Best Cell Phone for Hard of Hearing People

Searching for the best cell phones for hard of hearing is one of the challenges that we face when having a hearing loss. With 63% of the world population using mobile phones, they are becoming a commodity for all of us on this planet Earth.

When we talk about cell phones, smartphones or mobile phones, the name is called differently depending on where you are; they come in various types. Smartphones are one of the most popular types because they offer the ability to use your phone as a computer device. It has a screen instead of a keypad.

In places around the world, there are mobile phones that still have keypads and a small screen available to buy online.

Also,  there are mobile phones designed for seniors too. The mobile phone for hard of hearing elderly often has large keypads and also a flip phone as well.

Hence, the options for hearing impaired cell phone are plenty. You can always find a smartphone that has the features you are looking for today. It needs to be evaluated whether it can accommodate your hearing aids or cochlear implants.

What makes the best smartphone for hard of hearing?

Legal guidelines for cell phones for hard of hearing

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initiated standards to help people with a hearing loss. This regulatory body approves products being made and sold in the United States. They decided to implement the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988 (HAC Act) to enforce standards for manufacturers to build hearing aid-compatible cell phones and smartphones. Before, there were no cell phones for the hard of hearing designed to work with hearing aids.

The rest of the world naturally benefited from this regulation because many manufacturers were designing mobile phones to service more Americans adopting to mobile phones.

HAC to the rescue

The HAC Act applies to all telephone communications, not just mobile phones. Fast forward to 2010, further regulations were set in place when cell phones became mainstream in 1988. One of the rules enforced was that mobile phones had to be hearing aid-compatible.  Another regulation was that mobile phones needed internet access to allow for electronic messaging and video conferencing services. New developments will allow future smartphones to have video relay services, captioning on all the calls, and an emergency response system that will make it easier for deaf and hard of hearing people to make emergency calls.

Hearing aid-compatible phones

As for hearing aid-compatible phones, manufacturers had to produce some phones to be hearing-compatible. Smartphone manufacturers are required to ensure that one-half to one-third of their mobile phone models are hearing aid compatible. This means every brand you see in North America, you should expect at least one-third of them to be hearing aid compatible. These make the best cell phones for hearing impaired to go for.

This regulation has made our lives much better. We can now use smartphones with our hearing aids, and most importantly, there is a cell phone for the hearing impaired. Smartphones for the hard of hearing have become much better in quality because of the regulation.

The Mechanics of smartphones that make it compatible

Acoustic and Inductive coupling hearing aids

Majority of the hearing aids on the market can have acoustic and inductive coupling features. Acoustic coupling is the setting on our hearing aids that allows us to hear everything with no filtering of sounds coming into the hearing aid. Essentially, the microphone(s) in our hearing aid is picking up the sound.

Inductive coupling a.k.a. t-switch

Inductive coupling is a different feature. This is known as the t-switch, or telecoil, as seen on many hearing aids. Not all hearing aids have the t-switch. Hearing aids are the in-the-ear and behind-the-ear models mainly because people with severe to profound hearing loss benefit the most. You can use your hearing aid with a smartphone or a telephone with the T-switch. The T-switch enables the hearing aid to pick the electromagnetic signals from the telephone and filter background noises. This also helps with feedback, such as those squealing noises that appear when we place our hearing aids close to the phone.

A T-switch is a great feature for a regular phone. However, digital mobile phones cause the most interference with electromagnetic signals. Using a T-switch with a cell phone can make it difficult to hear the caller. A few of the reasons are that the backlight (the light used to make the screen visible) and the position of the antenna to pick up the call cause interference to occur. 

‘M’ and ‘T’ Ratings

Mobile phone manufacturers are now obligated to build mobile phone devices that are compatible with both the microphone and the telecoil. The FDA has created a ranking system to identify which mobile phones for the hard of hearing are compatible. There are two main ratings, ‘M’ and ‘T.’ The ‘M’ is related to microphones on our hearing aids in relation to the mobile phone, and the other is the ‘T,’ the telecoil feature on our hearing aids when used with a mobile phone. Both ‘M’ and ‘T’ have a score from one to four. One is the least compatible, and four is the most compatible. You want to aim for a phone ranking three or above to be safe. So, T3 and M3 are considered hearing aid compatible. Anything less is not.

See also  The best hearing aids on the market from a hearing loss person

You may not be aware that your hearing aids also have a ranking to determine how compatible they are with smartphones. If your hearing aid, along with the smartphone, receives a total score of 4 and above, you have a hearing aid that will work with that particular smartphone. An overall rating of 4 means your hearing aid will work not entirely, but it will be okay to use. A score of 5 means you will be comfortable using a smartphone, and 6+ means you will perform excellently.

Although there are no detailed mobile phones for hard-of-hearing reviews on the internet (a project Lisnen would like to take on someday!), these ratings for mobile phones are a good start. You can filter some phones, which is a good start.

CDMA and GMS Phones

Another requirement that makes a good mobile phone for the hard of hearing is the type of radio channel that the phone uses. Mobile phones can be grouped into two parts: devices that operate locally and devices that operate internationally.

Local devices are often referred to using the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) air interface. These phones only work with a few mobile phone carriers, mainly in North America. Sprint, Verizon, and Virgin Mobile all have CDMA phones. CDMA phones are not hearing aid compatible.

Now a Global System for Mobile (GSM) mobile phone allows you to use your mobile phone anywhere around the world. These are the type of mobile phones where if you can switch your SIM card to a local carrier, your mobile phone will operate without any issues. If your home carrier has international partners, GSM phones can work automatically with a foreign mobile carrier.  GSM phones are hearing aid compatible. If you choose a CDMA phone, it’s going to be less hearing aid compatible than a GSM phone.

