Cell Phone and Telephone Accessories
The FCC now requires that hearing aid compatible (HAC) cell phones meet strict guidelines for quality. All major cell phone manufacturers are now required to make HAC cell phones available to hearing aid users, and many also have HAC cell phone accessories available as well. Some hearing aid users wish to further improve their cell phone experience with other add-on devices/accessories that can make cell phones even more effective with hearing aids.
Telecoils, Dect Phones, Wearable Hearing Loops, Bluetooth Streamers, and Easy Call phone accessories are among the technologies that have been developed to greatly improve your ability to converse on the telephone. Many of these devices allow hands-free calling. Each hearing aid manufacturer has several products that improve the quality of speech via the telephone.
What is a Telecoil?
Telecoil (also known as t-switch or t-coil) is a hearing aid feature that is built in to about 45% of all hearing aids. If you are unsure if your hearing aid has this feature, contact your Audiologist. HAC devices and accessories support hearing aids that have the telecoil feature. You audiologist will help you access the telecoil in your hearing aids.
Some theaters and churches have a loop running around the room that sends speech from the microphone in the room to the hearing aids via this weak magnetic signal. If your place of worship has a loop, ask where to sit to get the best reception and switch the telecoils in your aids on to receive a clear signal.
What is a Neckloop?
A neckloop is a necklace-length wire worn around the neck that plugs into many devices including HAC phones and accessories. Neckloops generate a weak magnetic signal that is recognized by the telecoils in the hearing aids. The direct audio input of the neck loop provides a clear, strong signal from the phone to both hearing aids making your phone call a stereo signal thus enhancing speech understanding. Neckloops are popular with many hearing aid users because they can drive both hearing aids and do not require wires running to the hearing aids.
A neck loop worn in a theater would need to be plugged into a receiver that is provided by the theater. This receiver is the device that collects the signal transmitted in the room. The signal is sent to the loop and picked up by the T-coils in your hearing aids. You would need to borrow the receiver from the theater box office.
What is an Earhook Silhouette?
Like the neckloop, the earhook silhouette creates a weak magnetic signal that can be recognized by the telecoil in your hearing aid. It can be hooked over your ear, and it nestles under BTE hearing aids. It is attached to a thin loop of wire that can be plugged into many devices, including HAC phones and HAC cell phone accessories.
A Silhouettes worn in a theater would need to be plugged into a receiver that is provided by the theater. This receiver is the device that collects the signal transmitted in the room. You would need to borrow the receiver from the theater box office. The signal is sent to the Silhouettes and picked up by the T-coils in your hearing aids.
More About Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC) Cell Phone Accessories
HAC cell phone accessories are beneficial to hearing aid users for several reasons. They put distance between the hearing aid and the cell phone which can cut down on any whistling (feedback) when the phone is near the hearing aids.
Some HAC accessories can give you hands-free cell phone usage which is especially important if you plan on using your cell phone while driving. You may also be able to use the speakerphone function on some devices. Your audiologist will help you create the best options for ease of use on the phone.
It's a good idea to visit your cell phone carrier's local store and inquire about HAC phones and accessories. Trying the phone with the device will give you a good idea of how well the accessory will work for you before making a purchase. Keep in mind that some phones and devices may work differently once you leave the store, so it is also a good idea to find out about any money-back or satisfaction guarantees.