Monday, March 03, 2008

Of CI's and Cell Phones - Take Two

Wow I can't believe its been so long since I last updated. This will be a pretty long post!

My implant has been fantastic - nothing to complain about whatsoever with the quality of sound and the performance of my implant and processor, barring a gremlin here or there with regards to the processor coil - which I will address later in this post, or in a following one.

First order of business: I've had several people and a few commenters request that I include the information I found in my search for a cell phone. Getting my first cell phone was definitely an educational experience. I had not realized that cell phones are not universally adaptable to the technology in a hearing aid or cochelar implant. The very first phone I received from my provider (Rogers) was a Samsung. It wasn't until I came home and sat down to try it that I realized that it wasn't compatible with my Freedom. I experienced a horrendous high-pitched throbbing static when I put it up to the microphone/processor. Not to be defeated, I started Googling.

I came across a website and found this information:

When wireless devices are used near hearing devices (such as hearing aids and cochlear implants), users may detect a buzzing, humming, or whining noise. Some hearing devices are more immune than others to this interference, and wireless devices also vary in the amount of interference they generate.

The wireless telephone industry has developed ratings to assist hearing device users in finding wireless devices that may be compatible with their hearing devices. Not all wireless devices have been rated. Wireless devices that are rated will have the rating displayed on their box together with other relevant approval markings.

The ratings are not guarantees. Results will vary depending on the user's hearing device and hearing loss. If your hearing device is vulnerable to interference you may not be able to use a rated wireless device successfully.

M-Ratings: Wireless devices rated M3 or M4 meet FCC requirements and are likely to generate less interference to hearing devices than wireless devices that are not labeled. M4 is the better/higher of the two ratings.

T-Ratings: Wireless devices rated T3 or T4 meet FCC requirements and are likely to be more usable with a hearing device's telecoil ("T Switch" or "Telephone Switch") than unrated wireless devices. T4 is the better/higher of the two ratings. (Note that not all hearing devices have telecoils in them).

Most phones that are rated T3 also have an M3 rating. Similarly, most phones rated T4 also have an M4 rating.

Hearing devices may also be measured for immunity to this type of interference. Your hearing device manufacturer or hearing health professional may help you find results for your hearing device. The more immune your hearing aid is, the less likely you are to experience interference noise from wireless devices.

Interesting. So I clicked their Phone Finder link, and selected "Show All Options" from the bottom. After a refresh, I found the "Hearing Aid Compatible" option and selected "M3/T4 and M4/T4" (Very Telecoil Compatible) and did the search. I'm not sure if the link I am going to provide will work for everyone, but I received this listing:

I took this list with me to my Rogers rep and from the list he was able to give me the Motorola Razr V3, and I have been very satisfied with it. I occasionally experience a little bit of static, but I have found that it usually is so quiet it doesn't interfere with my conversations, and if it does, I use a Motorola earbud headset (which I will show pictures of below) and that eliminates all static!

When it comes to choosing a cell phone, it appears that "one size does NOT fit all." You will have to experiment with different phones, and if possible talk to your reprsentative to see if they will let you "try out" different phones to find the one that works best with your implant. I have yet to use a telecoil neck loop, so I can't offer any advice there, but perhaps others who have the experience will add their two cents in the comments area.

I found some advice regarding cell phones from Cochlear's website,

A number of cell phone features may produce radio frequency (RF) interference with your cochlear implant, which may cause you to hear buzzing when you bring the phone up to your implant. This buzzing can overpower a caller’s voice, making it difficult or impossible to use the phone.

Interference can come from the transmission signal that sends the call, the antenna, battery or screen backlight.

Cell phones that are not telecoil compatible may also produce interference when using a telecoil.

The Nucleus behind-the-ear (BTE) processors and microphones have an RF shielding to provide some protection against interference. Yet there are certain cell phone features you can look for to minimize interference even further.

Buying a flip-top or clamshell design phone, rather than a bar-shaped design, may help reduce interference. The flip-fop design usually has both the battery and antenna in the lower part of the phone, putting some distance between these parts and your implant’s components. The contoured shape of this design makes it easy to position the receiver next to the implant microphone.

