Mobile phones for hard of hearing: What to look for

Finding the right phones for hard of hearing people can help reduce the stress of phone calls and feelings of isolation.

For one in six adults in the UK suffering from hearing loss, it can be very frustrating not catching what is being said. Also, it is very draining having to concentrate extra hard to follow the conversation. It’s particularly difficult if there is background noise. A large proportion of people with hearing loss avoid phone calls altogether.

However, there are some solutions available that can help. Whether struggling to enjoy talking to loved ones on the phone or lacking confidence during work calls.

Volume settings

Hear your mobile calls better with Audacious MobileSome handset manufacturers (e.g. Doro) have designed mobile phones specifically for users with hearing loss. These handsets increase the volume of the ringer and handset, as well as other features such as their alarms. A range of devices are available, from basic handsets such as the Swissvoice D28, which start from £66, to smartphones such as Doro 8035, at £180. Some of these phones for hard of hearing people like the Doro Secure 580 GSM, have other specialist features including shortcut keys for easy calling.

Specialist mobile phones for hard of hearing people will help by increasing the volume above that provided by standard handsets, as well as blocking out some background noise. This makes them good mobile phones for hearing aid users.

While this can help some people, it will only make the call louder rather than improving much needed clarity. This option also requires an upfront cost for a new device. Which may not be practical when an existing handset may be working fine, and the new device ultimately may not help.

Hearing aid connectivity

Some modern, high-end hearing aids have Bluetooth technology that connects directly with a phone, such as the Phonak Marvels. In aid of Bluetooth connectivity Apple has a service called ‘Made for iPhone’. This helps connection between their iPhones to a range of hearing aids. However, both the hearing aids and the handset will need to be a certain specification and so, could be quite expensive.

For hearing aids without Bluetooth technology, an assistive listening device, often called a Streamer, can be used to connect the mobile phone to hearing aids. The streamer can be paired with the hearing aid and other devices like a tablet, television or mp3 player. The streamer will enable easy listening to phone calls through the hearing aids. They can also be used for other useful functions such as listening to music.

Using Bluetooth connection for hearing aids can be beneficial but will require some initial set up and using Bluetooth can sometimes be a big drain on a handset battery.

Look out for M and T ratings

For a hearing-aid without Bluetooth features, it may be more beneficial to find a compatible phone. When purchasing a handset be sure to look for the M-rating (microphone) & T-rating (telecoil). These ratings range from 1-4 for hearing aid compatibility. With 4 being the best for reducing distracting noise and feedback coming in, although some unwanted noise is still possible.

Text accessibility

Hear your mobile calls better with Audacious MobileApps such as Relay UK are available which can transcribe a phone call. In real-time, the app uses the phone speaker and transcribes the conversation onto the phone screen. These services can work across multiple languages and may work beyond phone calls, for example for face-to-face discussions and conferences.

However, this doesn’t give the same experience as hearing a call. It may be important to hear the voice of loved ones or meanings can be lost when tone and expression cannot be heard. It will also require a modern smartphone and some tech know-how to install and set up the app. There is also the potential of paying an additional subscription charge on top of your standard monthly mobile contract.

Why change your phone at all?

You might not even have to change mobile phone. Just the SIM card.

Audacious Mobile is a new mobile network who use medically certified technology to adapt phone calls to a person’s individual hearing needs. By taking their Sound Check, a personalised hearing profile is created. This is then used to adapt calls to the way someone hears. For example: adjusting sounds at pitches a person cannot hear to ones they can. In trials, nine out of ten people benefited from Audacious’ personalised calls.

There’s no need to change a handset to one designed for hearing aid users, or to commit to any long-term expensive contracts. Audacious Mobile is competitively priced with monthly contracts starting at only £5 per month.

To see if this technology could work, complete their online hearing test, the Sound Check. It only takes five minutes and will give you a chart, like an audiogram. This will show which frequencies you hear well, and which are harder for you to hear over the phone. You can then hear the difference between a standard call and one processed by Audacious’ technology.

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