iPhone and M3/M4 hearing-aid compatibility?

36 Comments

This may be the most obscure comment you’ll read in speculation leading up to the iPhone’s release, but I thought of this when testing out phones before picking my Treo 650, as well as the issues that my Mom is having with her dated Motorola StarTac (did I say dated? I meant ancient…)

My concern is with how well the iPhone may or may not work with hearing aid devices which I and other hearing-impaired individuals use. I should clarify further that I mean *digital* hearing aids – those that have a secondary mode which switches off the microphone and activates a telecoil “mode”. The telecoil allows (or did allow) for the wearer to put their ear up to a telephone and get a nice, clear signal from the phone. (if you try to put a hearing aid up to a phone or any surface normally, you get a nice, loud, squealing sound, and no usable audio gets through) This was a minor annoyance, but I could get used to it, provided the “switching interface” of the hearing aid was easy enough that I could press a button. In normal use, this worked great for me for years with landline phones.

Enter the digital cell phone. These devices are great, and provide a really nice connection compared to those old clunky analog phones. The problem for hearing aid users comes when those digital transmitters interfere with the normal operation of the telecoil. GSM phones are reportedly sometimes worse than CDMA in this area. My Treo with Verizon works fairly well, though there is a minor bit of buzzing. (because of its “contoured” shape around the top earpiece, I can use it without the need to switch to telecoil, since I get no feedback, and the output volume is great! I tried the Motorola Q, but its hearing aid compatibility was terrible, and the flat shape made for a lot of feedback)

I’m not familiar with how these devices work exactly, but my understanding is that the manufacturers have techniques that they can use to minimize if not eliminate the buzzing, hissing, and static for hearing aid users. The US government recently asked cell phone makers and service providers to make sure that their phones are compatible – by using designations of M3 and M4. My Treo works well (the buzzing is there, but not excessive), while my sister’s Samsung get-this-phone-free-with-a-plan-P.O.S. from Verizon does not. My dad’s Cingular-based Blackberry does not work well for my Mom’s hearing aids (nor me, either), but her old StarTac is slightly better, but you get a bad buzzing when the backlight is on. (my sister and dad have no need for hearing aids, so they aren’t as “picky” when it comes to phones)

Price does not seem to be a factor in how individual phones are built, as compatibility is all over the map, with the most expensive Blackberrys oftentimes being worse than the cheaper models (or more expensive Palm devices). Some Windows Mobile “smart”phones work well, others do not. I hate Nokia phones, and every one I’ve tried has horrible audio quality, with and without hearing aids.

Getting back to the topic at hand (Apple, of course) … will the iPhone work well for hearing aid users? With its cool messaging and email features, hearing-impared folks can make good use of its text; but can they also hear through it, if need be? Has Apple provided any information about this; will devices be subject to interference from the phone?

36 Comments

Taylor

I think that you should bring this important issue to the attention of Apple’s PR department. Their phone number is (408) 974-2042.

PowerMac G5, iBook G4, AppleTV, 80 GB video iPod, 8 GB iPhone Mac OS X (10.4.10)

Taylor

Do any of you know if any of the smart phones are hearing aid compatable? I need a calendar/ detailed contacts; as I run my own business & nextel isn’t cutting it. LOL

Taylor

I have the Hatis headset behind the ear; I belive it’s Mach1. Works well; Slight adjustments to be made to hear clearer; moving the piece behind your ear up or down to match with your BTE.. I was also looking at iphones; and asked the clerk if they were hearing aid compatable; an she nonshalantly said “oh yeah!!”.. I browsed and browsed and never found a “setting” for hearing aids. So today I am researching deeply about it and the black berry curve; as I have BTE in both ears. I will let you know what I find!

Amy

Has anyone tried the hatis headseat (this goes behind the hearing aid) with the iphone and then switching the hearing aid to the telecoil to see if that helps with hearing the phone?

Chuck Alan

Thanks everyone for the comments.. I am totally deaf in one hear and profoundly deaf in the other. I use a phonak digital HA and I’ve found the two best cell phones are the Razor and the Rumor. I prefer the telecoil mode as I can tune out the world and hear only the phone. The Razor is a flip and easier to hold. The rumor I like because of the texting. (At 44 years old – Im loving to text!) So each for me was a good choice. I have not yet experienced the loop – blue tooth – FM… They now have come out with a water resistant HA (phonak) which is on my list to try. As for the Iphone. I tried it in the store and it failed. I could not hear on it in any mode. I was very disapointed. Im sticking with Sprint.

Amy

So does anyone know yet if the Iphones are hearing aid compatible or when they will be?

Garry

Amy:

Did you ever get any response to your question if anyone knows when and if IPhones will be hearing aid compatible?

