Cell Phones

January 27, 2013: 9:46 am: Dr. NeilCell Phones

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

If you have a hearing loss or are deaf, there are a number of cell phone apps that will let you effectively use your cell phone to communicate better. Note: to use these, you must have a smart phone.

At present there are 30 of these apps that you can view and download here. Twenty-eight of these are free (or have free versions), one is $0.99 and one is $1.99 so they sure won’t break the bank.

Below are 10 of these apps so you can get an idea of how useful they could be to you in various situations.

IP-Relay: IP-Relay from Purple Communications lets you make and receive text relay calls. These calls are free and do not count against your monthly phone minutes. For iPhone and Android phones.

ntouch: Get video relay service on the go with ntouch. This app from Sorenson Communications turns your Smartphone into an instant videophone. For iPhone and Android phones.

Clear Captions: Like closed captions on your TV, ClearCaptions on your phone calls lets you hear and read what’s being said, eliminating the frustration of hearing on the phone. Instead of asking people to repeat themselves, or guessing what was said, you can read the person’s words while you listen on the call. For iPhone and Android phones.

Skype: Video call and instant message anyone on Skype for free. For iPhone and Android phones. Also works on Mac and PC computers.

Closed Capp: Caption your face-to-face conversations. Speech is enlarged to screen. Closed Capp uses voice recognition software. Have the person speak into your phone and the words they say are transcribed live on the screen of
your phone. For Android phones.

ConvoMobile: Enjoy video chat wherever you’re comfortable. ConvoMobile lets you call any videophone and features one-click Video Relay calling. It’s also has a 911 hot button. For iPhone and Android phones.

Dragon Dictate: Dragon Dictate changes voice to captioned text. This allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages. For iPhones.

Hamilton Mobile CapTel: See exactly what is being said to you on every call with Hamilton Mobile CapTel. This app translates your caller’s words into text captions. For iPhone and Android phones.

CaptionFish: CaptionFish is a captioned-movies search engine that shares information about open captioned, Rear Window captioned, foreign/subtitled, and descriptively narrated movies showings in the United States. CaptionFish also features streaming captioned trailers that allow you to enjoy previews of current and upcoming movies. For iPhones.

Vibe: Feel who’s calling and texting you with Vibe, This app uses vibration patterns to help you ID callers. Pick a contact and set or create a unique vibration pattern for them—it’s that easy. For Android phones.

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June 29, 2012: 11:47 am: Dr. NeilCell Phones, Coping Strategies

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A lady asked:

What is the best way to use a cell phone when driving?

1. The absolute best way is to leave your cell phone turned off when you are driving. That way you are never distracted at the wrong moment and you will never break any cell phone driving laws. You can get all your missed calls on voice mail once you have finished driving.

If you don’t do this, then as appropriate, use the following cell phone strategies.

2. Only turn your cell phone on when you nood to make a call and you can choose a time when either there is no traffic around for you to worry about (such as driving in central Wyoming) or you are stuck in traffic and are not going anywhere anyway.

3. If you leave your cell phone on all the time, when it rings, pull over and then answer it. However, if there is traffic around you, you may have trouble getting over to the shoulder or there may be no shoulder or no place to park. Thus you may be tempted to answer your phone when you definitely shouldn’t be distracted from all the traffic around you. Better to let the call go to voice mail and get it later when it is safe to do so.

When you asked your question, I know you didn’t mean what I have just said above. However, these are very important safety considerations, and you would do well to heed them.

Now, to get to what I think you really asked, “What are the best hands-free cell phone options I can use when driving in those states that allow hands-free cell phone use?”

Talking on a cell phone (whether hands-free or not) is still never a good idea when you are in traffic because your mind can be more focused on your phone call than on your driving. This said, here are some hands-free solutions you can try. Which ones you can use will depend on your cell phone’s capabilities and which hearing aids you have.

4. Some cars have bluetooth cell-phone capability built in. If you have a bluetooth cell phone, all you have to do initially is pair your phone with your car’s bluetooth system. After you have done this once, you hear your phone through the car’s speakers and a built-in microphone in your car will pick up your voice.

Thus, when your cell phone rings, the car’s bluetooth system automatically plays the phone conversation though your car’s speakers, and you hear it via your hearing aids. You just set the volume on the car radio to the best level for you to hear. A down side of this is that your conversations are never private unless you are alone in the car.

