By Paul Gorski
Most new wireless phones sold today should be hearing aid compatible, but some wireless phones are more compatible than other models. Hearing aid compatibility depends on the technology (CDMA or GSM) a wireless carrier uses to send the signal; the form of the phone: flip, candy bar, smartphone; and the hearing aid mode, acoustic or telecoil. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) describes some of these features at: http://www.fcc.gov/guides/hearing-aid-compatibility-wireless-telephones.
The FCC has established two rating systems that help grade hearing-aid compatible wireless phones so you do not have to become an expert in wireless phone technology to find a suitable phone. The “T” rating defines wireless phone compatibility with telecoil or inductive hearing aids, and the “M” rating system, while technically defining a hearing aid’s resistance to radio interference, is used to rate wireless phone compatibility with acoustic hearing aids.
Getting down to the tech-friendly part of the article: look for wireless phones with M3 or M4 and T3 or T4 ratings. Higher is better; 4 is better in both rating systems. A wireless phone with an M4/T4 rating should work well with most hearing aids. The major wireless carriers offer charts listing compatibility ratings. U.S. Cellular lists hearing-aid compatible phones at: http://www.uscellular.com/uscellular/services/hearing-aid.jsp. AT&T lists a similar chart at: http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/articles-resources/disability-resources/hearing-aid-compatibility.jsp, however, AT&T includes “good, better and best” ratings, and I am not sure where it came up with those ratings, as they do not appear to be consistent with the T/M ratings.
The rating charts serve as nice guides, but try your phone out first. FCC regulations state your wireless carrier must “provide the means” for you to test a wireless handset in the store. In addition to test driving the phone in the store, make sure you use that new phone soon after you buy it, so you may return it within your carrier’s stated return period if the phone is not working out for you.
You may also want to ask your carrier about voice mail to text options. Most wireless carriers offer services that convert voice mails to e-mails or text messages for easy storage and viewing. The CTIA — Wireless Association (Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association) offers more suggestions like these and a website designed to “help people with disabilities, seniors and their families find a cell phone and service” at: http://www.accesswireless.org/Home.aspx and http://www.ctia.org/resource-library/glossary/archive/hearing-aid-compatible.
Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple Iie
Posted May 27, 2014