Cell Phones


December 25, 2014: 11:02 am: Cell Phones

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

Years ago, about the time the dinosaurs stopped roaming the earth, I had a cell phone that worked wonderfully well for me. It’s secret was a special integrated amplifier called the “Chaamp” that provided me with more than enough amplification in spite of my severe hearing loss. I loved that cell phone/Chaamp combination and used it for a number of years.

Although it outlived the dinosaurs, I knew its days were numbered as advancing technology was quickly making it obsolete. Thus, I began looking around for a replacement. A Bluetooth headset was obviously the way to go—one that would work with all Bluetooth-equipped cell phones, no matter how fast technology kept changing. Unfortunately for me, there were two major problems. First, the Bluetooth headsets available did not work with hearing aids (they did not have t-coils), and second, they did not work without hearing aids either, as none of them had enough volume for me.

With nothing suitable available,  I approached Serene Innovations about my need for such a device—a device that would work with any Bluetooth-equipped cell phone, and that would have the volume I needed when I was not wearing my hearing aids.

Fortunately, Serene Innovations was interested and we worked together for a couple of years to design such a gizmo. I drew up the specifications—a wish list of what I wanted and needed in a Bluetooth cell phone amplifier. Eventually, that all came together and the “HearAll” was born.

While it was in final testing, Verizon suddenly quit supporting my dinosaur cell phone and instantly I was left without a means of hearing on a cell phone. I purchased a new smart phone—an iPhone 5s as it happened—but as I knew, it didn’t have enough volume for me. You can imagine how eagerly I was awaiting the imminent release of the new HearAll Model SA-40 cell phone amplifier that came out a couple of months later.

Not only does the HearAll help me hear on my cell phone, it also has a number of cool features just perfect for hard of hearing people. The HearAll is just like its name says, you can hear all. It is wonderfully versatile, whether you are wearing hearing aids, or just have your “broken” ears to hear with. As a result,  if you forget your hearing aids, they break, or you run out of batteries at an importune time, you can still use your cell phone if you have the HearAll with you.

The HearAll is designed, not only for hard of hearing people, but also for hearing people who have to hear under difficult listening conditions. For example, when there is a lot of background noise around, you simply crank up the volume until you can hear over the noise. At the same time, the soft flexible earphone “cup”, when pressed against your ear does a good job of helping keep all the extraneous racket out, again helping you hear better. Furthermore, if you’re like me and need more volume, you typically hold any phone tightly against your ear and the soft flexible “cup” doesn’t hurt your ear like hard plastic tends to do, especially on longer calls.

The HearAll has three different operating modes—handset mode, speakerphone mode and t-coil mode. In handset mode, you just hold it up to your ear like you’d do with any cell phone. With the convenient volume control buttons, you can quickly set the volume to whatever level you need.

Note: the HearAll should have all the volume you need. Unlike most Bluetooth devices, the HearAll provides up to 40 dB of amplification so you’ll be able to hear on your cell phone without straining.

In speakerphone mode you (and those with you) can listen to the caller with both ears—whether you have hearing aids with t-coils or not. Again, the convenient volume control lets you set the volume at the level you need (within reason).

Finally, in t-coil mode, it’s powerful t-coil couples with the t-coils in your hearing aids to let you hear beautiful, clear sound without all the extraneous racket around you affecting your hearing. And because your cell phone is not up by your hearing aids, you never get any interference from your cell phone like you might if your cell phone didn’t have a high enough( M4/T4) interference rating.

A cool feature is that when in t-coil mode the speaker is turned off so no one can ever overhear your conversations. Since we so often have to have a lot of volume in order to hear, any hearing people around us can easily overhear our private conversations. With the HearAll in t-coil mode, your conversations are totally private since you are hearing solely via your t-coil.

Note: in handset mode, just by pressing the earphone cup tightly against your ear, you can also prevent sound escaping so those nearby can’t overhear your conversation as much as before.

Another cool feature is that there is a earphone jack on the HearAll so you can plug in either standard stereo earbuds and hear with both ears (if you are not wearing hearing aids). Alternately, you can plug in devices such as the Music Links, switch your hearing aids to t-coil mode and hear with both ears. (Switch the HearAll into t-coil mode when you use the earphone jack–and again no one will be able to overhead your conversations as the speaker will be turned off.)