5. If you have a bluetooth cell phone and have hearing aids that use a remote that has bluetooth capability, you can use this option. You wear the remote around your neck and when your cell phone rings, you just press the button on the remote and it answers your phone. The microphone is built into the top of your remote. Thus, you have hands-free operation and you hear in both ears via your hearing aids. To hang up, you just press the button again. Phonak, Oticon and others have such features on some of their hearing aids. A nice feature of this option is that you never have to touch your hearing aids to change modes.

6. If you don’t have a bluetooth remote on your hearing aids, but have a bluetooth cell phone, you can simulate the above option by wearing a special bluetooth neckloop. Note: your hearing aids must have t-coils. You pair the neckloop with your phone. Then, when the phone rings, you press the button on the bluetooth “dongle” (much like in 5 above). But you also have to switch your hearing aids into t-coil mode. Again, the microphone is on the top of the dongle so you have hand-free operation. You hear in both ears via your hearing aids and t-coils. To hang up you just press the button on the dongle again. Also, you have to switch your hearing aids back into microphone mode so you can hear things around you again. A good bluetooth neckloop for this purpose is the Clearsounds “Quattro”.

7. If you don’t have a bluetooth cell phone, or if you don’t want to use bluetooth for whatever reason, if your cell phone has the standard 2.5 mm headset jack, you can plug in devices such as the T-Links or the Clearsounds CLA7 amplified neckloop. Before you start out you need to hang the T-Links on your ears and plug them into your cell phone. (With the CLA7, you need to put it around your neck and plug it into your cell phone.) To use your cell phone, you answer it the normal way. At the same time, you need to switch your hearing aids to t-coil mode, and in the case of the CLA7, turn it on and set the volume, then you are ready to talk. When finished, you hang up your cell phone the normal way, then switch back to microphone mode on your hearing aids.

You can see the T-Links here and the CLA7v2 Clearsounds Amplified Neckloop here. A downside of the CLA7 is that it uses batteries. Thus, if the batteries die, you’re out of luck. The T-Links don’t use batteries so you won’t have that problem with them.

If you have one of the newer smart phones that uses a 4 pole 3.5 mm (1/8″) jack (instead of the 3 pole 2.5 mm [3/32"] jack), and if you are using the T-Links you will need to get a 4-pole to 3-pole adapter (the link to a good place to get these adapters is given on the T-Links webpage referenced above). The CLA7v2 comes with the appropriate adapter.

One of the downsides of options 6 and 7 is that if your car produces significant interference when your hearing aids are in t-coil mode, you either have to try to hear above the interference, get a radio technician to eliminate the source(s) of interference, or not use t-coil solutions when you have the car running.

So there you have it—seven solutions for using cell phones when driving your car. Note, there are other devices available, but they are basically similar to what I have outlined above.

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April 3, 2012: 1:30 pm: Dr. NeilCell Phones

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A lady asked,

I was wondering if I can make phone calls using the Music Links? If not, can I listen to music using the T-links. I don’t want to buy both, I just want to buy one. Can you help me with this?

The Music Links are designed as their name implies, to listen to music. With them you can hear in true stereo. They plug into any standard 3.5 mm (1/8″) audio jack.

On the other hand, the T-Links are designed for talking on the phone in place of using another headset. They include a built-in microphone. Thus they have the 2.5 mm (3/32″) plug used for headsets.

Thus, normally you’d have to buy both if you want to listen to music (Music Links) and use the phone (T-links).

However, if you have one of the new smart phones that uses a 4-pin (4-pole) plug (the plug has 3 separators and thus 4 separate metal sections on the plug) AND is the standard audio plug size (3.5 mm or 1/8″) then you are in luck.

What you do is get the Music Links and listen to music the normal way. When you want to use the phone for phone calls you listen via the Music Links (just like you do for music), but you have to speak into the phone’s mouthpiece like you normally would if you weren’t using the Music Links.

This works because on 4-pin (4-pole) phones, when you plug in a 3-pin (3-pole) plug like the music links has, it does not switch into headset mode (which would disconnect the phone’s internal microphone) like it would with a 4-pin plug. As a result, you get the best of both worlds. You can listen to music with your Music Links AND also use your Music Links to listen to the other person while you are making a phone call.

If you do not have a 4-pin phone, you’ll need both the Music Links and the T-links. You can see the Music Links here and below them, the T-Links.

