Senior man talks on the phone with a hearing aid specialist while wearing quality hearing aids

Speaking on the Phone with Hearing Aids

People with hearing loss often struggle to hear over a telephone. There are strategies to learn that will help them to hear and communicate better.

Speaking on the phone when wearing hearing aids can be difficult and people with hearing loss often complain that they can’t hear conversations well. Learning how to use hearing aids on the telephone is important when they first start to wear hearing aids. 

For someone working as a call center agent, receptionist, or even just answering a lot of business calls, not being able to hear well over the telephone can be debilitating. It can even reduce earning potential and therefore affect their livelihood. The next most common complaint is that users hear worse over the phone with their hearing aids than without them. This is usually a result of not using their hearing aids correctly while on the phone.

Below are some tips and tricks on how to use hearing aids on the telephone so that listening and talking is easy again. 

Getting started

First things first, make sure your hearing aids are in your ears and work well prior to answering calls. Also, ensure you have a good telephone signal. A lag, telephone calls breaking up, or an echo can make understanding the call that much more difficult.

Telephone calls in the workplace

All the tips for communicating better also apply to have a conversation over the telephone. An open-plan office with people talking in the background creates a lot of difficulties. People with normal hearing would struggle to hear over the phone, and far more so the hearing impaired. 

Try to take telephone calls in a quiet space. Ideally, this will be where no background noise is present. If you have your own office, put rugs on the floor and pictures against the wall to improve the acoustics, making it easier to hear. 

If you are taking a phone call and you are not at work, the same rules apply. Answering a telephone call in a crowded mall, for example, will make it very difficult to hear well. Don’t be ashamed to inform the caller that you wear a hearing aid. Perhaps they could call at a more convenient time, or it might be necessary for them to repeat themselves. Ask them to speak slower, not louder. 

Holding the telephone correctly

If you have behind the ear hearing aids, one of the most common pitfalls in talking on the phone is holding your phone directly to your ear. Remember, in a behind-the-ear hearing aid the microphones that pick up sound are located behind your ear. Holding the telephone so that the handset is pointed towards your ear means that sound is not getting to the microphone behind your ear, which reduces the quality of the sounds you’re hearing. 

The most effective way to hold the telephone or cell phone is to hold the headset so that it points to the microphones behind your ear. Usually just holding the telephone a bit higher than normal would do the trick. Get someone you know well to call you and let them continue speaking while you move the telephone around behind your ear. This will help you to determine the optimal position for you to hold the phone.

Speakerphones

For some people, especially those with a more severe hearing loss, holding the phone in the right place is not helpful enough. If their hearing loss is severe or they have an older model hearing aid, holding the phone too close to their hearing aid may result in unwanted feedback or whistling. 

Speakerphones are great alternatives to improve hearing over the phone. This function is usually only available on a cell phone, although some landlines have a speaker option. Increase the volume of the call while on speaker until you can hear comfortably. 

Telephone program

A lot of hearing aids on the market have a standard telephone program when they are programmed for the first time. Ask your hearing health provider to activate this function for you if your hearing aid does not have this programmed.

The telephone program is usually a bit louder than the other programs on your hearing aid. All programs are adjustable, so if you need more volume, remember to ask your hearing health provider to make the adjustment. On some hearing aids, you could also adjust the volume directly on an app.

The telephone program can be accessed in 3 ways:

  1. Automatically with a magnet- several hearing aids on the market have an automatic telephone program function. You will get a magnet to stick on your cell phone or landline and your hearing aid will automatically turn over to the telephone program whenever the phone is brought close to the hearing aid.
  2. Changing the program on an app using a mobile phone. 
  3. Changing the program using the push button on the hearing aid.

Connectivity

The most effective way to have great quality audio when on the telephone is to stream the telephone call to your hearing aids. Hearing aids have entered a new era of connectivity and most hearing aids are able to seamlessly connect to your cell phone.

There are several ways you can stream a phone call to your hearing aids:

  1. Direct streaming via 2.4 GHz (Made for iPhone hearing aids): There are many hearing aids in the market that can connect directly to an Apple or Android device. Ask your audiologist if your hearing aid can do this. They can help you connect your hearing aid to your phone or provide you with instructions on how to do it yourself.
  2. Bluetooth streaming: Some hearing aids can connect via Bluetooth to your phone/computer/tablet. You can then stream the phone call directly to your hearing aids.
  3. Streaming via a Bluetooth device: If your hearing aid is not capable of streaming sound directly, you may purchase an additional Bluetooth device. This device can connect to your phone/computer/tablet and you can stream your phone call directly to your hearing aids. 

Telecoils

Many hearing aid manufacturers still offer telecoils in their hearing aids.  A telecoil is an electromagnetic wired coil that picks up magnetic signals from a loop system. These loop systems can be installed in a telephone,  room, or even be loose standing.  When the telecoil setting is activated on a hearing aid, it will automatically pick up the signals coming from the loop system, converting it back into sound.  This can offer a clearer sound to the hearing aid user due to less interference from background noise.  

These tips will make it easier to understand conversations over the phone. Remember to always speak to a Lexie hearing expert or your hearing health provider if you are having difficulty on the phone. 

Hearing expert and article writer Nadia van Eyssen

Written byNadia van Eyssen

B. Communication Pathology Audiology

Want to Stay Informed

Sign up to our newsletter.