Copyright December 2002
Picture this. You are flying into a strange airport. As soon as your plane lands, your fellow travelers whip out their cell phones. In short order, they are busily lining up their rides or arranging where to meet loved ones.
You feel a twinge of envy. Why? You're hard of hearing and cant hear on cell phones. Furthermore, a stranger is meeting you at the airport. You cannot phone him because you cant hear. Your stress level rises as you worry how you will ever find him in the crowd.
Now picture this. You arrive at the airport and whip out your new cell phone that has been specially modified for hard-of-hearing people. Confidently you dial a number and talk to the person meeting you. You tell him that you are standing under the baggage carousel 2 sign. In a minute or two he appears. No stress. No anxiety. No worry. You are now connected through the marvels of a new piece of technologythe CHAAMP (Compatible Hearing Amplified Accessory for Mobile Phones). Let me explain.
Every once in a while a device comes along that makes an enormous change in our ability to cope with our hearing losses. For me, the CHAAMP is one such device.
I have long been envious of all the people that seem to have cell phones glued to their ears. They are connected. I, on the other hand, am cut off since I cant hear on normal phones.
Now this has changed, thanks to my CHAAMP. Recently, I flew into the Minneapolis airport where a stranger was to meet me and take me to my speaking engagement. I got to the baggage area, but where was my driver? Apparently, he was watching for me, but somehow I walked right past him undetected.
Not to worry, I whipped out my CHAAMP-equipped cell phone and called him. In a minute we had connected. What a wonderful blessing having a cell phone I could hear on! While waiting for him to bring the car closer, I phoned my wife to let her know Id arrived safely. Another blessing! Something else I couldnt have done before.
A couple of weeks later, I was flying into Vancouver, B.C. As I was going down the escalator to the baggage area, my phone rang. It was in my pocket, but thanks to the extra-loud ringer on the CHAAMP, I heard it clearly. The call was my contact telling me he couldnt make it to the airport. He gave me instructions where to go to meet him. Without my CHAAMP, Id have been lost. Paging me wouldnt have done any good as I cant hear the P.A. systems in airports (or anywhere else for that matter).
As you can guess, I love my CHAAMP. It has given me a new freedom when I travel. I no longer feel isolated. I can stay in touch, just like people with normal hearing!
What is the CHAAMP?
The CHAAMP is a gizmo (hows that for a highly-technical term?) that fits between my cell phone and its battery. Installing it is a breeze. I just unclip the battery, snap the CHAAMP in its place, then snap the battery onto the back of the CHAAMP. The whole process takes all of 3 seconds! Installing the CHAAMP is just that easy! Instantly, my Nokia cell phone becomes a super phoneone that meets my needs as a hard-of-hearing person.
Because the CHAAMP has to physically and electronically match the phone body, it only works with certain models of phones manufactured by cell-phone giant, Nokia.
The CHAAMPs Nifty Hard-of-Hearing Features
The CHAAMP has four main features that make it invaluable to me as a hard-of-hearing person.
If I miss the sound of the ringer, all is not lost. The CHAAMP also flashes a red light so I can visually see that it is ringing. Actually, there are lights front and backa red light on the front and red and yellow lights on the back so you can see it flashing whether face up or face down.
If I want silent operation so I dont disturb anyone, I can use a vibrating battery with my phone. Just replace the standard battery with a vibrating one. All I have to do is switch the CHAAMPs ringer off and feel the phone vibrate.
Furthermore, if you have the normal ski-slope hearing loss, you can push the volume control in on the CHAAMP which gives special high frequency emphasis. Push the volume control again to turn the high-frequency emphasis off. I dont use this feature as I have a rare reverse slope hearing loss and dont need this featurebut Ive tried it and it works.
I normally leave the volume on my phone set at about half volume, then use the CHAAMPs volume control to get the right level. Incidentally, after each call the CHAAMP automatically resets itself to mid volume so it wont blast the ears of a person with normal hearing. When the phone rings, all I need to do is push up on the volume control to get more volume if I need it. If that isnt enough, I have reserve power and can crank up the cell-phones volume as well.
Heres a neat feature. If you like using the phone without a hearing aid in your ear (like my wife and I), you can listen to the phone with one ear and at the same time switch your other hearing aid to the t-coil setting. Now you will have binaural hearing. The CHAAMP is powerful enough to transmit the loop signal right through your head.