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June 10, 2011: 1:50 pm: Dr. NeilCell Phones, Hearing Loss

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

From time to time scientists have raised the question of cell (mobile) phone safety and how it may affect our brains since the antennas of cell phones are transmitting electromagnetic energy into our heads.

In the past there have been concerns that cell phone usage may cause various kinds of brain cancers. Now new concerns are being raised concerning whether the electromagnetic radiation from cell phones might also affect our hearing. In fact, just such a paper was presented at the 2010 American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) annual meeting and Oto Expo September 26-29 in Boston, MA. (1)

Researchers studied 125 people who were long-term (more than one year) cell phone users and 58 controls who had never used cell phones. The purpose of this study was to assess and compare potential changes in hearing function both in the inner ear, and in the central auditory pathways in the brain due to chronic exposure to electromagnetic waves from using cell phones.

Everyone in the study underwent a battery of audiological tests including “pure tone audiometry (250-12 kHz), tympanometry, distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE), auditory brain responses (ABR), and middle latency responses (MLRs).”

The results of this study showed that people that had regularly used cell (mobile) phones for more than 3 years were at “a significantly higher risk of having DPOAEs absent as compared with controls. They were found to have higher speech frequency thresholds and lower MLR wave and Na and Pa amplitudes.” (1) In plain English, this means that cell phone users had more hearing loss than non-cell phone users. Interestingly enough, the hearing loss was the same in both ears, not just the ear to which the phone was normally held.

They concluded that long-term and intensive mobile phone use may “damage the cochlea and the auditory cortex”.

What does this mean to you? Just this—land-line (corded) phones are obviously safer—both to your health and to your hearing than cell phones.

If you are going to use a cell phone, keeping it as far away from your head as is reasonably possible would be a wise move. In other words, as much as possible, rather than holding the cell phone up to your ear, do texting, use the speaker-phone function, use a bluetooth headset or use an amplified neckloop or T-links. Using any of these methods/devices will keep your phone at some distance from your head. As a result, your phone will not be unnecessarily zapping your brain with excessive electromagnetic radiation and thus possibly causing you even more hearing loss.

If you have to hold your cell phone up to your head, keep your calls short. However, to be as safe as possible, whenever you are around a corded landline phone, use it in preference to your cell phone. (Although this study didn’t look at cordless landline phones, since they also produce electromagnetic radiation right at your head level, you might be wise to limit your use of these phones too—until long-term studies prove whether they are safe or not.)

(1) Panda, Naresh, et al. 2010. Auditory Changes in Mobile Users Is Evidence Forthcoming? Article presented at the 2010 AAO-HNSF Annual Meeting; September 26-29, 2010; Boston, Massachusetts.

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January 6, 2010: 9:10 am: Dr. NeilCell Phones

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D. with Dana Mulvany

A lady explained:

My cell phone contract is nearing its end, and I am looking at other carriers—trying to find a better phone for me. I’ve had several cell phones over the years, but have never had one that I was comfortable with except when making calls myself. Which is the best cell phone for hard of hearing people?

My friend, Dana Mulvany, herself hard of hearing, and like me, an expert in hearing assistive technology including phones explains:

There are actually quite a few issues you may want to consider when purchasing a cell phone. Some of these include:

  • The audio quality of voice transmissions. It is important to assess how well your voice comes across on the phone in addition to how well you can hear on the phone. Unfortunately, some phones do a poor job transmitting all the frequencies people need in order to hear speech as well as possible. This is particularly important if the person you are talking with is also hard of hearing.
  • The volume of the phone. Is the maximum volume enough so that you can hear people well?
  • The M and T rating. Ideally, you want a phone that is rated M4/T4. This gives your hearing aids the greatest immunity from interference from the phone in both voice and t-coil modes.
  • The availability of a 2.5 mm jack (for accessories such as a neckloop or T-links).
  • Whether you are effectively alerted to the phone ringing. Is the ring tone audible to you. Is the vibration strong enough?
  • Whether you can be alerted effectively to call waiting, text messages, etc.
  • Whether or not Web CapTel will work on the phone
  • Whether the phone will support Mobile CapTel (both voice and Web CapTel at the same time).
  • Compatibility of the phone’s Bluetooth feature with hearing aid compatible accessories such as bluetooth neckloops.
  • Access to text messaging.
  • Ease of use of texting.
  • Access to email.
  • Access to web sites.
  • The cost of voice and data plans.
  • Video capabilities (in the future) for people who use sign language or lip reading.
  • The availability of mobile TV with captioning (in the future).

