Cell Phones for Hard-of-Hearing People—
Here’s the CHAAMPion!

Neil Bauman
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 can’t hear on cell phones. Furthermore, a stranger is meeting you at the airport. You cannot phone him because you can’t 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 technology—the 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 can’t 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 I’d arrived safely. Another blessing! Something else I couldn’t 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 couldn’t make it to the airport. He gave me instructions where to go to meet him. Without my CHAAMP, I’d have been lost. Paging me wouldn’t have done any good as I can’t 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 (how’s 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 phone—one 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 CHAAMP’s Nifty Hard-of-Hearing Features

The CHAAMP has four main features that make it invaluable to me as a hard-of-hearing person.

  1. It has a loud ringer. There’s little point in having a cell phone if you can’t even hear it ring. When my CHAAMP rings, I hear it. (So does everyone else within a block! People beside me almost have a heart attack.)

    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 back—a 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 don’t 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 CHAAMP’s ringer off and feel the phone vibrate.

  2. It has lots of amplification. In fact the CHAAMP adds up to 30 dB to the normal volume of my cell phone. This gives me enough volume to hear almost anyone. (That doesn’t mean I understand everyone because my discrimination is far from perfect—but that is not the CHAAMP’s fault.)

    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 don’t use this feature as I have a rare reverse slope hearing loss and don’t need this feature—but I’ve tried it and it works.

    I normally leave the volume on my phone set at about half volume, then use the CHAAMP’s volume control to get the right level. Incidentally, after each call the CHAAMP automatically resets itself to mid volume so it won’t 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 isn’t enough, I have reserve power and can crank up the cell-phone’s volume as well.

  3. The CHAAMP has a built in loop transmitter. No more does anyone with t-coils on their hearing aids have to fool with neckloops or put up with interference from digital cell phones. When you want to use the phone, you just switch your hearing aids to the t-coil setting, then hold your CHAAMP-equipped cell phone in front of your face. That way you hear equally well in both ears. I hold my phone about 4 inches in front of my nose. There is no interference at all, even with my digital cell phone.

    Here’s 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 don’t 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. (I’m not sure why you would ever want to use a neckloop since the CHAAMP works great with its built in amplified loop transmitter.)

  4. The CHAAMP has a stereo jack in the bottom so you can plug in a set of stereo earphones or even external speakers for conference calling. I use my Sony Walkman earbuds. They work great! In fact, they work so well, I have to turn the CHAAMP’s volume way down. I like to use these earphones as I hear (and understand) ever so much better with both ears especially in noise.

    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 it—driving down the highway talking to my wife and not straining to hear at all. Wow! In fact, you don’t 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 don’t 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 doesn’t need special batteries—it gets its power from the regular cell-phone battery. As a result, you don’t 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 doesn’t use much power and goes to sleep 90 seconds after you hang up on a call. Thus it doesn’t 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 speaker—but only your t-coils, you can cut out the speaker (and again save on battery power).

When you turn off the CHAAMP’s loud ringer, your phone’s internal ringer still works so you don’t have to use the loud ringer if you don’t need it.

And if it doesn’t 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.

What’s the Downside?

What’s 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 can’t move the switches to a more convenient spot on the outside.

Second, the CHAAMP will only work with certain Nokia phones—since 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 one—the 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 networks—not 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 doesn’t 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 CHAAMP’s 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 neil@hearinglosshelp.com or visit his web site at www.hearinglosshelp.com.


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