What are the best mobile phone amplifier solutions for people with hearing loss?
My mother doesn’t like admitting that her hearing loss affects her. I sometimes get frustrated when I try to talk to her as she’s always saying “pardon” or “I didn’t catch that”. Especially when we are chatting over the phone. My mum uses a pair of hearing aids, but these don’t seem to help her on the phone. So, I thought I’d help her by looking into the current mobile phone amplifier solutions.
So, why is it hard to hear on the phone even if you wear hearing aids?
My mum has the most common type of hearing loss and hearing aids. She can hear lower frequency sounds such as a ‘B’ or ‘R’ well. These you can see on the lower left side of the image below. This is a “speech banana”. It shows you where different sounds fall on an audiogram.
My mum struggles to hear higher frequency sounds such as ‘C’ or ‘S’ which you can see on the far right of the image. This means, when I say something like ‘meet me in the CAR’ she hears ‘meet me in the AR’. Sometimes we can’t work out if we are supposed to meet at the car or bar!
Her hearing aids have a part that sits behind the ear, connected to a small earpiece that sits in the ear. The larger part behind the ear contains the microphone which is listening for sounds, such as the ‘C’ sounds. It sends those sounds, amplified, to the in ear piece. Helping her to hear the sounds she can’t make out so well.
Unfortunately, when she puts a phone to her ear the sound from her handset doesn’t reach the microphone in the hearing aid. As a result, the call comes across as muffled and lacking in clarity.
So, what’s the best available technology to boost amplifications on the phone call?
Available hearing accessories
It turns out that the ‘loudness’ of a phone is limited by regulation to prevent people from damaging their ears. Some handset manufacturers such as Doro and Amplicomms make a range of handsets that are permitted to go louder than standard. For example, Doro handsets can amplify sound by up to 30dB. In addition, they often offer additional features such as an extra loud ringer which is also beneficial for those with hearing loss.
These work quite well for some people, but the limitation of amplified mobile phones is they turn up all the sounds at the same level, rather than just turning up the bits of sounds that someone can’t hear so well. So, they can work well as a sound amplifier but don’t necessarily make calls clearer.
Visit Connevans to see their selection of their mobile products for people with hearing loss.
Bluetooth Enabled Hearing Aids:
You can now buy hearing aids that connect via Bluetooth directly to your phone. They work similarly to a ‘hands-free’ set up like streaming devices. This seems to offer a great solution, as you wouldn’t have to consider a mobile phone amplifier. They are also very personalised and you can connect them additional to items such as your TV.
Although, there are some drawbacks. The main one being cost; you’ll need Bluetooth enabled hearing aids plus a smartphone which don’t come cheap. Bluetooth hearing aids aren’t commonly available from the NHS so you’ll need to visit a private audiologist such as Boots Hearingcare to find out more.
Visit Boots Hearingcare website to find out more about their selection of hearing aids.
HD Voice Calling:
Vodafone have a “High Definition voice” service and BT have announced plans to do the same. This promises ‘Crystal Clear’ calls. Most phone networks use ‘narrowband’ calls which transmit a frequency range of 300Hz to 3.4kHz. With HD calling this range is expanded to 50Hz to 7kHz which for most people will result in much more natural life-like sound.
However, for someone with higher frequency hearing loss, this won’t help as they’ll struggle to hear the new range of higher frequency sounds. Also, this isn’t really a sound amplifier, it just allows a wider range of frequencies. HD voice also has limitations, as both the person making and receiving the call need to have a new ‘HD Voice’ enabled handset and to both be making and receiving the call on the same network.
Visit Vodafone to see more about their HD voice service and how you can set it up.
Google android offer an app called “Sound Amplifier”, an alternative mobile phone amplifier. Using your phone microphone, the app picks up on background noise and turns it down, to bring forward speech sounds. Sort of like turning your headphones into a hearing aid from your phone. This can be very helpful when you are out in a busy or noisy place and are finding it difficult to hear. You can boost and fine-tune sound, and you can adjust ears separately depending on your level of hearing loss. You can also select the strength of noise reduction depending on how loud your surroundings are. The drawback being you’ll need to keep your earphones in for as long as you need to use it, which could be awkward. Especially if you use a hearing aid.
Visit Google to see how to download and set up their Sound amplifier app.
Audacious have world first technology that promises clear calls for people with hearing loss. You can do this by swapping your current SIM card to one of theirs. No need for a mobile phone amplifier. On the surface this sounds simple enough and as you don’t need to buy any more hardware. Audacious uses the same technology used by a hearing aid; applied to a mobile phone network. You take a free, online Sound Check, similar to a hearing test, that measures how you hear on your mobile phone. Then they adapt both the frequencies or sounds of the phone call, as well as the volume the individual hearing needs. It even works both with or without hearing aids, and you don’t need to change your phone.
Visit the Audacious Mobile website to see how you can make your mobile calls clearer.
So, what is my recommendation?
If you or you know someone who finds it difficult to hear phone calls, I would give Audacious a go first. You can try their Sound Check for free on their website: www.audacious.co.uk/sound-check. All you need is a computer or tablet and your current phone. You’ll be able to find out in just a few minutes if this will work for you. If this doesn’t help, then I suggest you check out some of the other options I’ve touched on above.