No phones come with all the above features. You need to decide which features are important to you and get the phone that best meets your needs..

Is there one perfect phone for us? I’m afraid not at this time!

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November 10, 2009: 12:19 pm: Dr. NeilCell Phones

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A lady asked:

What is the best cell phone for a person with a hearing problem?

That question is impossible to answer because there are so many variables. Many of these variables are subjective—so only you can answer them. It is like asking people, “What is the best tasting food?” You will get all sorts of answers—some might say filet mignon, or angel-food cake or spinach or eggplant—and they would all be right—for that person.

Other variables are more objective—and depend on how you plan to couple the phone output to your ears. Thus, the answer to your question is “It depends…”

It depends on your likes and dislikes.

It depends on whether you wear hearing aids, or want to use the phone with your bare ears.

It depends on the degree of you hearing loss.

It depends on the shape of your hearing loss curve.

It depends on your word recognition (discrimination) scores.

It depends whether you are a techno-geek and like lots of “goodies”, or want a plain simple cell phone.

It depends on whether you need texting capabilities, or just normal phone service.

It depends on whether you are going to be using the phone in noise, or just in quiet places.

It depends on your own personal subjective feelings of what sounds good to you. Phones vary in the quality of their sound.

It depends on what features you need in a cell phone and those you would like to have.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

Personally, here are the key things I look for in a cell phone.

1. Loud volume (although no phone has the volume I need).

2. Bluetooth connection.

3. Headset jack—hopefully standard 2.5 mm jack.

4. M4/T4 rating.

Items 2 and 3 are necessary if you want to connect your phone to your hearing aids.

Item 4 is necessary so the phone doesn’t cause interference in your hearing aids.

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September 18, 2009: 12:01 pm: Dr. NeilAssistive Devices, Cell Phones

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

Last month a man wrote:

I am somewhat hard of hearing. I can never hear my cell phone when it rings, even when it is in my pocket. Do you have a remote little light that would blink when my phone rings?

I had written in part:

Sorry, I’m not aware of a portable blinking light device for cell phones.

Fortunately, one of our subscribers knew the answer. There are indeed such devices—not remote lights, but lights that fit on the phone itself.

Lynn explained:

I thought it would be nice to share information about a portable light that flashes for cell phones. These are available at many mall kiosks that sell cell phone gadgets. It is a light of any design that fits in place of the antenna on the cell phone. Mine was red/white and blue. In the mountains one night, my husband thought a police car was stopping us and pulled over. Twice it happened with no policeman in sight! (I forgot to tell him I bought this “alerting device” for my cell phone and in the dark car it really lit up!)

It did help when I just wanted to see the light without the loud ring/vibration on a table, or did not have pants pockets. It was easy to see inside my purse too….a really bright strobe light the size of your cell phone antenna.

I did a bit of research and found that there are in fact two kinds of lighted accessories you can get for your cell phone.

As Lynn explained above, there are light-up antennas for some cell phones. Also, there are lighted batteries for other cell phones. These lighted batteries come with a transparent battery cover so you can see the light flashing through it.

Unfortunately, these accessories seem to be fast going out of style and are harder to come by. I checked with two mall cell-phone accessory kiosks and both said they used to carry them but not any more.

You can still find them on-line, but they only work for a limited number of phones (probably older ones). If you are interested, do a Google search for “light up antenna for cell phone” for the antenna kind, and “light up battery for cell phone” for the battery kind. Then check the search results for your phone model and service. It seems the antenna light-up accessories don’t work with CDMA networks for example.

If you strike out there, all is not lost. As Wendy informed me, some phones have flashing strobe lights built in. She explained, When “the LG8100 rings a little strobe light flashes, so even if I don’t hear it, I can see it flashing! It’s great for me!”

So if you want a phone that flashes to alert you, there are at least three possibilities that may work for you if they don’t all go the way of the Dodo bird.

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September 10, 2009: 11:19 am: Dr. NeilAssistive Devices, Cell Phones

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A lady explained:

My mother-in-law is hard of hearing and only has a cell phone now. She doesn’t hear it ring all of the time and I am trying to find something that will amplify the ring on the phone, or something that will notify her that it is ringing. Do you know where I may find something like this?

If she is carrying the cell phone around with her—then set it on vibrate mode and have her wear it close to her body somewhere so she can feel the vibration.