Thanks

Mandy

Please encourage the future of iphone to be made properly! I really like them and really want one but I wear hearing aids too. Ive tried using an i phone and it does not work. Sometimes Id rather that I can just go buy a phone with out that fear of it not working. And with out having to buy all the other bits, such as the $120.00 neck loop and all the other things like blue tooth peices.

When I went looking into getting a cell phone in the first place not a single staff member at many cell phone stores and even on the phone with many others knew a thing about if a phone had any sort of compatability. Mabey it would be nice not to draw all that extra attention to myself for once! Mabey in the future I can pick up a phone and put it to my ear just like thr razr I have.

Ed Every

My wife still uses her old Startac also. I am hearing impaired and have tested quite a few cell phones using the old Startac as a baseline.

First let me be clear that the old Motorola Startac design does not let you get the phone anywhere near close to your hearing aids as some of the new rated models do. So with the Startac and others with poor Mx/Tx ratings you are left with using a neckloop (or the equivalent) if you are wearing hearing aids.

That said, the old Startac in my testing has by far the strongest, clearest, highest quality audio of any new designs I have tested. (I tested almost every model now offered by Verizon using CDMA.) The price and the sophistication of the cell phones are not a very good predictor of their audio quality and loudness.

One of the best (probably the best) of the Verizon phones for both loudness, clarity and connectivity is the Samsung Gleam SCH-U700. Its a middle-priced phone with fairly good features but has great audio in the mic mode, the telecoil handheld mode and in neckloop mode. (Not wild about its keyboard.) It is rated M4 and has no T rating. Still it test very well in the telecoil mode with my Phonak Savias. The audio still falls a little short of the Startac’s but it’s RF transmission doesn’t clobber hearing aid as the Startac does when you hold it to your hearing aided ear.

The Samsung Knack SCH U-310 is a lower priced phone with an output just as strong as the Gleam’s but it’s not as uncolored or clean sounding and it’s connectivity is not rated as high as the Gleam’s. It’s advantages though are its simplicity, its low price, a good keyboard and a M4/T4 rating.

jill

I just wanted to chime in my two cents. I have been wearing hearing aids for 35 years, since I was 5 months old. I have been a mac lover and mac user since they came out so long ago. I purchased an iphone two weeks ago, and I am so very disappointed and disillusioned that Apple did not consider us in the design and development of this amazing device. It is NOT hearing aid compatible, and that just Sucks. I am so disappointed that even when they came out with the next generation of iphones they still did not rectify this problem.
sign me, disapppointed in san jose, Jill

Leslie

OK first off let me say that i am in the profound range 97% loss. Talking on phone with t coil or not is a bust. I uise a neck loop and it at least lets me hear words tho i cannot understand them. In addition I have paired with my iPhone a service by Hamilton Web Captel that allows me to use my iPhone in telephone and web mode at same time to have conversations where the other partys conversation is printed in text on my cell monitor screen. Using neckloop I have NO problems with reception or volume esp w the iphone cause it is the one phone that can do cell and web at same time. Give hamilton a try. You will be amazed. Also use PHONETAG.com to pay for a service that translates all of your voice mail for you and sends them to you as text. I dont even ans my phone now. I just wait for the voice mail text msg and call them back usint my Hamilton connection w my iPhone. There are solutions if you reallyl want to find them. I have and it is a great boon to my business. I am a self employed computer consultant and other management consulting This is my 30th year in business. Yes we can do this folks. Good luck to you. I praise all who persevere and accomplisy by saying I can do this!! (excuse my poor typing)

Warmest Regards leslie

Steve Perkins

I’m in the same boat, folks. BTE hearing aids, got the iPhone ‘cuz I CAN hear better on it than any others I tried, using my Tcoil setting, though I didn’t try ALL the other cell phone options.

FYI: I have Bang & Olafsen earbuds (about five years old now), with them IN and my HAs OUT and plugged into the iPhone I can hear music and incoming calls rather well EVEN in my noisy gym. But fie to the guy who tries to talk to me at that very moment.

That’s not the solution to what we need: cell rings, click something, put to ear, communicate (like the rest of the world).

I know one thing for certain, the more people sound off and speak up about this, the more action we’ll get. Strength in numbers. Power to the vocal, nada to the silent. Spread the word.

I should stop fuming and find out which desk at the FCC is receptive and/or responsible for the hearing aid compatible cell phone mandate. He/she needs to hear all this loud and clear.

I’ll let you know.

Bob

I am hearing impaired and would love to be able to use my Iphone as a hearing assistance device. By that I mean use the mic in the iphone to pick up ambient sound and play it simultaneously into the ear buds one would use with an iphone. Does anyone know if this is possible? Please e-mail me with this information at info@wntk.com
Thanks,
Bob

Lisa

My 11 year old son wears hearing aids and having trouble with cellphones. However, we have the t-coil headphones on order and waiting to see how they will work. The connection can be either 2.5mm or 3.5mm with a ear hook that sits next to the hearing aid to connect the tcoil… (no feedback because the phone isn’t near the aid). I think the cord has a built in mic, but if not, he would just have to speak in the phone. Anyway, this would work for the iphone since it has a 3.5 mm jack.

