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Buying mobile phones for the hard-of-hearing

Which? gives its top tips for buying a mobile phone for the hard-of-hearing.

There are plenty of mobile phones out there that cater specifically to the hard-of-hearing, offering features such as extra loud ringtones and volume.

However, these specialised phones can often be very expensive and impossible to find on a subsidised contract. They also offer very basic features – no internet, touchscreens, or multimedia.

So if you want to buy a regular mobile phone, and you’re hard-of-hearing, what should you look out for? Read our top tips below to find out.

Hearing aid compatibility

Most mobile phones in high street stores are not compatible with hearing aids, but some are better than others at reducing radio interference when used.

The best thing to do is ask in-store if you can test whether a phone works well with your hearing aid. Use the mobile phone to make a call and, if you have a T-Coil hearing aid, experiment with switching between its M and T-Coil settings.

According to consumer charity Ricability, Clamshell phones (flip phones) tend to offer less interference than other types of phones.

Headsets for the hard-of-hearing

Using a specialised Bluetooth headset can reduce any interference and make calls easier to hear, as the phone is held much further away from the hearing aid.

Specialised hearing aid headsets come in two varieties – neck loops, or ear hooks – and can be quite expensive, ranging from around £50-£200.

Both essentially do the same thing. They plug into your hearing aid and connect to your phone. This means you can hold your phone away from your hearing aid and reduce interference. However, your hearing aid will need to be T-Coil and set to the T setting for this to work.

There are some wire headsets available, but most work wirelessly with Bluetooth. So your phone will also need to be Bluetooth compatible. Make sure you check before you buy, as some cheaper handsets don’t support this feature.

Accessible volume controls

When buying a phone make sure its voice volume controls are easily accessible, as you’ll probably need to adjust them quite frequently in order to hear voice calls in crowded or quiet places. Look for mobile phones that have the controls located on the side, instead of within a menu.

Speakerphone features

Many hard-of-hearing individuals find the speakerphone function on mobile phones very useful, as it significantly increases the volume of the call. Although your conversation won’t be private! Many very basic phones won’t have a speakerphone feature, so check before buying to make sure.

Check the volume of ringtone

Make sure the ringtone is loud enough for you to hear. However, if you don’t mind keeping your phone in your pocket, then it’s a good idea to set your phone to ‘vibrate’. Nearly all modern mobile phones should have a vibrate feature.

Comfortable texting

SMS texting is very useful if you’re hard-of-hearing. But if you plan on sending a lot of texts, make sure your phone’s keypad is easy and comfortable to use and that the phone has predictive texting.

Some advanced smartphones, like the HTC Desire, have voice recognition software, converting what you say into a SMS, which you might find more comfortable if your not used to using a keypad (though the accuracy of this technology isn’t always reliable).

Also, if you plan on sending lots of texts, find a pay-monthly or pay-as-you go tariff that has plenty of free texts bundled in.

For more information and advice on buying a mobile phone for the hard-of-hearing visit the RNID website.

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