Also, if she has the right cell phone and service provider, she may be able to add flashing lights to her cell phone to get her attention. (See the article “Flashing Lights for Cell Phones Revisited“.)

If she basically leaves her cell phone on the counter or coffee table, or bed table, or wherever at home then having the cell phone on vibrate won’t help. However, I have just the device she needs in that case—the Super Loud Cell Phone Ring Alerter. It does three things—flashes a strobe, makes the ring much louder and at night with the optional vibrator to put under her mattress, it will shake her awake.

In her case, probably a good solution would be for her to have two Ring Alerters. Put one on her bed table in the bedroom hooked up with the bed vibrator. Place the other one where she spends most of her time. Have it sitting in plain sight so she can see the strobe light when it flashes as well as hear the loud ringer.

It is easy to use this Ring Alerter—just pull out the elastic at the back—put the cell phone between the elastic and the back of the Ring Alerter and let the elastic hold it in place there. That’s all there is to it. To answer the phone, you just pull the cell phone out of the elastic and answer it normally.

This ring alerter also works for landline phones too. You plug it into the wall phone jack and plug the phone into the Ring Alerter. Whenever the phone rings, it will alert you just the same as if it were a cell phone. In fact, I think it will work with both phones at the same time.

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August 22, 2009: 9:35 am: Dr. NeilCell Phones, Coping Strategies, Hearing Aids

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A lady explained:

If someone has an automatic t-coil on their hearing aid, they will have problems hearing on their cell phones if they want to do so in t-coil mode. They will need a magnet glued to the phone’s earpiece in order to activate the automatic t-coil.

I don’t have a t-coil switch on my digital hearing aid. As a result, for a year, trying to hear on my cell phone was horrible. I couldn’t put a magnet next to the earpiece to kick in the t-coil because it was a flip-phone and it wouldn’t close otherwise.

I just brought a new cell phone—not a flip phone this time. I glued a magnet next to the earpiece and the t-coil kicked in properly. I can hear great now!

You have just exposed one of my chief complaints concerning automatic t-coils—they need a manual override when using them with devices that do not provide a strong enough magnetic field to activate them. This includes devices such as cell phones, neckloops and room loops.

It’s a shame that after paying the big bucks for your hearing aid, you still have to fool around to make the automatic t-coil work with your cell phone. Your work around is great—you just have to find a small magnet that’s powerful enough to activate your automatic t-coils and then glue it to the right place on your phone so it will activate when you hold the phone up to your ear (hearing aid). That’s a pain.

I don’t like, or recommend, automatic t-coils unless they have a manual override. With a manual override, you don’t have to fool around with a magnet. You just manually put your hearing aids into t-coil mode. Then they will work with your cell phones and neckloops and room loops too.

With your automatic t-coils, you can’t hear via your t-coils when using loop systems unless you stick magnets to your hearing aids to activate their automatic t-coils. That’s another pain. (Also, you need to have those magnets with you at all times so you have them when you need them.) Furthermore, you can’t glue the magnets to your hearing aids because you have to remove the magnets when you are finished with the looped device so your hearing aids will return to microphone mode again. Otherwise, you won’t hear a thing until you do. What a pain!

It’s so much better to insist on a manual t-coil, or an automatic t-coil with a manual override. Then you never have to fool around with magnets on your phone or your hearing aids. As you can tell, I’m solidly for “pain-free” listening.

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August 13, 2009: 9:19 am: Dr. NeilCell Phones

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A man wrote:

I am somewhat hard of hearing. I can never hear my cell phone when it rings , even when it is my pocket. Do you have a remote little light that would blink when my phone rings?

Sorry, I’m not aware of a portable blinking light device for cell phones. However, there are some things you can do. First, most hard of hearing people have a high-frequency loss—which means they don’t hear the higher-frequency cell phone ring tones very well. Therefore, to make it easier to hear your cell phone ringing, download (or choose) the lowest frequency ring tone that is available for your phone. You might be surprised how much better you can hear a lower-frequency ring tone.

Second, why don’t you leave your cell phone on vibrate so you can feel it ring, even if you can’t hear it?

Third, if you regularly put your cell phone down—for example, on your desk, or on your bed table at night, I do have a nifty gizmo for you. This device flashes a light, produces a loud audible alert, and, if you are in bed, shakes your bed to get your attention whenever your cell phone rings. You can see this cool cell-phone ring alerter here.

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