Another nifty feature is that you can hold the phone in front of your face and up to 3 other hard-of-hearing people with t-coil-equipped hearing aids can nose in and listen in to your call with you. If you dont want any hearing people overhearing this call, simply flip the speaker switch on the CHAAMP and mute the ear piece, leaving only the loop system working.
If you want to, you can plug a CI patch-cord, DAI cord or neckloop into the bottom of the CHAAMP. (Im not sure why you would ever want to use a neckloop since the CHAAMP works great with its built in amplified loop transmitter.)
In order to use the Sony earbuds, all I had to do was get an adapter from Radio Shack (part number 2740373) as my earbuds have a 3.5 mm (1/8) plug and the CHAAMP has a 2.5 mm (3/32) socket.
There is also a socket on the bottom of the CHAAMP to plug in an external microphone. Wearing the ear buds and with a clip on mic, you have hands free communicating. I love itdriving down the highway talking to my wife and not straining to hear at all. Wow! In fact, you dont need the external mic. Just lay the cell phone on your lap and talk. The sensitive mic on the CHAAMP picks up your voice easily. This is what I often do.
Other Neat Features
The CHAAMP has a number of other neat features. One is a built-in voice recorder. You can record your thoughts and make notes to yourself or you can record conversations right off the phone if you dont have pen and paper handy to write down instructions, directions, phone numbers, etc. You can play back your messages through the speaker or loop system (or both at the same time.)
Another nice feature is that the CHAAMP doesnt need special batteriesit gets its power from the regular cell-phone battery. As a result, you dont have the extra expense of buying batteries for the CHAAMP and then finding they die at an inconvenient time. If your phone is working, so is your CHAAMP.
The CHAAMP doesnt use much power and goes to sleep 90 seconds after you hang up on a call. Thus it doesnt drain your phone battery.
The CHAAMP has three switches. One turns on/off the speaker. A second one turns on/off the loop transmitter and the third one turns on/off the loud CHAAMP ringer.
If you never want to use the CHAAMP with your hearing aids on the t-coils setting, you can turn off the loop transmitter and save on battery power.
Conversely, if you never want to use the speakerbut only your t-coils, you can cut out the speaker (and again save on battery power).
When you turn off the CHAAMPs loud ringer, your phones internal ringer still works so you dont have to use the loud ringer if you dont need it.
And if it doesnt beat all, the CHAAMP even has a built-in flashlight. In the dark, you can use the red ringer light as a flashlight. Just press and hold the volume control button.
Whats the Downside?
Whats the downside? There are three things you should know.
First, the three switches (for the speaker, loop transmitter and ringer) are normally covered by the battery. This means that you cannot change them while a call is in progress. You have to take the battery off (which drops your call) in order to get at them. This is a minor annoyance you can learn to live with. I spoke with the manufacturer and found there are technical reasons they cant move the switches to a more convenient spot on the outside.
Second, the CHAAMP will only work with certain Nokia phonessince it has to be both physically and electronically compatible. This means if you already have a cell phone, you may have to replace it with a compatible model. The phone I have is the latest onethe Nokia 3285. The other models the CHAAMP currently works with are models 5185, 5170 and 6185
Third, the present model of CHAAMP only works on CDMA networksnot on TDMA or GSM networks. This means if you use Verizon you are in business, but not AT&T for example. A new model of the CHAAMP will be coming out in the spring of 2003. The good news is that it will be compatible with all three networks.
Obtaining a CHAAMP of Your Own
The CHAAMP has numerous features designed expressly for hard-of-hearing people. In my opinion, it is well worth the $139.00 it sells for.
You can try one for 14 days and see how it works for your unique hearing loss. If you find it doesnt work for you for whatever reason, simply return it and your money will be cheerfully refunded.
Where can you get one? Glad you asked. I was so impressed with my CHAAMP, that I am now a dealer for Audex Inc., the CHAAMPs manufacturer. If you are interested in the freedom a cell phone expressly designed for hard-of-hearing people brings, click on this link (www.hearinglosshelp.com/CHAAMP.htm) for the details. You too can stay in touch, just like people with normal hearing!
Neil Bauman, Ph.D., has successfully coped with a life-long severe hearing loss. He is a hearing loss coping skills specialist, author and speaker. He directs the Center for Hearing Loss Help. Send your questions to him at email@example.com or visit his web site at www.hearinglosshelp.com.
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