Steve

Chiming in. Wear OTE aids. Have telecoil. Will travel. Can’t discover what the M/T ratings on iPhone are. All the gadgets we need (and expense) to just function! (Vent). So bottom line for me: any cell phone, one Bluetooth earpiece, the other ear for real world input. Sounds like a plan, but then there’s always where do I stash the HA I take out on the fly? ….. Ugh.

Regina Kelly

I have digital in the ear hearing aids and had the worst time finding a phone that was load enough and didn’t give a lot of feedback. The LG CU400 fit the bill. It’s extrememly loud which is good because I can even use it without my aids sometimes. But, I want a iPhone and like everyone else, I’m trying to find out if it is compatiable with the tcoil and how loud it is. If it isn’t loud, it’s not going to work for me. I have a very hard time hearing on the phone especially in traffic and in the store and other noisy places. Hope they have one at the store set up for me to try so I can see how loud and how much feedback it produces. That would be sweet. I’d like to have one.

Lorraine Wernow

I have a cochlear Implant and use the LG8300 phone thru Verizon. It has m4/t4 hearing aid/cochlear implant capability and works great. However I am interested in using email and aol.com chat also and am considering switching to a phone that has all these features. I was hoping the Iphone would be the phone to use but do not see any specifications for M4/T4 listed for it. Please advise. Lorraine

Scott Reynolds

My wife has one analog (no telecoil) and one digital (with telecoil). She’s very happy with her RAZR V3i, which has a telecoil mode.

I’m still trying to find information on whether the iPhone has a telecoil mode. At this point I suspect the best we can expect is that it doesn’t interfere excessively, else this feature would have been more widely publicized.

Michael

I have been wearing hearing aid’s most of my life and until a few years back struggled with this issue. My job requires that I have access to a cell phone at all times. I tried different carriers, loop sets (a devise that you put around your neck that works with the T switch, and multiple phones…but remained frusterated.

I discovered a few years back that Sprint was the way to go. I can use nearly any phone in their line up without issue. I am currently using a Razr phone with perfect clarity.

Like many of you I am a huge Apple fan and was dissapointed to find that their is an interference issue with the iPhone. If the iPhone was on the Sprint network….we would not have this problem.

Gregg

What about captions on the videos from the iTunes video store? I would love to get an appleTV but not if I can’t watch anything captioned.

Garry

Paul:

Did you ever get any response to your question about “News on M3/M4 compatibilitywith the Iphone?

Steve Jackson

I use an Artone Bluetooth neckloop which I wear under my shirt. As it has a blinking blue light, I wear it upside down to not distract people. It works well with my Nokia 6600, with the exception that the Artone frequently powers down and if I don’t call turns off. If it turns off and a call comes in, I have to answer in microphone mode as it takes too long to reconnect. The Nokia works well in M mode as long as I’m not in M/T-coil mode which of course I would be. Then I hear digital buzzing and popping.

A good high audio quality, low power consumption Bluetooth connection along with a M4 rating would be all I need. (that and a next generation bluetooth loopset.)

Janet Miller

Hi, Since next year we are going to be required to use hands free phones while driving, I am wondering what is being done for people like me. I wear over the ear hearing aids in both ears, plus I wear glasses. So, you see my ears are full. I thought speaker phone, but its hard to hear if other noises are interfering. I would like to know if there is something for all of us hearing impareds will be able to use. HELP. Thanks Janet Miller

Jess

He probably did mean M3/M4. These are the only two ratings a device can have for the microphone (M) mode. But you are also right that a phone can have a telecoil (T) rating for coupling. So a phone might be M3/T3 or M3/T4, for example.

David

Jason: Did you mean M3/T4 instead of the M3/M4 rating in the title? Hearing aids usually have a M rating for the microphone and a T rating for the telecoil.

Cheers

David

Chris Ryan

Two Phones that work well with Hearing Aids:

Motorola MOTOKRZR K1m Fire
LG VX8300

I have tested these phones with my hearing aids. (Analog Hearing aids)

— Chris

John

I’ve had great luck using bluetooth earpieces – no feedback issues at all. Plus that way it doesn’t matter what phone you have.

Örjan Larsson

Hello

Myself am having trouble with GSM phones, they sometimes can disturb my CI (cochlea implant) with an high “tice-tac” signal. The same that can disturb some TV etc, if you have your GSM phone near.

My solution to that is to use an normal wired handsfree. Put the minispeaker from the handsfree near your telecoil, and set the CI or hearing aid in Telecoil mode. Because the speaker inside the handsfree is an coil of sort, it does work in T-mode. Works great for me, and is easy to test if it might work for U 2.

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