We have all been there. Your mobile phone rings on a busy street, on a train, or in a noisy coffee shop and you have that sinking feeling that this is going to be a difficult call to hear. Do you answer or ignore it and text them that ‘Sorry, I can’t talk now.’ message?
If you have a hearing loss, this sense of frustration can be a daily occurrence. In a major survey* of phone habits amongst older consumers and those with hearing loss, 88% describe mobile phone calls as frustrating. With 76% saying stressful and 64% saying embarrassing. The greater someone’s hearing loss, the more likely they are to view mobile calls negatively.
What are the coping strategies?
In the face of this frustration, people adopt several workarounds and coping strategies to improve hearing. In the same survey of over 1100 consumers, the 5 most popular tactics were:
Putting the phone on loudspeaker mode is also a common tactic, as is boosting the handset volume to maximum. Although, both make a private conversation almost impossible.
What can be done?
There are many devices and products available to improve hearing on the phone.
There are phones for hard of hearing users from manufacturers such as Doro and Swissphone. These can deliver louder calls than standard mobile handsets. Louder phones can improve hearing potential by amplifying all sounds. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they result in clearer calls.
Or you could try hearing aids that stream sound directly to a user’s hearing aid. This is a more personalised assistive technology for hearing loss. However, this type of hearing aid are not commonly available on the NHS and can be expensive to buy privately. Even then, a survey of phone use and hearing loss points out that only about one-fifth of people with this hearing device use it.*
Other assistive technologies include handset graphic equalisers, High Definition (HD) Voice and assisted sound apps. If you would like to know more about these, they are covered here in more detail.
A better way to hear on your mobile
Realising that there had to be a better way, Matthew Turner, founder of the mobile network Audacious, developed a technology that adapts mobile calls to an individual’s hearing. This makes speech on a mobile call far easier to hear.
He worked with top hearing scientists such as Professor Brian Moore to create a way of measuring an individual’s hearing and turn this into an algorithm that sits in the mobile phone network. Matthew elegantly describes this as a ‘hearing aid in the sky’.
“I was born deaf. Throughout my life, I’ve just wanted to connect to people on a human level. Voice communication is fundamental to that emotional connection, so 12 years ago I conceived the idea of a ’hearing aid in the sky’. With our technology, I hope to give that connection back to people with hearing loss.”
You can take the Audacious Sound Check using your current phone to see if you can hear a difference. Or, you can even conduct a free product demonstration by calling the Clear Call Challenge on 0808 196 2434.
*Questionnaire Analysis Report: Phone Use and Hearing Loss, quantitive report by Ideas for Ears, 8/9/17