We are living in an unprecedented time with the Covid-19 virus. The novel virus has brought the world to it its knees, and it feels like we are navigating a time of chaos and uncertainty. This is one of the few times in history we can think of where staying apart (literally) means working together. Social distancing is imperative in keeping the spread of Covid-19 at bay, but this can also mean increased feelings of loneliness amongst vulnerable populations.
Communication and Social Distancing
The reality is our seniors are more at risk for Covid-19 complications, and social isolation is important in keeping them safe. Unfortunately, the senior demographic is also a group who is prone to increased feelings of loneliness and depression, Coronavirus aside. The good news is technology can help! Skype, Facetime, or just a simple phone call can help people feel connected even though they are apart. Telephone conversations can be difficult if your loved one has hearing loss. If a video chat is an option, this is in fact a better option when compared to a phone call as your loved one can not only see you, which will help them feel more connected (bonus!), but they can use your facial expressions and lip-reading to help with communication and speech understanding.
Phone Use with Hearing Aids
Hearing aids work with phones in a variety of different ways, so it’s important to have an understanding of how your loved ones’ hearing aids function with telephone use. If your loved one is using a landline phone without accessing a speaker phone, be sure they lift the receiver of the telephone over the microphones of their hearing aids! This can help improve the signal. Here are the most common ways hearing aids work with phones:
Telecoil Phone Programs: While telecoils are less common in hearing aids as technology changes, it is possible your loved one uses a telecoil phone program to help with hearing on the phone. The telecoil helps the hearing aid latch onto electromagnetic waves from the phone in order for a clearer signal to be heard. The telecoil is sometimes accessed via a separate program on the hearing aid or through a switch that can automatically turn on during a phone call. The auto-switch, which is called an Auto-T, or an Auto-Telecoil, will often switch better automatically if a magnet is attached to the receiver of the landline phone.
Phone Programs: A phone program works similarly to the telecoil program mentioned above, except without the telecoil. This type of phone program provides a boost in the mid-frequencies of the hearing aid, allowing the hearing aid user to hear better whilst preventing feedback. Phone programs can also be accessed by a manual program or by the same auto-switch mechanism described previously.
Bluetooth Connections: Connecting hearing aids to cell phones via Bluetooth is a very common way to improve phone signals with hearing aids. They stream any signal coming from the phone and work much like a wireless headset. This means Skype and Facetime calls would stream directly and clearly to the hearing aids as well, with the added benefit of facial cues. Some cell phones allow for direct connectivity to a cell phone without an intermediary device, while others require a small streaming device to make the connection. This depends on what cellphone is being used. Almost all hearing aids have the capability of connecting to a cell phone by either mechanism described.
Be sure to connect with your loved ones, even while you are social distancing! We are lucky to live in a time where technology can help us feel close even while we are at least 6 feet apart. Stay safe, stay clean and stay connected!