Being able to use a phone hands free can mean independence in many ways, like making appointments, getting assistance from customer service, and chatting with friends. For people with hearing loss, talking on the phone can be a challenging and sometimes daunting experience. Keri Reynolds is a bilateral cochlear implant recipient who is also a part of the MED-EL USA Team. In her latest post, Keri shares her handy tips for talking on the telephone with a hearing implant.
When I was first activated, I had an immediate desire to talk on the phone successfully. All those years when I needed someone else to do the talking for me were going to be over! My goal was to be independent again and speak for myself when it came to using the phone. A huge goal? Maybe, depending on my expectations, but most definitely achievable. I’d like to share what my personal experience has taught me about phone mastery. Here is my top 10 tips list for achieving telephone triumph!
10: Set realistic expectations about how long it will take to get back in the saddle—comfortably—when talking on the phone. You and your rehabilitation specialist can determine how you will measure and define success. Set small goals that can be achieved to keep you feeling motivated and successful along the way.
9: Use a phone that has a high T-Coil and microphone rating. This will optimize your success in talking on the phone. Not all phones are created equal in this aspect. T-coils (telecoils) and microphones, particularly on cell phones, are usually rated 1–4. The best rating is T4 for telecoil and M4 for microphones. Look for a phone that has a high rating on both the T-Coil and microphone—it can really make a difference. If possible, choose a phone that gives you various listening and connectivity options. When I shop for a phone, I test it with a real phone call to see how well I can hear and understand. I even ask the salesperson if I can step outside to make the call, as sometimes I experience some interference inside the store, especially if I’m trying out the T-Coil.
8: Remember—baby steps are ok. Start out using the speaker phone option. That can be a good place to start for talking on the phone, especially since you are using both ears to hear. Just remember that whatever you hear, everyone around you is hearing too, so be mindful of what you’re talking about!
7: Experiment with the T-Coil. I found that using the T-Coil eliminates background noise and helps me to focus on just the voice of the person I am speaking to. I love this function as I don’t have to work so hard to listen and to understand. And, this is something that someone with normal hearing can’t do—they are stuck with background noise!
6: Remember when I said in tip #9 to look for a phone with connectivity options? Having a phone that allows direct connection through a standard headphone jack is ideal for practicing talking on the phone. The signal goes straight from the telephone device to your audio processor, and it really boosts the clarity of the sound and voice. Using this connection capability kept me excited and motivated because I could hear and understand conversations so much more easily.
5: If I’m not using the direct connection or T-Coil, I need to practice finding the “sweet spot”. Experiment with finding the position where the speaker on the phone best aligns with the microphone on your audio processor, giving you the clearest and loudest sound. This can take practice but really does make a big difference in how well I can hear the caller.
4: Do regular exercises with a telephone buddy. Initially, I practiced talking on the phone with my husband and daughter as their voices are recognizable and “safe”. I didn’t feel worried or pressured if I misunderstood, and I felt comfortable to ask them to repeat things. My daughter and husband also practiced “tough love” at times with me, like not immediately repeating things they said. This was helpful as it gave my ears and brain time to figure it out. Our practice was easy at first, using words like “hello”, “goodbye”, numbers, days of the week and answering simple questions. We then progressed to harder exercises, using prepared topics to chat about. After this, we then practiced conversations on random topics. In everything you do with learning to hear on the phone, always think about progressing to the next challenge!
3: When learning to talk on the phone, I practiced in different listening environments: indoors, outside, at the office, in the airport, even in the line at the grocery store! Practice is key. When talking on the phone, I would try out both the T-Coil function and direct connection to see the difference and find out which one offered clearer hearing.
2: Time to get adventurous! Listen and talk on the phone with a Bluetooth streaming device, such as the Quattro 4.0 or the Artone 3 MAX neckloop. As I am a bilateral user, I can get stereo sound straight to both ears. The T-coil eliminates background noise and the speaker’s voice goes straight to my processors, giving me a great signal and hearing ability. And, the Bluetooth neckloops are usually hands-free, so I am able to multi-task.
1: Practice Makes Perfect. I found success with talking on the phone because I wanted it and I practiced regularly. I practiced with my T-Coil, with my direct connect cable, in different environments, with different people and with streaming technology. Daily practice is the key to success, every time! Start out easy and work up to harder tasks. Persist and don’t be afraid to get it “wrong”.
Don’t be afraid of the phone—embrace it and find your telephone triumph!
Find out Keri’s tips for music appreciation with a cochlear implant.
Are you struggling with hearing loss at work? Check out CI recipient Scott’s tips for hearing your best in the workplace.
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