Tips on managing phones 

Artone loop

Our lives revolve around phones, especially mobile phones that are so useful for keeping in touch when you’re out of the office. However, they’re also the bugbear of anyone with a hearing problem, and are one of the first topics of conversation in a room full of deaf people.

My problem with phones began quite a few years ago when my left ear started failing. Having always used the phone with that ear, my solution was to simply switch to using my right ear. However, because I’m right handed, I then ended up in a contortion by having to hold the phone in my left hand against my right ear, whilst I used my right hand to write down any messages.

My next solution was therefore to switch to using my phone with its speaker switched on. This was easy in my last job as I had an office to myself and the speaker phone couldn’t disturb anyone. However, once I moved to working in an open plan office it wasn’t an option.

It also became more complicated when I graduated to two hearing aids and at that point, it felt impossible to use a phone at all. Having behind-the-ear hearing aids with their microphones situated at the top of the ear, meant that it wasn’t simply a case of putting the phone to my ear. It had to be placed with keen precision to ensure the phone’s earpiece fitted exactly over the hearing aid microphone. This wasn’t a task I ever achieved with any great success and I ended up with a ‘special phone’ that was ‘hearing aid compatible’.

I have to admit, the new phone was cleverly designed as it would automatically switch my hearing aid to its t-setting when I placed it next to my ear. However, the theory was much better than the practice as my hearing aids would simply ‘beep’ chaotically at me, continually switching between the t-setting and normal setting if I moved the phone by so much as a millimetre. It meant that many conversations were incredibly frustrating and difficult to follow.

The solution to all of this, came via the Access to Work scheme who sent someone to do a workplace assessment on me. They advised my employer to buy a Bluetooth neckloop which I could connect to my Bluetooth compatible mobile phone and use this through the t-setting on my hearing aids. It was a godsend and rather than me having to use an office landline, I now have all my calls diverted to my mobile which then means I can just use my neckloop.

Using the neckloop means that I don’t have to actually hold the phone to use it and its usually on the desk in front of me, or even in my pocket (although that does result in a few odd looks when people think I’m talking to myself). However, overall, its really helped to make my life at work so much easier.

So in summary, if you’re having problems with phones at work, here are a few ideas that might help.

Firstly, try to get a phone with adjustable volume or, if you wear hearing aids, get one that is hearing aid compatible and useable with your t-setting.  There are masses of them available, both corded and cordless and the Amplicomms and the Geemarc ranges are particularly good.

If you’re lucky to have an office, or work from home, then try using your phone through its speaker, that goes for mobiles phones too.  Using phones through their speakers means that you can concentrate with both ears rather than trying to hear through just the one you’ve got the phone up against.  It also means, you leave both of your hands free!

Alternatively, try using your phone with earphones.  That’s an approach I often use as I do a lot of teleconferencing.  I just put my earphones in and crank up the volume until I can hear the conversation.  It can result in a clearer sound and again, can be heard through both ears so can help with yout concentration on the call.

If none of those simple solutions work, then you may need a more specialist solution and might benefit by getting in touch with Connevans  for advice or by contacting Access to Work (I’ve posted more about that here).  Access to Work can provide advice on specialist equipment that could help you, including Bluetooth neck loops and specialist phone adaptations.

Anyway, that’s how I’ve learned to manage phones at work.  What are your tips and advice?  Please share them.  We can all learn so much from each other.

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4 thoughts on “Tips on managing phones ”

  1. I’ve really nothing to add Tracey. All your frustrations, I too have suffered; all your solutions, I too have tried! Now I’m not working it’s less crucial thankfully. The Bluetooth connection is great for mobiles but I generally manage quite well although, as you say, it takes exact placement of the phone over the hearing aid. I have a great landline phone which I got from Connevans which I suppose could be classed as a specialised phone. The volume can be set VERY loud and it works really well. I can’t remember the make off hand but I’ll check and post it later as I wholeheartedly recommend it. My major problem is accents, especially in call centres and this is NOT a racist comment. The combination of the usual phone difficulties with an accent that I struggle to understand is so difficult that at times I’ve simply has to apologise and end the call.

    1. Hi Hilary, I know exactly what you mean about it being difficult to understand some peoples’ accents. I work with a lot of people from across the country and have to concentrate really hard in meetings to understand the different regional accents and follow the thread of conversations.

      Regarding your phone, it would be good to know what the make and model is if you’re able to post it.

  2. I have to say that when the last bit of hearing that allowed me to use voice phone gave up the ghost, I was truly relieved. It meant that I could make use of text relay or simply insist on email, SMS text or FaceTime to contact me and never struggle to decipher mumbles again. Much more relaxing than the ‘tyranny of the telephone’. I have a message on my mobile which says (quite sternly!) “this phone does not receive voice calls, please hang up and send a text message if you wish to contact this number”. It works very well as cold callers & unknown numbers never text and people who know me always do (some of my non-deaf friends forget to text occasionally & need reminding).

    1. Great idea to have a voicemail message directing everyone to contact you by text. I must admit I’m starting to prefer that, and email, to using a phone.

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