Apple moves against hearing-aid users

The FCC is considering regulations on Hearing Aid Compatibility on all cell phones, which means ensuring that all phones come equipped with a telecoil.

Apple has petitioned to be excluded, saying that its proprietary technology makes its Iphones hearing-aid compatible. This is true, but only if you have a Made for IPhone hearing aid. For everyone else, the IPhone would be inaccessible. All cell phones should be equipped with telecoils, which makes them accessible to all hearing-aid users.

Read HLAA’s position statement on Apple’s request here. 

Click here to sign a petition requesting the FCC not to approve Apple’s request for exemption.

8 thoughts on “Apple moves against hearing-aid users

  1. Thanks for raising this issue Katherine. Apple’s should not be able to call its iPhones HAC (“Hearing Aid Compatible”) if they are ONLY compatible for a few select model hearing aids.

    It is true that streaming can be beneficial for consumers on the phone. The benefit from streaming to two ears was demonstrated in a small study by Picou and Ricketts (2013). They showed that hard of hearing consumers benefited from hearing aids that receive audio signals via wireless streaming to two hearing aid resulted in the best speech recognition, ease and comfort of listening at two levels of noise. BUT…they also found that unilateral telecoil listening resulted in improved hearing on the phone (over the acoustic mode – “just holding the phone up to the ear”) and found that unilateral streaming and uni-lateral telecoil listening resulted in SIMILAR results.

    So while streaming is nice, this study suggests that there is no inherent improvement over the telecoil – at least, not when only one ear is used. And why complicate matter and increase the expense for a consumer? To make a phone call all a consumer needs to do is activate the telecoil (usually accomplished by pushing a button on the hearing aid) and hold a phone right over the ear (without that annoying feedback or whistling). Using a telecoil means no dropped calls, no linking no pairing and no increase in battery drain.

    For these reasons, consumers need to be able to count on the telecoil in Apple’s iPhones UNTIL a universal wireless streaming technology is developed. One that does not require the consumer to purchase a particular make call phone or a particular make hearing aids. Until then, Apple needs to play by the FCC’s rules and make their hearing aids telecoil compatible so all make hearing aids can be used with their make phone.

    I wonder why Apple doesn’t utilize the stronger coil, this patent suggests they are capable of? http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2013/10/apple-to-beef-up-their-iphone-hearing-aid-compatibility-features.html

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    • Excellent question about why Apple doesn’t utilize the stronger coil. I have an iPhone and do use the telecoil, but I live in New York and there is so much ambient electromagnetic static (or whatever the proper term is) that my telecoil buzzes to the extent that I can’t hear anything over the buzz. What to do about this? Any suggestions? It happens indoors too — I do use a streamer sometimes but don’t routinely wear it except when driving (to listen to books or music) — one more piece of equipment to keep track of. Mostly I ask people to call me at home on my landline phone with captions.

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  2. Katherine,

    I could depend on my Windows lumia 928 to work remarkably well using my M/T telecoil program; switching to straight T when understanding was particularly difficult. Yes, as times there could be interference, but I could easily tune it out as the telecoil signal was so strong. The thing is, I could rely on being able to use that phone consistently. I have not been able to use a phone this reliably without streaming for many years. it’s truly empowering to be able to simply flip a switch and be able to use the phone easily, simply and in the same way as others.

    I recently switched to the IPhone 6 S plus. I love Siri. I love that anyone can take a picture with my phone or show me how to do something. But, I due to the overly loud and annoying interference (buzz), I can not use the telecoil program on my hearing aid to ease communication, to understand clearly because, this phone does not match the HAC standards of compatibility of the Windows Lumia 928.

    So are we saying that the current IPhone like the IPHONE6 S plus is only hearing aid compatible with made for I phone?

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    • Cheri, I think you know more about this than I do. I have an IPhone 5S which is telecoil compatible, except when the TCoil buzz drowns out the phone. I don’t know about the 6S. Is that what you’re asking? See your quote below. Maybe others know.
      “So are we saying that the current IPhone like the IPHONE6 S plus is only hearing aid compatible with made for I phone?”

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