Hearing Aids and Cell Phones
Best Advice: Try Before You Buy
CONTRIBUTED BY THE AMERICAN SPEECH-LANGUAGE-HEARING ASSOCIATION
aving a hearing aid shouldn’t keep you from enjoying the convenience of a cell phone. Whereas incompatibility
of the two technologies is still an issue, cell phones and hearing aids are getting along better than ever. The fol-
lowing edited podcast, one in a series from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), taps
the expertise of Hearing Loss Association of America Executive Director Brenda Battat, Ph.D., and U.S. Access
Board Senior Accessibility Specialist Tim Creagan, Ph.D., to discuss the compatibility of cell phones and hearing
aids. The podcast was moderated by ASHA’s ???
ASHA MODERATOR: Brenda, how many people currently wear impacted by several factors, but the end result is many more people
hearing aids and are expected to need them in the future? And how big could actually get help for their hearing loss than do.
of a decision is it for someone to purchase and wear a hearing aid?
ASHA: On the question of compatibility with things like cell
BRENDA BATTAT: Today there are about six-million-plus peo- phones, what do you hear from your constituents?
ple who actually are using hearing aids, a very small number. It’s es-
timated that about 80 percent of people who could actually beneﬁt BB: It’s actually quite positive; things are getting better. There was a
from them don’t get them. And that’s for a variety of reasons. First survey done recently by Georgia Tech; they found that satisfaction level
of all, we all know that there’s still a level of embarrassment about is increasing but still it’s a little difﬁcult for people to ﬁnd them. And
wearing a hearing aid and about admitting that you have hearing I think that’s an educational process, they need to know what to look
loss.The concern is what other people will think about you because for and where to look.
we still do have a stigma. Another issue is sometimes people will
take the step and then they ﬁnd out it’s quite expensive. It’s an out- ASHA: You say that matters have improved. What helped bring
of-pocket expense for many people. So it’s a big decision and it’s about a positive change?
28 HEARING HEALTH A PUBLICATION OF THE DEAFNESS RESEARCH FOUNDATION
BB: The hearing aid manufacturers really got quite aggressive and
they worked on this problem and were able to increase the immu-
nity signiﬁcantly in hearing aids. So on that side there was action,
and then on the phone industry side, as a result of FCC [Federal
Communications Commission] regulations, phones are rated to
know what kind of performance you can expect. And so with
Hold the Line!
those two things going on, on the phone side and the hearing aid
side, we’ve had great improvements. Here’s more on hearing aid compatibility of cell phones.
ASHA: Tim, where there is a compatibility problem between a
hearing aid and a cell phone, what could the problem be? And The Better Hearing Institute has compiled a list of
how does one go about ﬁnding phones that are compatible? more than 70 cell phones available in the U.S. that car-
ry the highest rating of M4/T4, and are thus more likely
TIM CREAGAN: Typically the problem with hearing aids and to be compatible with hearing aids: www.betterhear
cell phones [is] an issue of what’s called interference, and it’s an ing.org/hearing_solutions/cellphones.cfm.
interaction between the hearing aid and the cell phone, which can
produce an electronic buzz or a hum. The closest example I could “How to Buy a Cell Phone when You Have a Hearing
provide, for someone who does not wear hearing aids, would be Loss” by Janice Schacter, chair of the Hearing Access
the sound that a ﬂuorescent light makes when it’s about to burn Program, has become the Better Hearing Institute’s
out. That’s a very similar sound to what a hearing aid user expe- most-downloaded article ever because of the practical
riences when using an unshielded phone and [it] is often worse information it packs, such as: an explanation of M and
when the hearing aid is being used on telecoil setting. T ratings, how compatibility is affected by things lik