Wireless Systems Design

Hearing-Aid Order Echoes Out To Industry

An order from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently required that cellular phones become hearing-aid-compatible. For the estimated eight million Americans who currently use hearing aids, today's cell phones have provided noise problems that range from annoying to unbearable. A hearing aid, after all, is just an electronic device with a tiny microphone. That microphone amplifies weak sounds through a speaker. Unfortunately, the static and other noises often heard on cell phones may be counted among those "weak sounds."

Now, the cellular-phone industry will begin offering noise-free handsets for these users. As a result, many hearing-aid users may soon be able to enjoy cellular phones for the first time. The effects of this order ripple out to designers and manufacturers as well. While some may see the order as an obstacle, others welcome it. DAMAX International (www.damaxintl.com), for example, has responded positively. This company has announced the kickoff of a nationwide educational and marketing campaign. The campaign will strive to raise awareness of the new technology among both hearing health professionals and hearing-aid wearers.

Of course, DAMAX is enthusiastic because it sees a good fit for its antenna technology in the planned hearing-aid-compatible handsets. This technology vows to conserve handset power by virtually eliminating signal loss to the body. In recent FCC tests, DAMAX-equipped handsets supposedly slashed signal loss to the head by up to 97%. While terminating a major and unnecessary waste of battery power, this technology should be able to eliminate noise for hearing-aid users.

The DAMAX antennas will be manufactured inside replaceable backplates. They will be installed on current model handsets with antenna ports or designed inside new model phones. Hopefully, they will soon be in the company of many other hearing-aid-friendly technologies.

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