Also, to reduce interference from the antenna, look for a phone that lets you point the antenna away from your implant’s components and still comfortably talk on the phone.

You might want to contact your CI representative/audiologist to get the most updated information on compatibility if you have a different CI - I can't speak for anything other than the Freedom, as that is all I have ever used.

Now about my hands-free headset - I have found that since I can't "switch ears" when my arm gets tired, and that sometimes the static sound gets worse depending on the quality of the connection with the caller, using an earbud headset completely eliminates all background static. The challenge I had was to figure out a way to USE the earbud with my CI. Trial and error so far has lead me to using two very soft ponytail holders to hold it in place, and this seems to work very well.

First - my phone (Motorola Razr V3), Freedom, Motorola Earbud Headset, two soft ponytail holders.

Take one ponytail holder, and loop twice behind the earbud, and around the CI

Take the second ponytail holder, and wrap it OPPOSITE so that it wraps from the top of the earbud to the bottom of the processor for stability

I thought it prudent to add this: I do NOT use the telecoil setting on my Freedom, nor do I have the telecoil selection activated on my Razr. I HAVE tried using the telecoil settings and found I experienced the buzzing/whining sound that I reported with the Samsung. It just emphasizes you have to "play around" with the different phones, and different settings until you find one that works best for you - there doesn't seem to be a "One Size Fits All" scenerio when it comes to cell phone technology. I have found this holds true for regular house phones as well. Some phones are crystal clear for me, others either buzz, or produce a weird "echo" whenever I speak into them.

~ edit March 21

I originally made this post on March 3, but wanted to make an addition here. While I love using the headset with my Razr, there is a limitation. The Razr has a single port on it, which serves as a data port, a headset port, and a charging port. This means if I am using it with my headset and my battery gives me a "low battery" warning, I can't simply plug the charger in and continue my conversation. I have to unplug the headset (which automatically disconnects the call) and then plug in the charger, and THEN have the person call me back, and continue the conversation normally without the headset. Its a bit of a hassle, as I am not in the habit of asking a person beforehand how long they plan to talk to me, so I can ensure I have enough battery power to use the headset for the entire conversation. I often talk to my sweetheart for a few hours each night (long distance relationship) and quite often I've had to tell him that he would have call me back in a minute, after I had plugged the charger into my phone. Its a hassle to have only one port - he has a phone which has separate ports for the charger and the headset. I've been trying to find a t-splitter to allow me to both charge and use my headset, but I haven't had much luck.


Cloggy said...

Great post.... and yes, it's been a while...
Nice to "hear" from you again..

Will be some time before Lotte will be a the "personal mobile phone" stage... (but quicker than I expect probably..)

Perhaps by that time, blue tooth will be incorporated in the CI....

Abbie said...

I totally agree, I would love to have bluetooth incorporated. Some HA's have it out now...

Mark B. said...

Well, well, well... A Bionic McGyver!!! *LOL*

Congrats on your new c-phone!

Cyborg Queen said...

Very interesting! But, isn't it a pain to set it up and take off? I assume that you only use it if you're making a long conversation, not a quick one.

You should see what I did (check my blog), well, technically my boyfriend did to keep my CI from slipping off! :-)

Billy said...

This is great info, thanks. Mine seems to work fine, with one problem, and I'm not so sure it's the phone. When I use my telecoil, my phone battery drains real fast, have you or anyone you know had this problem? Maybe I just need a new battery:)
Again thanks for the help.

Dy said...

Cyborg queen - its not that difficult to set up, to be honest. I can do it in a few seconds. I usually reserve using the headset for longer conversations (since I can't switch ears, my arm gets tired.) Hopefully somebody might see this and come up with an even better solution, but for now it works, and I have no complaints.

The backing to keep your CI from slipping off was a great idea! I might borrow that.

Billy - I've not used the telecoil settings on my CI with my phone, so I don't know if it would hasten the battery drain or not. Maybe somebody else who reads this will be able to offer their input.

daionara said...


If it makes you feel any better, I haven't even been able to figure out how to make the RAZR ear bud work and I don't have a CI! I guess I can be even more thankful that I can use the Bluetooth!