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.