Amplification

One of the criteria for a mobile phone for hard of hearing is having volume control. The sound volume can be a big issue for people wearing a hearing aid and cochlear implants. This is why the FDA wants to ensure that mobile phones include a volume control to support people with a hearing loss.

The FDA is highly supportive of people with hearing loss because they see the value of mobile phones. They want all kinds of phones to be compatible. They believe that you never know when a hard-of-hearing individual is in an emergency situation and needs to borrow a phone.

Therefore, starting in 2020, we should expect all wireless phones to have a volume control to a level suitable for people with hearing loss. This includes VoIP services and modern landline phones. These regulations help design the best phone for hard of hearing people to use.

Design

The phone’s design plays a huge part in making a phone hearing aid compatible. One type of phone design that is perfect hard of hearing cell phones is the flip phone. These are the mobile phones that fold in half when not in use. Flip phones work perfectly for people with hearing loss because they do not give off interference or buzzing noises that block us from hearing the person on the other line. The reason why the flip phone works is because the microphone and the speakers are far apart. Flip phones are not as popular anymore, and it’s hard to find through your mobile carrier, but you can always find them online.

Accessibility features on smartphones for hard of hearing

Many smartphones now have accessibility features. You can access accessibility features through the settings of your phone or a type of application on the phone. Below, we will show you several features that will be useful to you.

Messaging

Sending text message is an application available on all smartphone. They provide a great alternative if it is just too troublesome or cumbersome to talk on the phone. We are fortunate to have the ability to SMS (short messaging service), email, or MMS (multimedia messaging service) to send short, long or video messages, respectively.

Visual and vibrating alert

Being hard of hearing means we don’t often hear our phone give off noises. Therefore, when the telephone rings or sends us a sound notification, we often miss it. Having the option of visual and vibrating alerts is a better alternative. This can be found in the settings of some smartphones. We can use the visual and vibrating features to help alert us to incoming calls, appointment notifications, and alarms, to name a few.

Videoconferencing

If sign language is your preferred communication method or you enjoy reading lips, having video communication will be a great option. Many smartphones and mobile carriers can make peer-to-peer phone calls without additional charges.

Captioning

Smartphones like iPhone have made it easier for you to source caption movies, TV shows or podcasts that you’d like to stream from your phone.

Background light

For smartphone devices, the screen has a brightening feature to help make reading the screen more visible to the reader.  However, these lights affect hearing aids and can cause buzzing sounds to appear. Having a phone that can adjust the background light at a position that will not cause interference with our hearing aid is a huge bonus.

See also  Phone Alert for Deaf and Hard of Hearing To Be In the Know

Mono Audio

Sounds come through two channels (left/right) is harder to hear than sounds coming through one channel. The stereo sends audio signals through two channels. Each channels has its own speakers. The mono channel has one signal, channel and speaker. The mono audio switch on the smartphone can help make it easier to listen to the caller from only one channel or speaker.

TTY (Text Telephone)

You can make or send TTY (Text Telephone) calls without the need to have or own TTY hardware. This makes it easy for you to speak to a hearing person with a 3rd party service (Telecommunications Relay Service) to support you in your conversation.

Different types of phones for hard of hearing people

I quickly counted 160 different mobile phone manufacturers around the world.

For the purpose of the article, I would like to go through popular brands in North America and the UK. Firstly, I’ll be highlighting only brands that understand what it takes to make a mobile phone for hard of hearing people: mobile phones that meet our needs. The next time you are looking for a mobile phone, you have a list of brands and models as a guide.

If you are buying your phone online or through your mobile carriers, I highly suggest you try the phone you think will meet your needs. Besides having a hearing aid-compatible phone, you may need other amenities to assist you. Therefore, take advantage of any trial period or use the phone before the last date for a refund, as indicated in the return policy when you purchase a phone or sign up for a contract.

Best iPhone for hearing impaired

All of Apple smartphone devices are hearing aid compatible.  iPhones operate well with many hearing aids manufacturers to ensure that your hearing aids work well with their phone.

Hearing aid t-coil vs. Bluetooth

The type of hearing aids you have can make all the difference. Telecoil transmits analog signals, and Bluetooth transmits digital signals via a neckloop device. Now you can own hearing aids that can directly communicate with your hearing aid without the Bluetooth neckloop device. In other words, whether you have a T-coil or Bluetooth feature on your hearing aid, it doesn’t matter that much when it comes to mobile phones. The only difference is that if you like hearing the caller through both hearing aids or ears, Bluetooth will be something you need. Above all, Bluetooth also allows you to be hands-free when you are using the phone.

Yet both T-coil and Bluetooth do the same job. These features will allow you to stream audio to your hearing aid and block other sounds. Bluetooth only streams audio directly from the audio source. However, you can’t use Bluetooth anywhere else but paired devices. For instance, if you go to a theatre or the bank or a place where there’s a looped room, you will be able to hear with the telecoil setting on your hearing aid but not with Bluetooth.

When you are looking at the link below to view the various hard of hearing mobile phone, telecoil technology is robust. Above all, there are more T4s than M4s on the market. Which means you can always find or borrow a phone to be able to hear. I suggest don’t buy a hearing aid without telecoil. Get the benefit of both world.

List of best mobile phones for hard of hearing

The Pioneer website provided a list of the best mobile phones for the hard of hearing. It provides the latest and most up-to-date list of mobile phones and their ratings. There was a table with all the various mobile phones on the market and their respective ratings. You won’t exactly see mobiles for the hard of hearing specifically. However, we will continue to investigate other similar resources to share.

I hope this article helps you identify various mobile phones for hearing impaired people. My goal is to give you the ability to critically assess what you need to look for when you are shopping for your next mobile phone.

We all want to connect with our family, friends, and community, and a mobile phone for the deaf plays an essential part in that.


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