Bluetooth hearing aids, you can stream audio directly from your mobile phone to your hearing aids. Bluetooth hearing aids are popular because of the level of ease and clarity of sound that they provide. But don’t forget – the compatibility between hearing aids and smart phones depends on both the model of phone as well as the hearing aids, so it’s important to check that your hearing aids have Bluetooth capabilities before searching for a phone with Bluetooth.