Note: hearing with both ears has two decided benefits. First, you can understand speech better than when just hearing with one ear. Thus you don’t have to strain as much, or ask for as many repeats. Second, you can hear better with less volume than you need when listening with one ear. For me, this makes all the difference between whether I get headaches when using the phone or not.

And talking about understanding speech better, the HearAll has a three-position tone control (located on the left side) so you can set it to where you understand speech the best. You can set it to have high-frequency emphasis, mid-range emphasis or low-frequency emphasis depending what sound frequencies you want to boost in order to understand speech better. Set it to whatever works best for you.

Another neat feature is that the HearAll has a mute button. If you want to say something to a nearby person and don’t want the person on the other end of the phone to hear you, simply press the mute button. The mute light will turn green and the person on the other end will be “locked out”. Press the mute button again to turn off the mute function and the green light will go out and you’ll be back in normal talk mode again.

The HearAll works with virtually all cell phones that have Bluetooth capabilities built in whether they are “smart” phones or “stupid” phones. Since most phones have Bluetooth built into them, it is unlikely that you’ll have to go out and get a new phone. And when you do get a new phone in the future, as long as it has Bluetooth built in, it will also work with your HearAll.

In order to use the HearAll with your cell phone, you first need to pair your phone with the HearAll (exactly like you have to pair any other Bluetooth device before you can use it). Pairing is easy. First, turn on the Bluetooth feature on your cell phone. Next, turn on the HearAll. Shortly the ON/STBY and BATT lights will begin alternately flashing green and orange indicating the HearAll is searching for any Bluetooth devices in range. On the screen of your cell phone you should see under Bluetooth devices a new device listed—the model number of the HearAll, namely “SA-40″. Click on the SA-40 on your cell phone and the two devices will now pair. When completed, your phone should say “Connected” beside the SA-40. At the same time, the alternating flashing lights on the HearAll will stop. You are now paired. You don’t have to pair the HearAll again unless you deliberately delete this Bluetooth connection on your cell phone.

Now, whenever your cell phone and HearAll are in range of each other (assuming you have the Bluetooth function activated on your cell phone) your HearAll will automatically pair to your cell phone. The proof of this is that the  ON/STBY light will flash green every 6 seconds.

The designed range of Bluetooth devices is 33 feet (10 meters) although many Bluetooth devices I’ve tried wouldn’t work more than 10 or 20 feet away from the paired device. I was pleased to see that the HearAll works well out to the 33 foot designed range.

The HearAll is a wireless Bluetooth device. Thus, you can leave your cell phone on your desk or counter, for example, and be up to 33 feet away from it and still get a strong signal assuming you have an unobstructed line of sight. This distance may be less in buildings with metal in the walls when you do not have an unobstructed line of sight to where your cell phone is.

When you receive an incoming call, both your cell phone and the HearAll ring. If you are away from your cell phone (and still within the 33-foot range of Bluetooth) you may not hear your cell phone ring. Therefore, especially if you are hard of hearing, be sure you leave your HearAll in speakerphone mode with the volume turned up so you will hear it ringing. (In handset mode, the ring volume may be too soft to hear if you have a significant hearing loss.)

To answer an incoming call on the HearAll, just press the talk button (the one with the phone handset icon on it) and the ON/STBY light will change from flashing green every 6 seconds to steady green while the call is in progress. To hang up, press the talk button again and the ON/STBY light will resuming flashing every 6 seconds.

The HearAll is also designed for use in your car as a hands-free phone. It comes with a magnetic visor clip that you slide over the front edge of your sun visor. The HearAll magnetically attaches to the clip. Now you can use it in hands-free (speakerphone) mode if you wear hearing aids or only have a mild to moderate hearing loss and don’t wear hearing aids. I found that for my severe hearing loss, if I’m not wearing my hearing aids, I can’t quite hear/understand the person talking that way. Not an unsurmountable problem. All I did was plug in a pair of earbuds and I could hear very well while driving.

