A Buyer's Guide To Cell Phones For Seniors

Oct 26 08:10 2011 Virginia Butters Print This Article

If you're a senior buying a cell phone and need a hearing aid compatible unit, this article will help you select the perfect phone for your needs. Styles of phone, features, networks, and operation are all covered.

Cell phones are undeniably one of the greatest conveniences of the modern age. The knowledge that we can be connected to anyone,Guest Posting anywhere, anytime, provides us with a practically space-age feeling of comfort and control - one we've never before experienced in history. Cell phones particularly allow us to enjoy life in a more carefree way - it doesn't matter how far we stray from our home phones, or from pay phones. We can always get in touch with someone if there's an emergency, or help needed, or even if we've just arrived at the grocery store and realize we've forgotten the shopping list.

Happily, the hard of hearing are in no way excluded from the cell phone revolution - in fact, quite the opposite. Hearing aid compatible cell phones are becoming more and more widely available, but there are a few things to consider before you buy. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about hearing aid compatible cell phones.

What makes them hearing aid compatible cell phones?
The Federal Communications Commission defines hearing aid compatibility for cell phones as a composite of two factors: the microphone (M) rating, and the telecoil (T) rating. The M rating refers to how little interference the cell phone causes when you're wearing your hearing aid in microphone mode; the T rating refers to the same when your aid is in telecoil mode. Both frequencies are rated on a scale from 1 - 4, with 4 being the best. The higher the rating, the less likely you are to experience interference between your hearing aid and the cell phone. This lack of interference is often called "immunity."

Look for an icon, found on the packaging of most hearing aid compatible cell phones, which tells you the phone's immunity ratings. Those rated M4/T4 will cause the least interference, whichever mode you happen to be wearing your hearing aid in. If you generally stick with one or the other of the modes, look for that rating in particular to be high. For example, for someone who generally prefers microphone mode, a hearing aid compatible cell phone rated M4/T3 should work fine.

Can I try out phones before I buy?
You absolutely can try out hearing aid compatible phones before you buy. Company-owned phone stores are required to let customers test the equipment in order to make an informed purchase.

When trying out cell phones in stores, bear in mind that the store may be located very near a cell tower, which means the phone will be putting out less power, thus causing less interference. When you're using the phone at a distance from a cell tower, it will put out more power to function, and so possibly cause more interference. Always be sure you have at least ten days to return the phone for a full refund if the phone turns out not to work so well in the places you'll be using it in real life.

Is there a difference between GSM and CDMA technologies in terms of hearing aid compatibility?
CDMA is the predominant transmission technology used in the United States, and fortunately tends to cause less interference than phones utilizing GSM technology. The primary advantage of GSM is that it can be used outside the US, so if you don't plan to do a lot of international roaming, CDMA should work just fine for you.

Which phone design will work best for me?
Cell phones come in an enormous variety of designs and styles. To narrow down your selection, one of the first things to look for in hearing aid compatible cell phones is a "clam shell" design, which flips open and gives the phone a longer profile. These phones are more easily held to the ear, and are sometimes equipped with padding around the earpiece, which can significantly decrease background noise. The longer profile also places a greater distance between the phone's transmission components and the hearing aid, which can further reduce interference.

More and more cell phones are being designed with larger keys and displays, making them a breeze to see and dial from. Jitterbug and Clarity, for example, are manufacturers who specialize in these features, but there are many others. If your local cell phone store doesn't offer what you need in terms of keypad and display size, Amazon.com certainly does. A search for "large button cell phone" in their cell phones & accessories category will yield plentiful results.

Are iPhone models hearing aid compatible?
iPhone models are indeed hearing aid compatible; the iPhone 4 CDMA model is rated M4/T4. However, the iPhone lacks a clamshell design and earpiece padding, so the only way to know for sure if it will work for you is to try it out in the store.

How much of a factor is my hearing aid?
Your hearing aid itself plays a large role in how well you'll be able to hear conversations when using a cell phone. Hearing aids are rated for immunity using the same M1 - M4 and T1 - T4 scales used for cell phones. The more immune your hearing aid is, the better you'll be able to hear when using a cell phone. If you're getting consistent interference even from highly rated hearing aid compatible cell phones, you may want to contact your audiologist or your hearing aid's manufacturer to determine how resistant your aid is to radio frequency interference.

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Virginia Butters
Virginia Butters

Check out my articles on phone line amplifiers and phones for seniors.

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