The material below is some of the access information posted on the CTIA website.
The following list of questions was submitted by an advisory group, representing audiologists, hearing aid manufacturers and individuals who are hard of hearing. The responses reflect information currently available.
Q: What type of wireless phone is the best choice for me?
Because of the infinite combinations of hearing loss, hearing aids, and types of telephones, there is no single answer to this question. The best approach for individuals with hearing loss and hearing aid wearers is to explore all the different wireless services offered in their market to determine which ones best meet their needs. (Please see CTIA's "Access" brochure for further information.)
"Choice" is the essential ingredient in wireless telecommunications. Consumers have a choice to use a car phone or portable, choice between an analog phone and digital, choice between types of digital phones, even choice among colors. Please visit the Product Guide section of this site for a list of features and functions on phones that may be useful to people who are hard of hearing, as well as links to manufacturers where more information on their products can be obtained.
Q: Please explain the interaction between digital wireless phones and hearing aids.
The digital electronics revolution brings many benefits to consumers, including advanced wireless communications. However, the proliferation of digital technologies has also generated some interference "growing pains" for devices designed before digital technologies became widespread, and thus, do not include sufficient immunity to the new technologies.
This means that some hearing aid wearers may experience interference (typically a "buzz") when trying to use digital phones or possibly when someone nearby is using a digital phone. There is work underway by the wireless industry, hearing aid manufacturers and consumers representing people who are hard of hearing to develop solutions to this interference.
Q: Are there differences between the signals which can possibly cause interference from a wireless phone?
Yes. Some wireless phones transmit in "analog" (similar to a vinyl record) while other phones transmit "digital" signals (similar to a CD). Analog phones have not been found to have an impact on hearing aids.
Q: Are there differences between the type of digital phone used and the potential hearing aid interference?
All digital wireless technologies have the potential to interfere to varying degrees. This does not mean that interference will always occur with all phones and all hearing aids. Since the level of each individual's hearing loss and type of hearing aid varies, the extent to which each individual may experience interference, if at all, is unique. The wireless industry offers multiple choices in the transmission type and design factors of digital phones. Hearing aid wearers who wish to acquire a digital wireless phone should consider all the choices available to determine which one best meets their needs.
Q: What is the wireless industry doing to make sure that individuals who wear hearing aids can use new telephone technologies?
The wireless industry actively supports research to identify and mitigate any potential interference. The wireless industry founded and funds the Center for the Study of Wireless Electromagnetic Compatibility at the University of Oklahoma to conduct research in this area. Please visit the University of Oklahoma EMC Center homepage for details about the research.
Phone and hearing aid manufacturers are also investigating this issue. Several companies have announced that they are currently working to develop solutions that will enable people wearing hearing aids to use new wireless digital phones without experiencing interference. The wireless industry -- both manufacturers and service providers -- along with the organizations representing hearing aid wearers and hearing aid manufacturers are working cooperatively and diligently to identify additional solutions.
The wireless industry has also joined with hearing aid manufacturers, representatives of people who are hard of hearing, and audiologists to coordinate and facilitate an interdisciplinary effort to address both the interference and accessibility issues between wireless phones and hearing aids. The steering team for this effort expects to complete its work and make recommendations to the Federal Communications Commission in late March 1996.
Q: How much amplification does the volume control feature on most wireless phones have without using other devices?
The maximum allowable volume sound pressure is 120dB (decibels). Volume control and tone may vary between different models of handsets. Individual manufacturers are able to answer specific questions about each phone.
Q: What is a hearing aid telecoil?
A device in some hearing aids that allows magnetic coupling between a hearing aid and another electronic communication device.
Q: How can a telecoil be useful? What are its advantages?
The telecoil shuts the microphone off so that the hearing aid becomes a receiver of the magnetic energy emitted by certain phones. The telecoil, then, converts those impulses into sound, thus improving the signal to noise ratio. This means that a telecoil user's hearing aid will not amplify ambient background noise. This improves voice communication. A further benefit is that the hearing aid can be adjusted to higher levels of amplification without triggering the unwanted feedback noise that may otherwise occur.
Q: What are the non-telephone uses of a telecoil?
There are various types of loop systems found in public buildings, which allow hearing aid wearers to listen using a telecoil. These include museums, exhibits, auditoriums, and concert halls. Telecoil uses include sound amplification systems that are beneficial in areas that are difficult for a hearing aid wearer to understand a speaker, especially when other parties are talking. Some systems are also utilized for classroom teaching when students have severe hearing loss and need to use a telecoil in hearing aids.
Q: What exactly is "hearing aid compatibility?"
"Compatibility" is different from "interference" or "accessibility." Compatibility is a term of art used in federal regulations to indicate that the phone will emit electromagnetic energy which can couple with a telecoil-equipped hearing aid.
Unlike a traditional wireline telephone, which is fixed in place and thus impersonal, wireless phones are the ultimate in personalized consumer choice. If you are a person with a hearing impairment this choice provides you with unrivaled access to the telephone network -- anywhere.
With a traditional landline telephone you must use the phone which is in the room with you -- what is provided is all you get. With a wireless phone you make the choices as to which phone works best for you and you can take that phone with you everywhere. For instance:
There are two basic types of wireless phones: analog and digital. Some digital phones may cause a buzz when held close to some hearing aids. Under most circumstances, analog phones have no buzz potential. You can make the choice which phone works best with your hearing aid by "test driving" both types.
If you want a digital phone there are multiple digital technologies available. The most prevalent are known as CDMA, PCS 1900 and TDMA. It is not necessary to know the technical details of each technology; a "test drive" will determine which format works best with your hearing aid. You make the choice if you want a digital phone and which digital phone works best with your situation.
If you do not use a hearing aid, but require a volume control, you can make the choice among wireless phones which offer a volume control option.
If you use a telecoil-equipped hearing aid, you can make the choice among wireless phones which have built in t-coil coupling capability.
External devices are also available, should you make the choice. CTIA's Unit Certification Program requires that all wireless phones have external audio accessibility to enable the use of these external devices. The HATIS device is an external t-coil coupling device which boosts the signal beyond normal t-coil levels in order to benefit profoundly deaf individuals. The JABRA device places the speaker into the ear (similar to a Walkman earplug) for better reception in noisy environments or by users with mild hearing loss.
If it is difficult for you to hear the phone ring you can make the choice to use a phone with a vibrating battery or a separate device programmed to vibrate when your wireless phone rings.