One of the good things about using the HearAll instead of holding your cell phone up to your ear is that you greatly reduce your exposure to cell phone radiation. Yes, you are still exposed to radiation as the HearAll operates in the same frequency band as cell phones, but the power is greatly reduced since it only has to transmit up to 33 feet, not several miles like your cell phone may have to. As a result, if you are concerned about cell phone radiation, using the HearAll is one way to reduce your radiation exposure. (For more on cell phone radiation hazards, see my article “Are Microwave Hearing Devices Slowly ‘Cooking’ Our Kids?“)

The HearAll uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack so you won’t have to keep replacing dead batteries. When the battery charge is getting low, the orange BATT indicator light will flash continuously to warn you. Recharging the HearAll is simple—just plug the recharging cable into  the micro USB port on the lower left side of the HearAll and plug the other end into a A/C wall receptacle. In just 3 or 4 hours it’s battery will be up to full charge, ready to go. While charging, the orange BATT indicator light will stay on. When the battery is fully charged, the BATT indicator light goes out.

Should you ever need to, you can use your HearAll while it is charging. Just plug the charger in and continue using it.. If the battery dies while you are out driving (perhaps you are on a long trip), you can charge it in your car if you have a little power inverter that plugs into the cigarette lighter (I always have one in my car) and you have your recharger in the car with you. However, with its high-capacity battery, its unlikely you’ll need to recharge the HearAll in the car as long as you recharge it every night or two.

Standby time for the HearAll is up to 14 days depending on the condition of the battery. (New batteries have more capacity than older batteries. Older batteries slowly lose their capacity as they age.) Talk time is up to 10 hours, again depending on the battery condition.

The HearAll works with Bluetooth cell phones, but it also works with other Bluetooth devices as well. For example, you can use it with your iPad or iPod. Experiment and see what other uses you can find for this wonderful, versatile HearAll.

If you’re now drooling at the thought of using a cell phone like everybody else, here’s how you can get one for yourself—and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg either! Although the regular price of the HearAll is $99.95, you can get it for only $83.63 from the HearAll page on the Center’s website. Once you have tried it, I’ll bet you’ll love your HearAll as much as I do mine!

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July 28, 2014: 6:33 am: Cell Phones

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

Has this ever happened to you?

You “buried” your cell phone somewhere nearby and because of your poor hearing, you did not hear it ringing or see it blinking. And you didn’t feel it vibrating either. Result? Missed phone calls and/or missed text messages.

You depended on your cell phone’s alarm to wake you up for an early flight the next day, but you slept on your “good” ear and as a result you didn’t hear your phone’s alarm vainly trying to wake you up, so you missed your flight.

You wanted to be alerted whenever a phone call or text message came in, but you missed your cell phone’s “rings” because of your poor hearing and all the racket around you. As a result, you missed an important call (and now your boss is mad at you).

You were sleeping and your phone received a severe weather warning that a tornado was bearing down on you—but you were in such a deep sleep that your phone’s alarm failed to arouse you. (If that was the case, you’re unfortunately not reading this article now either.)

You’re concerned about the microwave radiation from your cell phone (see article in this issue). As a result, you want to keep your phone at a “safe” distance from your body. However, you realize you probably won’t hear, see or feel it ringing from that distance. What can you do?

If you relate to any of these (or similar) scenarios, you don’t have to worry anymore. Serene Innovations has done it again. They’ve come out with a cool new product that makes sure you won’t miss any more phone calls (or messages or alarms) while you sleep or are engrossed in something at your desk.

The Serene Innovations RF-200 Cell Phone Ringer/Flasher is one cool device. This new gizmo is a desktop or bed-table signaling device for landline and cell phones (at the same time if you want). It will notify you when you have incoming calls by phone, Skype, FaceTime and text messages.

You may find it so useful that you’ll want one for your bed-table at night (with bed shaker) and one for your desk (or wherever you spend most of your time) during the day.

The RF-200 is just so easy to use. All you do is set your cell phone in vibrate mode and place it in the cradle. The RF-200 does the rest. When the ring alerter “hears” (actually “feels”) a signal, it flashes lights, sounds a loud alerting signal, and if you have the bed shaker plugged in, shakes your bed or chair. This makes it easy to know someone is calling you and is really hard to ignore.

