Of iPhones and Hearing aids…

Yes, I realize I brought up this topic before, but I wanted to revisit it, now that the beloved iPhone has landed. My hope is that some people can answer a couple of questions I have:

1. M3/M4 Hearing-aid compatibility?

– This is a quick one: how well does iPhone play with hearing aids? In the past, GSM phones have been known for their terrible interference with hearing aids when in a “telephone/telecoil” mode. My Verizon-based Treo is okay with my ‘aids, but my dad’s Cingular-backed Blackberry (fairly recent model) is terrible. If I remember correctly, the U.S. has some sort of law now in effect that most cell phones be compatible with hearing aids, so this might not be a problem.

2. Better headphones?

– Apple’s been including the white earbuds with iPods since day one, so this may not change, but I’m not a big fan of them, as my ears are already too crowded. There are some that agree with me, but for different reasons. Indeed, these earbuds don’t fit too well in smaller or differently-shaped ear canals. I’m a frequent user of the around-the-ear (“studio-style”) headphones, which often provide better bass, and keep out outside noise better than Apple’s earbuds. I take the Metra train on my commute into Chicago, and most people on the trains use something other than earbuds because of the noise.

This will especially be an issue with the iPhone, as you can’t answer any calls with your average set of headphones… if you can even get the plug to fit without an extra bulky adapter. Are there any 3rd party headphones coming for the iPhone that will allow for answering calls?

Sadly, due to the lack of advanced Bluetooth in the iPhone, we’re unable to use stereo Bluetooth headsets. Here’s something funny, though: Bluetooth often causes interference with telecoils in the form of a “click… click… click…” sound, but my Motorola Bluetooth headset works fine for me. Are they improving the Bluetooth spec?

3. Volume?

Even if I don’t use the “telecoil” mode to use the iPhone, will it be as loud as my Treo? I was unable to really test the volume, as the times when I was testing the iPhone, it was in noisier areas. My Treo 650 is great for volume… how does the iPhone compare when you put it up to your ear to make a call?

Note: The M3/M4 compatibility may not be as much of an issue on second thought: the two primary sources of interference with the telecoil of most hearing aids are the Bluetooth/GSM chipsets (CDMA is not quite as severe) and electrical interference from the display screen backlight on some phones. Older Motorola phones were especially bad, giving off a horrible “bzzttt” while the backlight was on. If the iPhone turns off its display, then that may be fine. Hopefully, they’ve worked out the radio interference issues. Some of this same interference is the reason that we’re asked to turn off our phones when getting ready to fly.

If any of you current iPhone owners out there are familiar with what I’m talking about, and have answers for these questions, please drop me a note in the comments slot below. Thanks!


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