Even if you do miss a call—perhaps you were out of the room—the missed call lights stay on to alert you to that fact when you return. Just press the “reset” button on the top right corner to turn the lights off and its ready for the next call.

I love the fact that the RF-200 works with both landline and cell phones at the same time. You don’t need two different alerting gizmos to do this one job. (To use it with landline phones, simply plug the included 7′ long phone cord into the back of the RF-200 and into any phone wall jack.)

When one of your phones rings, it is easy to tell whether you should answer your landline phone or your cell phone because of the distinctive light and sound patterns.

When your cell phone rings, the two “side” lights and the two top corner lights flash consecutively in a clockwise rotating pattern. When a landline phone call comes in, the top “corner” lights on the RF-200 flash together.

The ringer pattern for cell phone calls is a lower-pitched tone that warbles 3 times, then pauses, then warbles 3 times, etc. The ringer pattern for a landline call is a higher-pitched tone that warbles 5 times, pauses, warbles 5 times, etc.

Another feature of the RF-200 is that it isn’t just for alerting you to phone calls. It can also alert you to text messages if you have a smart phone. How cool is that?

To use the text messaging alert, plug in the short coiled cord between the base unit and the earphone jack on your smart phone. Better yet, if you have an Android or iPhone, you can program them with a special text vibration pattern so you don’t even need the short coiled cord! You just place your phone on the cradle. It’s just that easy.

If you live in an area that has severe weather such as tornados, and you have Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) sent directly to your cell phone, the RF-200 will immediately alert you to any warnings in your area. When your cell phone receives an emergency alert, the RF-200 will immediately emit a unique ring and flash pattern. The ring sound is a high-low, high-low emergency vehicle sound that you’ll instantly recognize as an emergency “sound”. At the same time, the lights will flash in a repeated criss-cross pattern. There is no mistaking that this is an emergency alert and not a regular phone call alert!

One cool undocumented feature is that you can use the RF-200 with any cell phone app you have that vibrates your phone such as count down timers, wake-up alarms, etc. This doubles the functionality of the RF-200 at no extra cost. The ring and flasher pattern for such alerts/alarms are identical to those for cell phone calls/messages. After each alert/alarm, you need to hit the RESET button to turn off the lights.

Note: If you miss a cell phone call or text message (do not answer) all 4 flasher lights will stay on until you press the RESET button. This feature does not work with landline phone calls.

The lights and loud alarm will get your attention if you are up, but what happens if you are in a deep sleep? Not to worry. Get the optional bed shaker. With the optional bed shaker plugged in, you’ll not sleep through any more phone calls, messages, alarms, or alerts. Just put the bed shaker under your mattress or under your pillow and you WILL wake up when it begins vibrating.

If you are a “couch potato” you can slip the bed shaker module under a cushion on your sofa or lazy-boy chair—and again, you won’t miss another phone call or alert!

The bed shaker vibrates in two different patterns—for incoming cell phone calls/messages it is a pattern of a long vibration followed by a very short vibration. For incoming landline calls it is a series of long vibrations.

Another neat feature of the RF-200 is that it has a USB recharging port so you can recharge your phone while you work or sleep. Simply plug the recharging cord that came with your phone into the USB port. That way your cell phone will always be fully charged whenever you grab it. No more awaking to a dead cell phone (and missed calls).

The ring alerter is quite loud. It sure gets my attention, even with my severe hearing loss (when it is set on “Hi”). For people with normal or near-normal hearing, there is a “Lo” setting. And if you don’t want to wake up the baby (or disturb your boss), you can set it to “Off”. You will still be alerted by the bright blue flashing lights and (optional) bed shaker.

One more thing. The RF-200 is A/C powered, but gives you uninterrupted operation even if the power fails with its built-in battery backup. Just install 4 AA alkaline batteries (not included) and you’re all set.

If you’re already drooling over this cool gizmo, purchase the RF-200 Cell/Phone Ringer/Flasher for yourself. For daytime use (no bed shaker) it is only $68.50. For night-time use (includes bed shaker) it is $93.45.

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January 27, 2013: 9:46 am: Cell 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.  [Note: Captionfish is shutting down on December 31, 2014. ]

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: Cell 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: Cell 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: Cell 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: Cell 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: Cell 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: Assistive 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: Assistive 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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